The Tony award-winning Broadway musical Dear Evan Hansen is on its way to London, and the producer wants a British actor to play the title role.
Audiences have packed New York’s Music Box theatre to see the show, which has a score by Benj Pasek and Justin Paul, the duo who wrote the lyrics for La La Land and the songs for the best-selling soundtrack to Hugh Jackman’s surprise hit The Greatest Showman.
Last June, Dear Evan Hansen won six Tony awards including best musical.
Evan is a fictional 17-year-old high school student who lives with his divorced mother. The anxiety-ridden lad becomes caught up in another family’s tragedy when their teenage son commits suicide.
Some had assumed that either Ben Platt, who originated the part and won a Tony; or Taylor Trensch (pictured above, with Laura Dreyfuss as Zoe), who recently replaced him, would play Evan in a West End production
Rachel Bay Jones plays Heidi as Ben Platt plays the lead of Evan in the Dear Evan Hansen production at Arena Stage in Washington, DC
Pasek and Paul’s sensitive use of language has captivated fans. One song, Waving Through A Window, captures the essence of Evan’s dilemmas with the line: ‘On the outside, always looking in. Will I ever be more than I’ve always been?’ The first time I saw the show, there were youngsters exclaiming in recognition when they heard it.
Stacey Mindich is the producer who commissioned Pasek and Paul to develop the show nine years ago. She told me teenagers would see the show and later return with their parents.
Some had assumed that either Ben Platt, who originated the part and won a Tony; or Taylor Trensch (pictured above, with Laura Dreyfuss as Zoe), who recently replaced him, would play Evan in a West End production.
But Ms Mindich surprised me by saying she had woken one day at 3am with the realisation that ‘Evan has to be played by a British actor’. She also said they would use colour-blind casting, so he could be played by an Afro-Caribbean or Asian actor.
Taylor Trench takes his bows as the newest Evan in New York earlier this year
She noted that she had been made aware of a performance, at the WhatsOnStage Awards last month in London, by Tyrone Huntley, who came to prominence as Judas in the scorching Open Air Theatre production of Jesus Christ Superstar, and in Dreamgirls. Huntley sang a bell-ringing version of Waving Through A Window, and the black Lincolnshire-born actor was (by all accounts) sensational. Mindich added that this did not mean she was casting Huntley.
‘I want audiences to feel as close to Evan as possible,’ she told me, over a cup of tea at her offices on 44th Street. She said any decisions on who would play Evan in London will be made later.
Mindich said that, as with the New York show, she would seek to work with a British charity that supports troubled teens.
Judging by phenomenal sales of the cast album in the UK, and from what I read on social media, Dear Evan Hansen has to be (in its own, more intimate way) as eagerly awaited as Hamilton — which now carries an advance ticket sale of more than £20 million at the Victoria Palace.
Miranda in TV Dark Materials
Lin-Manuel Miranda is one of the first stars to be cast in the mammoth BBC TV adaptation of Philip Pullman’s fantasy trilogy His Dark Materials, to be made by Oscar-winning director Tom Hooper.
Miranda, who created Hamilton, the hit Broadway and West End musical, has been confirmed to play adventurer Lee Scoresby in the eight-part drama filming in Wales (and elsewhere) this summer. It’s a huge undertaking by the BBC and Bad Wolf, the production company run by Jane Tranter, a former drama bigwig at the Corporation. The series has been adapted by Jack Thorne, who dramatised J.K. Rowling’s Harry Potter for the stage in The Cursed Child (which is in rehearsal for a Broadway run).
Lin-Manuel Miranda is one of the first stars to be cast in the mammoth BBC TV adaptation of Philip Pullman’s fantasy trilogy His Dark Materials (shown right in Hamilton, which he created)
If initial ratings are good, there could be multiple series of Pullman’s stories about schoolgirl heroine Lyra Belacqua and her friend Will Parry, who travel through parallel universes uncovering a plot involving stolen children. The various worlds are peopled with witches and armoured polar bears — including polar bear king Iorek Byrnison, a close friend of Texas-born Scoresby, who travels through time and space in a hot air balloon.
The main characters all have a daemon (an animal extension of their soul). Scoresby’s is an arctic hare.
Filming and post-production on His Dark Materials will run through to next year, with the dramas likely to be broadcast late in 2019 or early 2020.
The BBC will arrange for them to be shown on terrestrial TV — and perhaps BBC iPlayer, in one big batch like Netflix. A film version called The Golden Compass was not so well received — though I really liked Nicole Kidman as the sinister Mrs Coulter. Sam Elliott played Scoresby.
Nicholas Hytner directed a splendid two-part stage adaptation of the epic trilogy at the National Theatre, with a cast that included Ben Whishaw, Dominic Cooper, Anna Maxwell Martin, Russell Tovey and Samuel Barnett.
Watch out for...
Edgar Wright, who has told me he has started writing the sequel to his terrific Baby Driver film, which starred Ansel Elgort as music geek getaway driver Baby and Lily James as his ‘moll’ Debora.
The new film is some way off, but will include another fantastic soundtrack. Wright wrote the songs into the script for the first Baby Driver, but was dismayed when it was stolen.
Edgar Wright has told me he has started writing the sequel to his terrific Baby Driver film, which starred Ansel Elgort as music geek getaway driver Baby
‘This time I will know the songs as I write it but add them to the script later,’ he told me at the Spirit Awards in Santa Monica.
Five main characters survived the end of Baby Driver, though not all of them will make it to the sequel. Elgort and James will, of course.
Wright said this was one of a handful of new projects he’s working on.
Ansel Elgort and Violetta Komyshan (pictured together, left) arrive at the Academy Awards. Lily James is shown at the Baftas
Joshua Henry, Jessie Mueller, Renee Fleming, Lindsay Mendez, Alexander Gemignani and Amar Ramasar are all outstanding in director Jack O’Brien and choreographer Justin Peck’s unmissable revival of Rodgers and Hammerstein’s Carousel, previewing at the Imperial Theatre on Broadway.
It’s a masterpiece of musical theatre, and O’Brien and Peck have given the story of fairground barker Billy (Henry) and mill worker Julie (Mueller) a spectacular overhaul.
They haven’t shied away from the underlying darkness of domestic violence, yet one leaves the theatre full of hope — and a sense that June is bustin’ out all over. With New York in the throes of a deadly ‘thundersnow’ storm on Wednesday night (when I saw it), that was a welcome feeling indeed.
Joshua Henry (left) and Jessie Mueller (right) are outstanding in director Jack O’Brien and choreographer Justin Peck’s unmissable revival of Rodgers and Hammerstein’s Carousel