CTG presents two society-challenging productions

L-R: Anthony Norman, John Hemphill, Lili Thomas and Alaina Anderson in “Dear Evan Hansen” playing at Center Theatre Group / Ahmanson Theatre through July 31, 2022. Photo credit: Evan Zimmerman for MurphyMade

The winner of six Tony® Awards, including Best Musical, ‘Dear Evan Hansen’ has returned to the Ahmanson Theatre following its record-breaking sold-out run there in 2018. Featuring a book by Tony Award-winner Steven Levenson, a score by Grammy®, Tony® and Academy Award® winners Benj Pasek and Justin Paul, and direction by four-time Tony Award nominee Michael Greif, this deeply personal and profoundly contemporary musical speaks directly to audience members of all ages about the absurdity of letting the online world rule our lives.

Featured in the fourth-year cast of the musical’s record-breaking national tour are Anthony Norman in the title role of Evan Hansen and Coleen Sexton as his over-worked nursing assistant single mother Heidi Hansen who struggles to assist her son with developing his social and interpersonal skills, which we can assume reflect Evan being on the Autism spectrum although it is never mentioned by name. After encouraging her son to take his doctor’s advice, Evan begins writing notes to himself beginning with “Dear Evan Hansen” in a journal, snippets of which are projected on the movable set pieces surrounding him. The constant changing movement of the letters and online captures no doubt reflect the many elements bombarding Evan’s mind, often leading to his confusion about how to deal with real people.

As a way to encourage his in-person social interactions, Heidi suggests that Evan ask those who he wishes were his friends at school to sign the cast on his broken arm. And when he meets the depressed and lonely outcast Connor Murphy (Nikhil Saboo) whose sister Zoe (Alaina Anderson) is the object of Evan’s affection, Connor signs it with his first name in letters large enough to read from any seat in the theater. But how could Evan have known that single action would change his life forever? You see, Connor takes his own life that evening and soon their fictional friendship warms the hearts of not only his own mother, but also Connor’s grieving parents, portrayed by Lili Thomas as Cynthia Murphy and John Hemphill as Larry Murphy, who then accept Evan as their daughter Zoe’s boyfriend and a replacement for the son they lost, most touchingly expressed during Evan and Larry’s father/son duet “To Break in a Glove.”

But of course, Evan really never knew Connor except for the brief moment when his cast was signed. As the fantasy friendship grows bigger in scope, thanks to the online meddling of his friends Alana (Micaela Lamas) and Jared (Reese Sabastian Diaz), Evan’s emotional stability spins out of control as his belief in being true to yourself to build self-confidence is thrown aside in the pursuit of popularity. It’s an unfortunate reflection of how our current society’s obsession with celebrity above all else rules the online world as well as the lives of so many misguided and lonely people whose entire existence revolves around posts on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram which are erroneously accepted as fact.

Tickets for “Dear Evan Hansen” are currently on sale and start at $40. They are available through CenterTheatreGroup.org, Audience Services at (213) 972-4400 or in person at the Center Theatre Group Box Offices (at the Ahmanson Theatre) at The Music Center, 135 N. Grand Avenue in Downtown L.A. 90012. Performances run Tuesday through Friday at 8 p.m., Saturday at 2 p.m. and 8 p.m., and Sunday at 1 p.m. and 6:30 p.m. through July 31.

Block Party: Celebrating Los Angeles Theatre returns to the Kirk Douglas Theatre in Culver City with the Los Angeles LGBT Center production of ‘To T, or Not To T? A Comedic Trans Journey through (T)estosterone and Masculinity’ written and performed by acclaimed queer/transgender Tamil-Sri Lankan American actor/writer/comedian D’Lo. This unapologetically bold and hilarious personal autobiographical one person play follows D’Lo’s transformational journey from being born female through living his childhood in Lancaster, California, towards the embodiment of his personal journey to masculinity including the taking of “T” to assist in his physical transformation.

Along the way, D’Lo explores his relationship with his immigrant father, his love for hip hop and feminism, and his chosen family; all of which shaped his decisions as both an artist and a human. Featuring direction and dramaturgy by Adelina Anthony, D’Lo shares his overwhelming joy and heartfelt knowledge of living his life to the fullest, secure in his emotional and physical presence during this heartfelt celebration of personal pride in discovering his true soul and letting it fly.  

Tickets are currently on sale and start at $30, available through CenterTheatreGroup.org, Audience Services at (213) 628-2772 or in person at the Center Theatre Group Box Offices (at the Ahmanson Theatre) at The Music Center, 135 N. Grand Avenue in Downtown L.A. 90012 or at the Kirk Douglas Theatre (open 2 hours prior to curtain) at 9820 Washington Blvd. in Culver City 90232. Performances run Tuesday through Friday at 8 p.m., Saturday at 2 p.m. and 8 p.m., and Sunday at 1 p.m. and 6:30 p.m. through July 10. Center Theatre Group requires proof of vaccination or professional negative test and the wearing of masks at all times indoors at The Ahmanson, Mark Taper Forum, and Kirk Douglas Theatres.

CTG presents two society-challenging productions