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‘Dear Evan Hansen’ review: Taylor Trensch a capable new lead, but he’s no Ben Platt

The 28-year-old actor was until just recently playing Barnaby Tucker in “Hello, Dolly!”

Taylor Trensch has taken over the lead role

Taylor Trensch has taken over the lead role in "Dear Evan Hansen," made famous by Ben Platt. Photo Credit: Matthew Murphy

‘Dear Evan Hansen’ plays an open run at the Music Box Theatre, 239 W. 45th St., dearevanhansen.com.

Dear Ben Platt — can “Dear Evan Hansen” really go on without your unbelievable, unforgettable, Tony-winning performance?

Technically speaking, of course it can, just as most shows do when the original star leaves. Just look at the Broadway revival of “Hello, Dolly!,” where Bernadette Peters just replaced Bette Midler.

Furthermore, “Dear Evan Hansen” is an exceptional musical on its own terms, with an absorbing plot, complex characters, captivating soft rock score and seamless visual design — but it is not the same without Platt.

Platt (who is now 24 and had played the high school loner Evan Hansen since the musical debuted in Washington, D.C., in 2015) gave his last performance in November. Noah Galvin (“The Real O’Neals”), 23, played the role for a short limited run, and now it has been inherited by 28-year-old Taylor Trensch, who up until just recently was playing Barnaby Tucker in “Hello, Dolly!”

Right after I re-attended the show on Tuesday night, I pulled up the original cast album on my phone and could at once feel the impact of Platt’s performance — the yearning, sensitivity, authenticity, sense of desperation and terror, and beautiful singing.

Trensch is giving a decent performance in a physically, vocally and emotionally demanding role. But compared to Platt, Trensch struck me as less vulnerable and overly aggressive, tensed up and irritated. Trensch also looked too mature for the role.

The real beauty of my return visit was that my attention shifted to the deeply felt, shaded performances of the seven remaining original cast members: Rachel Bay Jones (who won a Tony for her raw performance as Evan’s struggling, well-meaning single mother), Laura Dreyfuss, Mike Faist, Kristolyn Lloyd, Michael Park, Will Roland and Jennifer Laura Thompson.

The plot (which depicts how the sudden suicide of the unstable and unruly Connor Murphy affects his family and fellow students, most of whom barely knew him) also took on new meaning in the immediate aftermath of the Parkland school shooting. A line where Connor is described as “school shooter chic” created a sense of palpable unease among the audience.

“Dear Evan Hansen” (which just announced plans for its first international production) has a long life ahead and many worthy young actors will play the title role. But there will always be the memory of Platt. In the words of the show, Platt will still be there, “waving through a window.”

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