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‘Dear Evan Hansen’ returns to Salt Lake for the first time since the pandemic

Mar 2, 2023, 7:58 PM | Updated: Mar 3, 2023, 2:54 pm

SALT LAKE CITY — For some it feels like a lifetime ago, for others it feels like just yesterday that “Dear Evan Hansen” was bringing tears and smiles to thousands of Utahns at Eccles Theater.

But on March 11, 2020, the curtains closed. 

Salt Lake County Mayor Jenny Wilson placed a ban on gatherings of 100 or more people. The same day the NBA cancelled its schedule, cast members John Hemphill and Coleen Sexton have vivid memories of their emotions that day.

“It takes a lot for a show to close down. And to know that we were shutting down, we knew something big was going on,” Sexton said. “But we also thought we were gonna be back in like two weeks. So it was like, okay, by Salt Lake City, we’ll see you in a couple of weeks. And then, you know, three years later, we’re here.”

Little did anyone know, that was just the start of the coronavirus sweeping our nation, halting most things in our lives.

“We just didn’t know nobody knew much about what was happening,” Hemphill said. “We had lost the stage door.”

A show intended to bring connection to humanity, went dark. Everything theater stands for stood still and empty, with nothing but the unknown in sight.

“It was really really scary  to think that, you know, first of all, where are we gonna go where I didn’t know where I was going to end up because I had all my stuff in storage, you know, I have family at home, I have a mom that was 80 years old, and I had no idea where I was gonna go,” Sexton said. 

 “We’re all a family out on the road together. And to immediately be leaving, and loot losing these connections that you rely on day to day was really difficult,” Hemphill said. 

Eventually, tenacity turned into triumph, and three years later, the cast is ready to tell you the story of “Dear Evan Hansen.”

“Because of what happened when it happened And our show already has such a message of, you know, connection, the fact that we were all isolated for so long, I think that the message now being able to come back and do the show now is so prevalent,” Sexton said. 

“Dear Evan Hansen” has returned to Salt Lake City and is stronger than ever. 

“I think that the need for theater artists to express and the need for the audience to share is greater than any pandemic or anything that will stand in that in the way of that,” Hemphill said.

There are still limited tickets available. The show will play all weekend and the last show will be this Sunday.

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‘Dear Evan Hansen’ returns to Salt Lake for the first time since the pandemic