Dear Evan Hansen, the smash-hit show that beat Come From Away to win the Tony Award for Best Musical last spring, will have its first international production in Toronto in 2019 – a strong sign that the city is re-emerging as an important North American destination for theatrical tourism.
New York producer Stacey Mindich announced on Thursday that she will partner with Toronto's David Mirvish to present a Canadian production of the musical at the Royal Alexandra Theatre beginning in March of next year.
"It just felt like a real natural progression to cross that first border and come to Toronto," Ms. Mindich said in an interview with The Globe and Mail. "I think it's an incredibly sophisticated audience, a sophisticated city so that's why it was exciting for me to go there first."
In recent years, however, Toronto hasn't always seemed like that first natural step after Broadway for commercial theatre producers with a hit on their hands. Notably, Mirvish Productions was unable to land a local production of Hamilton, Lin-Manuel Miranda's once-in-a-generation musical theatre phenomenon: While Mr. Miranda's hip-hop history show has spawned sit-down productions in Chicago and London, England, it will only pass through Canada's biggest city on tour for a limited engagement as part of the 2019-20 Mirvish subscription season.
That the producers of both Dear Evan Hansen and Come From Away have chosen Toronto as the place for their first sit-down productions post-New York, however, suggests that the Hamilton snub was a bit of a blip. (It also helps that Mirvish is a co-producer on both.) These two original musicals were initially seen as underdogs, but eventually became the only shows to recoup on Broadway from last season.
Dear Evan Hansen has become a phenomenon of its own shape and size, especially with millennial audiences, as it's made its way from off-Broadway to Broadway to one of the top-grossing shows in New York. The musical concerns a socially anxious teenager named Evan – originally played by Ben Platt, who won a Tony – who weaves an intricate web of lies online after a tragedy strikes his high school.
Its young creators, Benj Pasek and Justin Paul, are emerging as the pre-eminent songwriters of their generation – showing a surprising ability to cross over from musical theatre to broader pop culture in a way few beyond Mr. Miranda have.
Still in their early 30s, Mr. Pasek and Mr. Paul last year won an Oscar and a Golden Globe for best original song for City of Stars from La La Land, which they wrote with composer Justin Hurwitz. A remix of Dear Evan Hansen's catchy outsider anthem Waving Through a Window became the first song from a Broadway musical to hit No. 1 on Billboard's Dance Club Songs chart in December.
The two Americans who first paired up at the University of Michigan's department of musical theatre also just picked up a Grammy for the Dear Evan Hansen cast album (beating out Come From Away again in a Tony rematch) – and a second Golden Globe for This is Us from movie musical The Greatest Showman, a song that has charted in the top 10 in several countries and accompanies NBC's coverage of the Winter Olympics. (With their Tony win last spring, they now only lack an Emmy Award to become the youngest EGOT winners in history.)
That Dear Evan Hansen is set to move into the Royal Alexandra Theatre in March, 2019 – where Come From Away opened last weekend and just extended its run to Oct. 21 – suggests that Mirvish Productions doesn't necessarily believe that the Canadian hit will bring back the market for multiyear runs that dried up after Sept. 11 and SARS hit the city early this century.
Although the Toronto commercial theatre company has reshuffled shows between its four theatres when demand surprised before (most recently when Kinky Boots extended well beyond its originally planned 12-week run).
As for Dear Evan Hansen's producer, Ms. Mindich, she doesn't see her show as the one that beat Come From Away at the Tonys – but both as small shows that surpassed expectations in a Broadway dominated by big brands and are now setting up shop in Toronto for their next chapters.
"Sue Frost and Randy Adams, the producers of Come From Away, were early mentors of mine," Ms. Mindich said. "I absolutely adored Come From Away, as does my cast [in New York]. We're across the street from each other on West 45th Street."
Indeed, the casts of the two shows put up messages for each in the box-office – waving through a window, as it were.