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"Dear Evan Hansen" won a Tony for best musical in 2017 and is still making an impact. In addition to selling out each night on Broadway, the show has launched a 50-city national tour and a new song collection and novel based on the story are coming out this fall. (Sept. 27) AP

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"Anybody Have a Map?" When daily life becomes unglued and hard to navigate, the cast of "Dear Evan Hansen" offers hope through song, promising "You Will Be Found."

Considered by the Civic Center a "crown jewel" of the current Willis Broadway Series, lead actor Ben Levi Ross proudly declares that the unconventional and very contemporary show has created "a paradigm shift and set a standard for what new musicals have to be."

Ross fulfilled every young performer's fantasy when he was plucked out of his freshman class at Carnegie Mellon University to spend a year immersed as an understudy in the smash hit Broadway production. It only took a couple of outings on stage as Evan to convince the production team he had the skill, drive and stamina to front the musical's first national tour.

Often painfully honest, but tempered by laugh out loud moments, the musical borrows its title from the first line of a letter a well-meaning therapist tasks Evan to write to himself. Encouraged to type out a daily pep-talk, the high school senior instead chronicles his current woes, lamenting, "would anyone notice if I just disappeared tomorrow?"

When the letter is later discovered in the pocket of a suicide victim, his parents, fellow students and eventually, thousands of strangers mistakenly assume the note was a heartfelt goodbye note to his best friend Evan.

Discovering this newfound attention is almost everything he ever craved, Evan's deceptions multiply and without spoiling the unpredictable escalations, his initial obsession to avoid creating drama, "manages to create the biggest problems in his life."

A winner of six 2017 Tony Awards and the source for a Billboard Top 10 album, long before this tour, many fans first bonded with the soundtrack. Ross acknowledges it is "such an honor to be the person to deliver this story to people who have been waiting two years to see the show."

Lacking a huge glitzy stage presence, the physical set is little more than a bed, sofa and table and chairs. The sophisticated backdrop is created with a video display that charts the viral, online consequences of Evan's spiraling lies.

Getting hold of one of those seats will prove a greater challenge. Close to a complete sell-out, last-minute ticket buyers are encouraged to act fast and be flexible with their preferred show time.

Noting the implausibility of predicting five years ago that "one of the biggest shows on Broadway was going to have to do with teen suicide and mental health awareness," Ross has encountered an unexpected side effect of playing an uptight character surrounded by mortality and deep uncertainty.

While receiving a massage, a therapist encountered a pressure point they normally associated with "long standing sadness or grief." Puzzled by the wrong diagnosis, Ross and co-star Jessica Phillips came to the conclusion that just like the characters on stage, his body was unwittingly fooled and "doesn't know the difference between what you are experiencing during the show and what you are experiencing in your everyday life."

'Dear Evan Hansen'

WHEN: Nightly performances from Feb. 5 through Feb. 10, with extra matinee shows on Saturday and Sunday.

WHERE: Des Moines Civic Center, 221 Walnut St.

TICKETS: $40 to $225.00

INFO: 515-246-2300, www.desmoinesperformingarts.org

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