Waukee high school students and ‘Evan Hansen’ cast member bring musical performance to Iowa Capitol
Stephen Christopher Anthony, star of the Broadway show Dear Evan Hansen, performs with Waukee High School's Avenue Jazz Choir at the Capitol. Brian Powers, email@example.com
One by one, the high school students walked into the Iowa House of Representatives and gathered around the musical star.
Then the teenagers looked out at the faces of the Iowa lawmakers, some of whom have been in office nearly as long as the students have been alive.
The sophomores, juniors and seniors from Waukee High School's Avenue Jazz choir took a breath and sang in unison, “Even when the dark comes crashing through, when you need a friend to carry you. When you’re broken on the ground, you will be found.”
They had not expected to be doing this on a Wednesday in early February. But a month ago, the touring production of “Dear Evan Hansen" invited them to work together. So there they were, singing along with Stephen Christopher Anthony, one of the stars of the show.
The musical, which won the 2017 Tony Award for Best Musical, has a touring production that began its run at the Des Moines Civic Center this week.
Sam Isaak, a 17-year-old student in the choir, said the song they performed, "You Will Be Found," has the power to resonate with a lot of people.
“I feel something personally when I sing it or perform it or when I listen to it ... together, we can have hope, and do something amazing," Isaak said.
Sam is also a teenager.
“I was just really star struck,” he added of performing with Anthony, who is a lead in the touring production. “I was just smiling the whole time. I was so filled with joy.”
There was a deeper significance to the performance for Sam and his classmates. “Dear Evan Hansen” is about a teenager who is struggling to fit in a hyper-connected world. The show comes to Iowa just a few months after lawmakers approved legislation to expand mental health in the state. They're also considering a more structured system for children's mental health.
“The talk of mental health is at the forefront of our legislators' conversations and their work that they're doing here," said Kat Mosiman, director of Avenue Jazz. "'Dear Evan Hansen,' one of the big story points of the show is the talk around mental health, so it just kind coincides really nicely.”
House Speaker Linda Upmeyer, R-Clear Lake, said communicating through all venues like music and readings are “important ways for people to get their message out.”
“I’m glad they were here," she said. "And I appreciate the message.”