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Concert Reviews:
Ben Platt sheds his characters at the Fisher Theatre

By Gary Graff
ggraff@medianewsgroup.com, @GraffonMusic on Twitte

Posted: Sunday, May 5, 2019

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DETROIT -- At just 25, Ben Platt has turned himself into a star by playing iconic characters on stage ("Dear Evan Hansen," "the Book of Mormon") and screen ("Pitch Perfect," "Pitch Perfect 2" and more).

Turns out he's pretty good at "playing" himself, too.

Hansen showed Tony Award-winning confidence and poise, and of course great pipes, as he played just the second show of his first-ever solo tour on Saturday night, May 4, at the Fisher Theatre -- a venue the singer and songwriter noted he was, until now, more likely to be portraying a "bizarrely nerdy" someone else. "This is the first time I've ever had the opportunity to come out here and be myself," the hirsute but still baby-faced Platt told a crowd that greeted him with boy band-caliber screams, later acknowledging that "it's scary."

You would not have known that from his 15-song, 80-minute performance, which sent a message that Platt is as serious about working under his own name as he has been about his Broadway triumphs. Backed by a 10-piece band he pointedly eschewed any material from his stage and screen work, instead playing his debut album "Sing To Me Instead," in its entirety and fleshing the night out with solid renditions of by some of his favorites -- "The Joke" by Brandi Carlile (a personal "queero" for Platt), a Motown-appropriate "Overjoyed" by Stevie Wonder and Elton John's "Take Me to the Pilot," which found Platt and his three backup singers in gospel revival mode, one of the (too) few times he came off the band riser to sing at the front of the stage.

Following sets by Raybo and Ben Abraham (who co-wrote four songs on "Sing To Me Instead") Platt also infused the show with a chatty, lightly scripted getting-to-know you vibe. He spoke freely about the romantic travails that inspired many of his songs and offered up a few little-known facts about himself -- not a peanut butter fan, stole a summer bunkmate's Harry Potter book, thinks cats are "the devil's children." "Save Your Address" and "Take Me to the Pilot" were bolstered with some light, stagey choreography, while "Older" became a singalong anthem to close the main set.

Some of Platt's personal details, meanwhile, provided the show with its most striking moments. He prefaced "In Case You Don't Live Forever" with a warm remembrance of his Grandma Sue, who passed away the week before. And he dedicated the encore "Run Away" to his father and mother Julie, who was at the Fisher on Saturday night, performing it on piano, accompanied by his two string players.

We'll certainly be seeing Platt onstage again in character mode in the future. But on Saturday he established that seeing him sing his own songs could be a real treat, too.

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