Andrew Barth Feldman Brings His Real Life Experience to the Stage in ‘Dear Evan Hansen’
Usually actors playing high school characters onstage and in film are years older than their counterparts. After all, in order to find someone to commit to eight shows a week or a film production schedule, it’s usually easier to accommodate the demands without having schoolwork and college applications to worry about.
But what happens when someone who is actually living and breathing the teenaged experience gets to realize that world onstage? Enter Andrew Feldman, who stars as the titular teen in “Dear Evan Hansen” on Broadway. The 17-year-old won the National High School Musical Theatre Awards and as a result, he landed the role of a lifetime, making his Broadway debut in the show in January.
We chatted with Feldman about how he relates to Evan’s story, how he balances high school and Broadway, and why he loves the “Dear Evan Hansen” fans.
What was the first song you ever heard from Dear Evan Hansen, and did you immediately think you wanted to play this role?
The first song I heard was “Waving Through A Window” when it was released ahead of the rest of the cast recording. Without really knowing anything about the role, I was obsessed with the song. I had mentioned to Marc Tumminelli, owner of Broadway Workshop and a long-time mentor and friend of mine, “I want this show to flop so that I can sing this song in auditions forever. He, having seen it, replied, “You want this show to succeed so that you can be in it.” I think I was hooked after that.
How do you identify with this role, and why do you think it resonates with so many people today?
I connect with Evan through his deep empathy. We’re both people-pleasers. He’s MUCH more of a people-pleaser than I am, but I understand that need to diffuse any and every negative situation. I think he’s so representative of everyone with an anxiety disorder, but also everyone feeling any type of anxiety at all and that’s every teenager on the planet. He holds up a mirror to something that we’re scared to feel or articulate, and that’s why he resonates so much and so universally. Even if we don’t have a diagnosis of anxiety, we still feel that feeling from time to time, and Evan shows us that that’s okay.
Are there any things about high school today that you’ve brought with you into the role or wish were a part of the role?
I’ve brought everything from high school with me. I use everything I can. I think the most applicable thing would be the social media aspect; I am a teenager in the same era that Evan is a teenager, so I think I have a really good understanding of what the pressure of social media on top of all of the other pressures of being a teenager can feel like. It gives us a window to lives that we think are better than our own, and gives us the pressure to present as extravagantly and confidently as those people who seem that way on social media, even if it’s a lie or is deeply uncomfortable. I don’t really have any wishes of anything else that Evan could be. I think he’s the perfect representation of everything that being a high schooler is.
“Dear Evan Hansen” has an amazing community of fans. What have been some of your favorite interactions with fans?
There have been some really beautiful interactions at the stage door where I’ve gotten the opportunity to hear some truly beautiful stories. I think my favorite interactions, though, are ones that reflect my overwhelming love for the Disney Parks. I talk about it a lot on Twitter, so people will either talk to me about it and get me really revved up, ask me to sign some type of Disney paraphernalia, or give me a custom Disney-themed gift. Probably my favorite is the gorgeous “Dear Evan Hansen” Mickey ears that a fan named Sydney gave me. The fans are so cool.
What do you like to do in your spare time? How do you manage being in the show and being a teenager?
To be honest, I don’t have much spare time! This role requires so much discipline and rest. Luckily, this cast is a bunch of hilarious goofballs and we play a lot of board games and video games backstage, which is exactly what I would want to be doing with my time anyway. I don’t get to see my friends from high school theatre a lot, but I’ve generally surrounded myself with theatre people anyway, so it doesn’t feel very different to be surrounding myself with the theatre people of the “Dear Evan Hansen” company. Probably the biggest challenge of being a teenager and doing the show is the schooling aspect; I get tutored fifteen hours a week in addition to performing. I’ve always had to balance school and performing, though, so that’s nothing new!