‘Dear Evan Hansen’ Andrew Barth Feldman Talks Playing & Being a Teen [INTERVIEW]

Andrew Feldman

Nathan Johnson Andrew Barth Feldman will play Evan Hansen, starting January 2019.

Andrew Barth Feldman, a 16-year-old self-proclaimed “theater dork” from Long Island, New York, will be making his Broadway debut tonight in the title role of the Tony Award-winning musical Dear Evan Hansen. Prior to being cast as Evan, the high school junior won “Best Performance by an Actor” in the 2018 Jimmy Awards (The National High School Musical Theatre Awards).

Ahead of Andrew’s big night, we had the chance to talk with him on the phone. We learned that his favorite Disney character is Stitch, his dream “miscast” Broadway roles would be Audrey 2 in Little Shop of Horrors, Collins in Rent, and Mae Peterson in Bye Bye Birdie, and that his favorite song to sing in the show is “For Forever.”

He also got candid about the show, his education, his family and friends, and how he’s learning to balance it all:

HEAVY: Have you been practicing your Playbill autograph?
I have. I’ve figured it out. I’m sticking with initials. It’ll be cool… also my handwriting is terrible, so to do my whole name would be a disaster.

Have you thought about how you’ll spend your day off?
When I’m not having tutoring, I’m just gonna sit here and watch a lot of TV, I think. Probably. And not talk.

How has social media changed for you – your social media presence and how you interact with people?
I’ve always been such a theater nerd and so I follow theater people on social media and from that I’ve sort of always been able to think about what I want my presence to be like. And so far my goal on social media has just been to be as authentic and transparent as I possibly can about who I am and staying a teenager and having that kind of presence on social media. And so far it’s been really fun.

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?: @nathanjohnsonny In February 2017, Waving Through A Window was released ahead of the rest of the cast album. I didn’t know anything about Dear Evan Hansen, but I listened to that song on repeat, showing it to people who hadn’t heard it, discussing it with people who had. I went to my first Project Broadway meeting a few days later and said to @marctumminelli, “I hope this show flops so that I can sing this song in every audition,” to which he replied, “You want it to succeed so that you can be in it.” I saw the show with @mbtink53 in previews pretty soon after that and was in a state of shock. My family asked me how it was, and I just said, “I don’t want to talk about it.” The show, the character, hit me in a very real and very important place. I had new determination. I put Evan at the very tippy top of my dream role list. Evan was something inside of me that I needed to fish out, so I started fishing. Then came the Jimmy Awards. I had new tools and new confidence in myself. I didn’t know what exactly would come out of it, but it was exactly the reaffirmation I needed at that time in my life. I got the email that they wanted me to audition. “This is what you’ve been waiting for,” I said to myself. “You’ve thought a lot about this, and you’ve figured out what to do.” Only I hadn’t. My Evan at that point was nothing but fabricated twitches and angst. I took a step back and remembered what I learned at the Jimmys. I needed to trust myself, trust the words, and trust that Evan was somewhere inside of me. Suddenly, Evan wasn’t some intangible concept. Evan was a part of me. I’m not saying that I’ve figured Evan out completely in any world. I’m cracking open a new shell every day, realizing something about him that I hadn’t already, and this is even before we really get into rehearsal. But it isn’t script analysis, it’s more like meeting myself for the first time. This is my singular greatest dream. I am making my Broadway debut as my very tippy top dream role at the age of 16. That’s a dream sentence and this is a dream life. Thank you to anyone who has ever put any faith in me to do anything ever. You know who you are, and you got me here. #YouWillBeFound

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Have you had anyone really cool reach out on social media?
Almost the entire cast of Queer Eye has reached out on Instagram, which is so cool. The only one who hasn’t is Jonathan Van Nees, which – that would kill me.

How has it been managing having this really blossoming professional career, debuting on Broadway in this incredible role, while also still maintaining your life as a 16-year-old?
In terms of my social life as a 16-year-old, I’ve always surrounded myself with theater people, most of whom were older than me… I haven’t stopped surrounding myself with theater dorks, it’s just now they’re Broadway theater dorks. And of course still staying in touch with all of my friends that I’ve made over the past few years and seeing them as much as I can. And in terms of tutoring and balancing school and theater… at times I would do 4 or 5 shows at a time at different community theaters, so I’ve always had to balance my grades and theater, so this will be no different.

You’ve said that Evan Hansen was one of your top professional goals – have you thought about what you’d want to do next?
The dream would be to originate something. The two things I wanted to do on Broadway were play Evan Hansen and originate a role in a new, really good musical. I would love so much for that to be the next step, along with college.

Have you gotten any advice from Ben Platt or any of the other Evans?
Yeah, they’re all so wonderful. And Ben Platt – we’ve hung out and talked, and he’s such a wonder of a human being and he’s so lovely. They really all are, Taylor and [Ben Levi] Ross, who’s on the tour. They haven’t given me advice unless I’ve asked for it, because they don’t want to impose on my experience, but absolutely I’ve asked them for advice. And they’ve given me mostly advice on how to maintain my health and how to do this, stamina-wise…. It’s very, very helpful to have such gracious people leaving the shoes that I’ll be filling.

When you make your debut, who will be in the audience for you?
The new number that my mom has given me is that over 500 people that I know in my life have bought tickets… So pretty much half the audience will be everyone I’ve ever met in my entire life.

Making your Broadway debut at such a young age, what do you think are the advantages and challenges that come with that?
Making my debut in this role, specifically, and being pretty much at the age that Evan is, I don’t have to play a teenager, I don’t have to pretend to be a teenager, I am a teenager. So it makes it easier on me and easier on the eyes of the audience. There’s a little less suspension of disbelief, and it’s a bit more real. And hopefully, ideally, it’s harder to see a real teenager go through what Evan goes through. But in that same way, it’s hard to be doing what I’m doing in this role at such a young age because I’ve never done anything like this, so I’m also learning the ins and outs of Broadway and the customs while I’m trying to take on this role.

What did your parents say when you told them that you booked this part?
They’re so excited. My mom is pretty much taking on another job with all of this… but she is such a trooper and the most amazing person. So, they’re navigating it, but they’re both just so excited for me.

What is something that you really want people to know about you, beyond the fact that you’re a 16-year-old making his Broadway debut?
I think my favorite thing to talk about is my theater company Zneefrock Productions, that I started when I was 12 years old. We have, over the past I think 5 years, raised money for NEXT for Autism, and it really means a lot to me. I’ve gotten my closest, most talented friends together over the past years to put on these really amazing shows. Last summer, we put on Be More Chill, and we raised over $9,000, over 600 people came, and we had this enormous cast and this incredible show and that’s really been the most meaningful thing that I’ve gotten to do over the past few years. We’re on hiatus, but we’re definitely not done… and I’m excited to keep going now, knowing new things about the business and how to navigate producing and directing, etc.


Watch Andrew Barth Feldman star as Evan Hansen in Dear Evan Hansen on Broadway, starting January 30.