Audience can relate to ‘Dear Evan Hansen’ story, actors say; Opens at Proctors Tuesday

Stephen Christopher Anthony as Evan Hansen and Jessica Sherman as his mom, Heidi, in the touring production of “Dear Evan Hansen.” 

Stephen Christopher Anthony as Evan Hansen and Jessica Sherman as his mom, Heidi, in the touring production of “Dear Evan Hansen.” 

“Dear Evan Hansen” was a huge Broadway hit for a variety of reasons, but Sam Primack and Jessica Sherman are pretty certain they’ve pinpointed the show’s secret to success.

In Schenectady at Proctors beginning next Tuesday for eight performances in six days, “Dear Evan Hansen” engages the audience like few other musicals, Primack and Sherman will tell you, because people can see themselves on stage in one of the characters. If not in the lead role, then with one of the other actors in the large ensemble cast.

“It’s a universal story that everyone coming to the show will feel a connection to,” said Primack, who will play the title character in at least two of the performances at Proctors next week, giving Stephen Christopher Anthony a break from the grueling schedule. “They might see themselves as any of the characters. We’re all human, we all make mistakes, and we all have the need to feel connected and loved. That’s a universal theme that everybody can relate to.”

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Sherman, a Toronto native, played Evan’s mother Heidi Hansen in the original Canadian production and has been with the North American Tour in that role since January of 2019.

“It’s very honest, and while there are a lot of catchy, fun numbers, it doesn’t gloss over how difficult it is sometimes to be an engaged human being,” she said. “We have to make connections with others, we have to ask for help when we need it, and when we make mistakes we own up to them. Life can be hard, and we’re all struggling and floundering at times. We need to acknowledge that, acknowledge our mistakes and then grow from those mistakes. ”

“Dear Evan Hansen” had its world premiere at the Arena Stage in Washington, D.C. in July of 2015 and opened on Broadway in December of 2016. It was nominated for nine 2017 Tony Awards and won six, including Best Musical, Best Book of a Musical, Best Original Score and two Best Actor categories.

Benji Pasek and Justin Paul wrote the music and lyrics, and Steven Levinson wrote the book.

The musical made a star out of Ben Platt, who claimed the Best Actor award at the age of 23, making him the youngest performer to ever win in that category. Platt also won a Grammy for his performance in the show.

The musical follows the trials and tribulations of Evan Hansen, 17-year-old with social anxiety and the victim of bullying at his high school.

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Primack, who is also serving as understudy for two other roles in the show, was part of the Broadway cast and did have the opportunity to play Evan Hansen in New York. He’s looking forward to playing the role as long as he can.

“I actually started with the show when I was 17 and now I’m 20,” said Primack, who grew up in the Phoenix area. “I understand and appreciate what it’s like to go to high school in this age of social media. There’s that authenticity the show has, and I’m thrilled to be able to play the part for at least another year and a half.”

Anthony, a Miami native, has also played Evan Hansen on Broadway and will likely do five or six of the performances in Schenectady. A graduate of Florida State, he was also Frank Abignale in the national touring production of “Catch Me If You Can.”

As for Sherman, she’s with this tour until June, and is one of four cast members that were in the original Toronto production.

“It’s a very fulfilling role, and some nights it’s cathartic,” she said. “I’ve also struggled with some of the things that Heidi has, in different ways, and it certainly is a journey. But I am so lucky with this show to have a great cast. Both of my Evans are extraordinary actors. They are wonderful Evans that I get to feed off of each night. It’s the easiest thing in the world to get on the stage with them, and to see their struggle and love them. I just show up and get what they give me. It’s a real privilege to work with them.”

While Primack and Sherman have never performed in the Schenectady area before, Sherman did make a trip through the city about 10 years ago and did get to take a look inside Proctors, a classic vaudeville theater built in 1927.

“I was on a trip with my father and we spent one night in Schenectady on our way to Vermont,” she said. “We had the most wonderful time. We found a great restaurant, and we just happened to be walking past Proctors when they were doing some renovating. This incredibly kind man asked us if we wanted to take a tour of the place, so he took us inside and showed us the theater. My father was an architect so he loved it, and I can remember just standing in the dark theater and thinking to myself, ‘I want to perform here one day.’ So I’m very excited about it. I’m looking forward to seeing Schenectady and Proctors again.”

‘Dear Evan Hansen’

WHERE: Proctors, 432 State St. Schenectady

WHEN: Opens March 22 and runs through March 27; show times are 7:30 p.m. Tuesday and Wednesday; 1:30 and 8 p.m. Thursday; 8 p.m. Friday; 2 and 8 p.m. Saturday; and 2 p.m. Sunday

HOW MUCH: $130-$36

MORE INFO: Visit www.proctors.org or call (518) 346-6204

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Categories: Entertainment, Life and Arts, Schenectady

1 Comments
niskyperson March 17, 2022
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the actors are not wearing masks, how does that work?