Dear Evan Hansen is a new musical about the emotional aftermath of a high school classmate’s suicide. Ahead of its official Broadway opening on December 4 (after a successful run Off Broadway earlier this year), we spoke to Ben Platt, who originated the role of Evan, a student caught up with his deceased classmate’s family after the discovery of a mysterious letter. Platt previously starred in The Book of Mormon and stole introverted hearts in the Pitch Perfect film franchise. He shared how he got involved with the show and his advice for high school kids slouching through those four long years.
How did this project come into your life?
When I was 17, I auditioned for another show by the creators of Dear Evan Hansen. They reached out and said, “Hey, you’re too young for this particular role, but we have this other project that would be great for you, and we’ll be in touch about that.” I was like “Mmm, sure you will,” because that kind of thing never works out. But lo and behold, a few years later they got in touch about this as-yet-untitled project and asked me to come in and cold read the lead role. They gave me a few songs [ahead of time] to be familiar with, but they wouldn’t tell me the story or let me read the script. It was such a good match immediately with me and the character. From that point on, it became wonderfully collaborative, so we were able to find this kid together over the next two- and-a-half years.
The show is so timely. What about it resonates with you in particular?
It’s about how hyperconnected we are these days. That can be isolating, and it instills this deep sense of loneliness for a lot of people. The show is about trying to sift through all of that to hold onto real, human connections.
Were you a happy high schooler?
Yes, thankfully. I went to a school that was great for a theater nerd or an art geek. I had a really positive high school experience, unlike the one that Evan has.
What advice would you give to someone having a hard time at that point in life?
Try to keep that time in perspective. I wasted a lot of time, both as an actor and a person, trying to be like others. When I started to embrace what makes me different, I began to find the most fulfillment and also the most success.
What’s your dream role?
I’ve wanted to play Bobby in Company since I was a kid, so I’m gonna make that happen one day.
Dear Evan Hansen is now playing at Music Box Theatre (dearevanhansen.com). $69–$275.