Andrew Barth Feldman is not only making his Broadway debut at 16 years old, but this is his first professional acting gig ever. “I have never been in a process where literally the show is my job,” he tells Broadway Direct exclusively.
The Long Island teen, who found his passion for performing as a child, begins performances in Dear Evan Hansen at the Music Box Theatre starting January 30.. He takes over the title role from 29-year-old Taylor Trensch. And he’s the first actual teen to play the part. “I’m really excited to bring authenticity to Evan,” he notes about his youth. “There are going to be differences in every Evan because we’re all just different people, as it is a reflection of who we are inside.”
“There’s nothing more exciting than discovering young talent,” director Michael Greif says. “Evan is such a complex role — and one that is difficult cast.”
It was June when Feldman’s dream came true, and he admits he’s still living in that “pinch me” moment. He was one of nearly 100 students to participate in a national high school musical theater showcase called The Jimmy Awards. He sang “Goodbye” from Catch Me if You Can in front of casting agents and producers at the Minskoff Theatre (where The Lion King is currently housed) and won the competition. The prize included a $10,000 college scholarship.
Feldman’s performance caught the attention of Dear Evan Hansen producer Stacey Mindich. “During the show, I texted our casting director, Tara Rubin,” Mindich recalls of hearing Feldman sing. “Andrew was in the casting office auditioning for the role within days of winning the award. It was clear very quickly that we’d found our next Evan.” Feldman had to keep his life-changing news a secret from his friends for months.
It was around winter break when Feldman waved goodbye to Lawrence Woodmere Academy in Woodmere, New York, for this decidedly less traditional education. He took some time off in December to relax and decompress before jumping into rehearsals. Instead of being in homeroom at 8 a.m., Feldman, who is now being privately tutored, sometimes has school on weekends. Some days he has four hours of tutoring accompanied by rehearsal, and other days he can sleep until noon. On show days, tutoring will take place in the morning before a car service brings Feldman to the theatre two hours before curtain. His mom plans on coming to every show in February, followed by once a week after that.
This year Feldman won’t be in his high school musical production of Aida, but he plans to “pop in and out” once Hansen performances begin and he has more time to visit with his friends and teachers. “I do miss it. But I am sort of getting that with the cast of Dear Evan Hansen. To work with them and be a part of that is really special.”
Feldman might have to miss his junior prom — but he has already accepted it. “I don’t feel like I am missing out on much. I’ve known most of these kids since kindergarten. I feel like I’ve had the full experience I need as a teenager and I don’t feel that I’m not a normal teenager, like Macaulay Culkin or something. I am very much still a kid, but I just happen to be doing this incredible thing.”
One of the most interesting things Feldman has learned so far from being on Broadway is to appreciate the stamina needed to perform a role eight times a week. “We do the show maybe once or twice,” he explains of his prior hometown theater experiences, including playing Mr. Bundles in Annie at age 8. “I just don’t think we realize how much of the process is making sure that the stamina is there.” Feldman is now paired up with vocal coach Liz Kaplan to make sure his voice stays healthy.
Like his predecessors, Feldman will be on a strict diet, omitting dairy. It’s going to take a lot of willpower, especially since he jokes in his Instagram bio that he wants to be “sponsored by Horizon Organic Chocolate Milk.”
At The Jimmy’s, Feldman learned to trust his gut, which led him to take on this enormous opportunity. He still plans to go to college, but it’s now a “sort of ‘we’ll see what happens’ mode. I’m quite literally living my dreams, and I’m doing everything I have ever wanted to do.”