The gorgeous hit musical Dear Evan Hansen — with music by Academy and Tony Award winners Benj Pasek and Justin Paul, book by Tony Award winner Steven Levenson, and direction by four-time Tony Award nominee Michael Greif — is welcoming a new leading man for the holiday season. And this leading man set his sights on Broadway at age 5, toured America in Les Misérables at 10, and sang and danced on television at 21. Noah Galvin assumed the title role in the six-time Tony Award–winning Best Musical on November 21, and the young actor, best known for playing Martha Plimpton’s son in the TV comedy The Real O’Neals, is already being embraced by the show’s superloyal fan base.
Just before taking the stage at the Music Box Theatre for the first time, Galvin shared some of his favorite things and pop culture obsessions with Broadway Direct.
When you were Evan Hansen’s age, you had already starred in the Off-Broadway musical The Burnt Part Boys. Does it feel like a leap to play a teen boy who longs to find his place in the world?
My background wasn’t that different from Evan’s. The thing I have the most fun doing is exploring different characters, and I’m really excited to add Evan to my repertoire. I strive for variety in my career because I get bored quickly — not that this is a part I could ever get bored with!
What touches you most about Evan?
His relationship with his mother. We’re not alike in terms of our personhood — he has a lot of anxiety and he’s a little meek, and I’m very much not that — but we both have single moms, which I relate to. His dynamic with his mother was my “in” to the character.
What makes Pasek and Paul’s music in Dear Evan Hansen so memorable?
It’s not only beautiful and dynamic, it allows you to show off the variety in your voice. You get to use your falsetto, and there are big, belty numbers. The music carries the story in such a wonderful, emotional way. It’s a score I listened to on my own before having been cast in the show.
Was your high school experience anything like Evan’s?
The school in Westchester [County, near New York City] I went to for freshman year was pretty similar, very sports-centric, with a small arts program. Then I moved to the city and started going to the Professional Performing Arts High School, which was the antithesis of Evan’s experience. Mine was filled with a lot of singing and dancing and musical-theater shenanigans.
What’s the first Broadway show you ever saw?
You’re a Good Man, Charlie Brown, with Kristin Chenoweth and Anthony Rapp. I remember the day I found out I was going. It was right after naptime in preschool, and my aunt, who lived in the city, came with my mom to pick me up and told me we were going to see the show. It was the best thing that had ever happened to me, even though I’d only been alive for five years.
When did you know you wanted to become an actor?
I played the title role in Oliver! at summer camp when I was 8, and the next year, I got to reprise my role in a community-theater production. At that point, I think everybody in my family realized this is where my skills lie. When I was 10, my voice teacher helped me get an audition for the national tour of Les Miz, I booked it, and the rest is history. I was very independent and self-driven in wanting to do this, and my parents went with it.
If you could star in any musical revival, what would you choose?
Cabaret. No question! I hope to take over the Emcee legacy when Alan Cumming decides he’s done. It’s truly my dream role, in the only show I’ve ever been fired from. I was cast as the Emcee at school my senior year, but my grades were so bad, they kicked me out.
Speaking of dreams, who is your fantasy costar?
I’d love to work with David Hyde Pierce someday. I hear he’s the nicest man and a great scene partner, and I think he’s incredibly talented.
What’s your secret talent?
I’m a really good cook. My sister and I made up the recipe for a yummy eggplant Parmesan dish. You slice an eggplant superthin, bread and fry each ring of the eggplant, then layer it with some cheese and sauce and serve it over rigatoni. It’s delicious! If I wasn’t an actor, I’d probably go to culinary school.
What are you binge-watching right now?
I binged all of Stranger Things in two days when I was at home sick. I also love the Marvel universe — give me a dark Netflix Marvel series and I’m there with bells on. But my favorite show of all time is Six Feet Under. I think it’s one of the most perfect series ever made.
You got to headline some awesome musical numbers in your two seasons on The Real O’Neals.
That was the most fun. Truly, I will never have a TV job as good as that. I sang, I danced, I laughed, I cried … what more do you need?
Take us through a perfect day off in New York.
OK, we’re going on a culinary tour. We’ll start the day with a class at my mom’s yoga studio on the Bowery, then go to the West Village to get a baguette with ham, Brie, apple, honey mustard, and lettuce at the Original Sandwich Shoppe. We’ll take a little stroll — pop over to the Whitney and look at some art, maybe walk on the High Line — and then head uptown for a slice of pizza at Sal and Carmine’s at 101st and Broadway. It’s the best in the world. We’ll see an awesome play at St. Ann’s Warehouse in Brooklyn, then take train back to Manhattan to finish things off with dumplings at Joe’s Shanghai.
We’ll definitely need a yoga class after all that! Social media plays a big role in Dear Evan Hansen. What’s your favorite platform?
Instagram [Galvin has 148,000 followers]. I like the fact that it’s creative — it’s visually based, but you also have to write captions.
Do you enjoy interacting with fans, both on social media and in person?
Yeah, always! It’s still surprising to me that people know who I am. It’s always a shock when someone stops me on the street to say hello.
Get ready for that to happen even more often, because Dear Evan Hansen fans really love the show.
Oh, I already have a complete portfolio of fan art. These fans are tried and true.
What excites you most about making your Broadway debut?
Just being in that environment, getting to go to the theatre every day. I’ve always been jealous of Broadway actors having a second home at the theatre. That kind of stability is hard to find for an actor, and it satisfies me to my core.
What advice would you give to your 17-year-old self?
Try harder in school, and don’t feel like you need to grow up too fast. Take your time and have faith that things will work out.
Finally, where do you see yourself in 10 years?
Doing exactly what I’m doing now. I feel incredibly lucky to have accomplished what I have so far, and I just want to keep working. If I can do that, I will be a happy person.