When you do a musical for a movie, you’re probably going to look for actors who can, you know, to sing. It is a truism that seems to apply to “Dear Evan Hansen,” an adaptation of this Tony Award-winning Broadway musical, with a score by Benj Pasek and Justin Paul. It stars Ben Platt as the main character, a socially anxious teenager perpetuating a lie that has given him a welcome dose of popularity.
But when the filmmakers of âDear Evan Hansenâ made their roster, they didn’t necessarily start with a roster of Hollywood’s most famous singers. As its director, Stephen Chbosky, said in a recent interview, âI don’t really try to choose actors – I try to choose people. What I’m looking for is this almost invisible quality of them as human beings. I just encourage each actor to put their mark on the character and tell the truth a little more. “
The result is a cast with a wide range of backgrounds and experiences with singing for an audience: some who have done it their entire lives and were thrilled to do it on camera; some who are terrified of it; and others who wish they had the chance to do it a little more often.
Here, five of the stars of âDear Evan Hansenâ share how they’ve come to love the sound of their own music.
Although moviegoers have seen Julianne Moore sing some bars in “Magnolia” and some rock songs in “What Maisie Knew” (and the lip syncing of RenÃ©e Fleming’s opera voice in “Bel Canto”), she hasn’t eagerly sung for audiences since her high school production of “The Music Man”. So when she was approached to audition for the role of Evan’s mother, whose tender solo number, “So Big / So Small”, is arguably the highlight of the musical, she was understandably nervous. But working closely with the voice coaches and the music team was enough to land him the role and allay his anxiety – until it was time to film his big song. That day Moore said, âI thought I was going to swallow my own tongue, I really did. Because it was so terrifying. Even one of our cameramen, who was a really great guy, then said, âIt was hard, huh? ‘âPerhaps the surest sign Moore had pulled off, however, was the feedback she received from her husband, director Bart Freundlich, after a first look at the film. As Moore recalled, âMy husband came to the screening and my kids came too, as did my son’s girlfriend. So I had a group with me. And my husband said he was so relieved. He said, ‘The way you talked about that song, I was really ready for something terrible.’ “
Even devoted fans of Amy Adams likely missed the start of her professional rise in dinner theater musicals, like the Boulder’s Dinner Theater production of “A Chorus Line,” in which she played Kristine. âShe was the girl who couldn’t sing,â Adams explained. “Which then made me nervous, because then I thought people thought I did not know how to sing. As she began to break through as a movie actress, Adams said there were few opportunities for musicals in theaters – and few such films were being made. Even for his role as Giselle in the Disney musical “Enchanted”, Adams said she was not initially wanted for her singing skills and had to audition more “so they let me sing it myself – they were ready to bring someone in and I was like, no, no, no, let me try. “(She prepared herself by listening to Kristin Chenoweth’s Glinda songs over and over from” Wicked, “before learning that she would be working with the original Elphaba. from that show, Idina Menzel, on âEnchanted.â) Although Adams said her role as a grieving mother on âDear Evan Hansenâ called for âlimited singing,â which she was careful to prepare in the weeks leading up to the shoot. âI do enough karaoke to know the dangers of believing it with faith,â she said. “You know when you think you can pull off a song and you’re like, wow, I really didn’t? I know better. “
Coming from a showbiz family (his father, Marc Platt, produced the same film) and performed since childhood, Ben Platt never, ever wavered in his faith in the power of song. Well, except maybe this time in 2012, when he was performing in the rock musical “The Black Suits” and stressed by the rigorous diet he had to follow to maintain his voice. “I had a little moment where I was like, ‘Well, I prefer to play without singing – it’s so much easier and less stressful,'” Platt said. “It lasted 30 seconds.” When he created Evan Hansen on Broadway, Platt jumped into the role – so much so that he didn’t allow himself to miss a performance during the first few months of its airing. Then he said, âI hemorrhaged and had a polyp on my vocal cords. I had to heal with a lot of silence and a whiteboard and the right cocktail of drugs. It was my body telling me, you can’t be superhuman. But on the film version, Platt said he found pleasure in being loud (when it was appropriate for his character) without having to duplicate that volume show after show. âEvan is a very sweet character and it takes a long time for him to come out of his shell,â he said. “But the rare times he raises his voice or screams, I was less afraid of having to keep him to sing.”
Growing up, Kaitlyn Dever came through her musical tastes in the traditional way: being driven by her father. “He was playing Cure in the car and I hated it, to hate that when he played at Cure, âshe said. âNow this is my all time favorite band, because I didn’t really understand when I was 6, driving to go to a ballet class. Now I fully understand. She drew on other family ties a few years later when she and her sister Mady started their own group, Beulahbelle – as Dever explained, “We’re sisters anyway, we might as well make a band” – and landed a few songs on the soundtrack to Jason Reitman’s comedy “Tully”. Dever learned of her audition for sweetheart Zoe Murphy in “Dear Evan Hansen” while on her way to London. So, she said, âI ended up booking a studio so I could sing it on my own somewhere and not in a hotel room where I would disturb the guests, ‘Requiem’ at 2 in the morning because I’m jet lagged, âthen went back to Los Angeles and landed the role.
Even before training as a child gladiator in “The Hunger Games”, Amandla Stenberg was a classically trained violinist: “I started with the Suzuki method, but was intimidated by the competitions I attended. “, remembers Stenberg. âThere would be children crying in a corner and their fingers were bleeding. So I quit for a while. Fortunately, she found a new teacher who showed her how to improvise on the instrument and play in a variety of styles, and in high school she was part of a folk duo called Honeywater, although Stenberg now says of this project: . “After placing some of his solo songs in the soundtracks of his films like “The Hate U Give”, Stenberg was approached to play Alana Beck, Evan’s high performing classmate – and to help write a new song, “The Anonymous Ones”, for the film with Pasek and Paul. “Which completely floored me, of course,” Stenberg said. “Was I like, me?” It was a total moment where you must be confusing me with someone else. âThe new issue was created during the Zoom sessions while Stenberg was in Copenhagen and his writing partners were in the US, which meant a lot of late nights.â I was pretty delusional by the end of them. “Stenberg said.” They felt like virtual sleepovers. “