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Evan Hansen Is the Hardest Role Jordan Fisher Has Ever Played

Fisher takes us behind the scenes of his Broadway return in the Tony-winning musical Dear Evan Hansen.

Jordan Fisher likens the process of getting ready to play Evan Hansen to the gears inside of a grandfather clock. "You have these small gears that start to turn," he says, "which informs the next gear, and informs the next gear. Then you have the mother gear, which gets the entire machine functioning the right way." Once enough gears turn, you're ready to go. The clock chimes. The part is in your body.

It took Fisher's gears a long time to turn for this role, which he began playing at the Music Box Theatre on January 28. Despite having been in this business for over a decade, Dear Evan Hansen is Fisher's Mt. Kilimanjaro, the most difficult role he's had to scale to date. But it's also one of the most satisfying.

Jordan Fisher as Evan in a promotional image for Dear Evan Hansen.
(© Nathan Johnson)

You're a few days in so far. How does it feel to be the new Evan Hansen?
I have been doing this professionally for 16 years and I've never had an issue getting off book, except for this show. It's a lot of lines and fractured sentences. You have to understand the language of Evan. I have a very watery articulation in how I speak on a regular basis, while Evan lives on wind. He speaks, and then thinks about what he's saying after he's started speaking, and then cuts the sentence in half and starts to reconfigure things, and then continues to go.

Steven Levenson did a beautiful job putting this together, and it was all mathematical for him. I've heard stories about him sitting in the back of the theater watching Ben Platt do these scenes and mouthing the words, deciding if he wants to put a "like" at the beginning of a sentence, and then cutting a word in half with a comma, and then putting an "uh," and then an ellipsis, and then another "uh," and then starting the sentence over again. It's literally like learning another language and requires that kind of attention to detail.

That sounds hard.
But I've never been more artistically stimulated. What I kept hearing from my fellow cast members, or anyone that's played Evan in any company, is, "One day you're gonna wake up, the last big light bulb will have gone off, you'll know the material, and then you can start playing." I will forever remember the day I woke up and was like, "I'm in the clear."

What's most fun for me now is the liberation of the dialogue and the music. There are so many unbelievable songs in this show. "Waving Through a Window" is fantastic. I love "Anybody Have a Map?" "Requiem" is stunning. My favorite song to sing in the show is definitely "For Forever," and my favorite part of the show is the arc of "Words Fail" part 1 and part 2.

How do you relate to Evan?
I have dealt with crippling anxiety and depression, and I have a therapist for a reason. There are things everybody can latch onto where Evan is concerned — and every character in the show. Everyone can go "I know Jared Kleinman" or "I had a Zoe in my life" or "My mom is like Cynthia or Heidi" or "My dad works just as much as Larry does." There's something for everybody in all of these characters, but specifically Evan.

Is working with Michael Greif here different than working with him on Rent Live?
I think Rent was new territory for him. It was a full, in-the-round playground for him, and a territory I and Brandon Victor Dixon and Vanessa Hudgens had already experienced. There were so many things he had to focus on and worry about. We were given a lot of liberty and freedom to play, while upholding the integrity of the show, and it allowed Michael to complete thought processes and add new details. He had an opportunity to complete ideas that couldn't necessarily be completed during the original run on Broadway [because of Jonathan Larson's death].

[With Dear Evan Hansen,] here is a show that was completed before it opened — a show that he spent a lot of time on that is now a very well-oiled machine with multiple companies. And here comes me, an Evan that doesn't look like any other Evans, who is older than all the other Evans, that already has thoughts and ideas but is looking forward to hearing Michael's.

Since it was a year ago already, looking back, how do you sum up the live Rent experience?
Ultimately, it ended up being exactly the way it was supposed to be. If we could change anything, we would all wish Brennin Hunt didn't break his foot. But the show that we did was a show we were all happy with. The magic of theater and live experiences, and the unique nature of that night, turned it into something we would never forget.

Jordan Fisher as Mark in Fox's 2019 broadcast of Rent Live.
(© Kevin Estrada/FOX)
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