Laura and Samara spend their days as non-profit unicorns and fill every spare minute exploring the world of musical theatre as BFFs (that’s Broadway Friends Forever). Follow @bffs613 on Twitter, Instagram and Facebook.
Initially set to play the NAC in April 2021, the highly anticipated Tony Award-winning show Dear Evan Hansen is finally here! Dear Evan Hansen stems from a letter that was never meant to be seen, isolation combined with the power of social media, and everyone’s deep-seated desire to fit in.
The songs are by Grammy, Tony and Academy Award winners Benj Pasek and Justin Paul, whom you might know from musicals and movie hits like La La Land and The Greatest Showman.
The BFFs got to sit down with Micaela Lamas, who plays Alana Beck, and Nikhil Saboo as Connor Murphy, to talk about what the show means to them and why now might be the moment everyone needs this story.
The interview has been edited for length and clarity.
Apt613: Why were you excited to take on these roles in this show?
Micaela Lamas: What was really exciting for me was that I was stepping into a character that had nothing to do with the trauma that comes with being a Black woman. I feel like getting to play someone so smart and charismatic—that’s her personality—that didn’t have anything to do with how I look. But also just getting to play someone funny, the comedic relief, but also has so much nuance and texture to her and getting to build an arc around her. Because of the way the show is written, you can play so much with these characters, and that’s why I love getting to see all the different takes with past and future productions.
Nikhil Saboo: [A]fter our collective experience [of the pandemic], all of the themes of Dear Evan Hansen were so poignant, and I knew this was the story I wanted to tell. It’s centring around mental health, around the idea that you’re not alone. Also to build on what Micaela was saying, I think I’m the first person of colour to play Connor on stage, and that’s a part of my purpose in my career is to trailblaze, to crack open people’s perspectives. But it’s not pushing the needle, it’s just, “this is where I should be.”
Apt613: Social media is a prominent part of the show: how do you think this topic connects with different audiences?
ML: The sense of hyperrealism in this show is something I feel like I haven’t seen much of at all, but I felt like I could connect to how real and timely it was in the show and can help connect younger audiences to it as well. The show depicts how we connect through characters, but also social media, because that is how you connect to other people, and for this show to do it without it would be very minimalistic. It’s another aspect to relate to other than the characters.
NS: It can also show how powerful social media can be. We see how much things can be skewed, and the waves of impact that one thing can have. It also shows the flip side of the coin of what happens when people don’t actually communicate face-to-face: are we really communicating?
Just recently (Hamilton and Dear Evan Hansen composer) Alex Lacamoire was with our company, and one of the things he told us was that originally there was a full ensemble for the show. [An ensemble in a musical theatre production are multiple people who help create a single effect, often by singing together, background vocals etc.] They found as a device that the other characters in the show are going to be the people on social media. All the voices that you hear in [the song] You Will Be Found, those are our ensemble.
Apt613: Mental health is a big theme of the show, and there are ultimately some very heavy moments. What do you hope audiences take away from this production?
ML: Mental health takes shape in different ways in people, and when people are struggling, it’s not always going to be obvious. But also that there’s always someone else who relates to that and feels the same way. [This show] helps you to feel like you’re not alone in that situation.
NS: [The characters] Evan and Connor are in two different situations but are going through the same exact thing. It really emphasizes the importance of communication and being open to connection—it can truly save people’s lives. I also hope that it opens conversations for people coming to the show. I’m really excited for people’s car rides back home after the show.
Apt613: In the age of COVID, the crucial role of understudies and swings has been pretty heavily highlighted. Can you tell us a bit about these cast members’ impact on your production?
NS: We wouldn’t be running right now if we didn’t have them. They’re integral and so important, especially in COVID times. If they weren’t as on and prepped and hardworking as they are, we wouldn’t have a show. It’s simple as that. My cover, Ian Coursey, covers Connor and Jared [and] he has another layer of the show in his brain and his body, and for that, I’m in awe. Understudies and covers know more than one track, and so for them to execute at the calibre we’re at and to know a whole other show in their brain—it’s the most valuable thing in theatre, and especially now.
ML: They have a different perspective by playing both roles because they know the feelings that one character has for another—and the reverse! It informs them so much. It reiterates how different these characters can be played, and it’s so special.
NS: I’m glad this conversation is becoming more prominent because we should be done with the model that the onstage people are the only ones you should care about. It’s a full company! I hope the next thing people start talking about is the crew!
Dear Evan Hansen runs from August 9–14 at the National Arts Centre. Evening performances are at 8 p.m., except Sunday at 7:30 p.m. Matinees are on Saturday at 2 p.m. and Sunday at 1:30 p.m. Tickets start at $65 and the show runs two and a half hours with an intermission. A digital lottery for a limited number of $25 tickets will also be available for every show.