Ep44 – Andrew Barth Feldman

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[intro]
Welcome to the theater podcast. Intimate personal conversations with theater's biggest names. I'm your host Alan Seales and unfortunately Jillian is on vacation this week. So I’m by myself. I just got out of the interview with Andrew Barth Feldman and oh my gosh that kid is so self-aware. 17 years old, his first professional acting gig ever is going into his dream role as Evan Hansen in Dear Evan Hansen. It’s just phenomenal, phenomenal conversation. The guy was talking to me and having a level of conversation that I’m used to having with some of my adult friends that I think some of my adult friends might not actually even be able to carry on. Which I don't know what that says either about me or my friends. Sorry friends. Anyway, but he's a humble kid living his dream. And I think this speaks to his level of maturity. I think speaks to what's happening now with kids and especially teenagers now who have just grown up, they don't have to beg their parents for a phone anymore. You know what he said was, he was the end of a group of kids who didn't have to beg their parents for phones. Everybody just gets one now. That's how parents feel safe, sending their kids out with a phone. We're just kind of getting used to carrying the internet in our pocket and we go deep into how Evan Hansen is kind of bringing to light a lot of what kids feel or maybe what they're afraid to talk about or even for parents it's allowing them to sort of empathize with their children in a way that you know we weren't really able to in the past. So it speaks to him the show and the role speaks to him on a very personal level. He was always attracted to it and just out of gosh half luck, half talent. He Stacy Mindage, lead producer for Dear Evan Hansen saw him win the jimmy awards and you know basically bypassed a whole bunch of audition processes to send him to the equivalent of a final callback and you know long story short here he is on stage six months in crushing it. So anyway sorry to ramble on at the end of the interview too about Disney. We share a huge mutual love for Disney world. But stay through the closing questions. I promise it will be worth it. He gives an impression of someone that you don't want to miss. Before we get into the interview, please take a moment and visit www.ttp.fm and go to www.ttp.fm/patriot and to show your support. If you're at a certain tier you can get advanced notice of who we are interviewing. So you can submit questions. Other tiers get other reward levels. There's lots and lots of good stuff in there. So everybody please enjoy this episode with Andrew Barth Feldman.

[music]

Alan: After winning the 2013 jimmy award for best performance by an actor. He found his way at the age of 16 into the title role of Evan Hansen in Dear Evan Hansen, his first professional gig ever. Andrew Barth Feldman welcome to the theater podcast.

Andrew: Thank you so much for having me. This is going to be fun.

Alan: Are you just living your best life these days?

Andrew: Yeah, I mean you know it's not, I mean it's the dream and it's everything I’ve ever wanted. But it's also as exhausting as I had prepared for it to be, I think so. It's everything I’ve ever wanted, but it's not like I’m super good and I’m working my butt off you know.

Alan: So are you able to do 8 shows a week?

Andrew: No, Evan does eight hours a week. I do the standard six. I started doing five because I was in school and of course my voice is still developing. So they've really made sure to ease me into it so as to account for my more long-term success.

Alan: So you alternate with Michael Lee Brown.

Andrew: Yeah.

Alan: And you the primary. Okay cool cool. If you were though, I mean if you were able to eight shows a week would you be able to legally? Because there's this child labor law.

Andrew: So i bypass a lot of the child labor laws, not all of them. But I don't need like wrangler. I don't need a guardian with me at the theater. I do, I can't work more than 10 hours a day I think is what it is. Is like from start to finish it can't be 10 hours. But other than that, I bypass I think I’ve aged out of the majority.

Alan: You're 17 now. So would be a junior in high school.

Andrew: Yeah but going into my senior year.

Alan: Well are you, so are you still in high school?

Andrew: So yeah pretty much. So I’m being, I have been tutored while this has all been going on the show has provided tutoring for me, which is what a lot of kids do. So I tutor through my junior year and I am going to do it for a lot of my senior year.

Alan: Do you think you're going to be in Evan Hansen like through your whole senior year or is it? You know I mean are you still technically enrolled in high school or you're going to get to go to your senior prom and all that?

Andrew: Yeah, I mean I could, I probably won't because I don't really want to. You know a lot of people asking do I feel like I’m missing out? I feel like I’m missing out. Do I feel like that I’m not going to prom and stuff and not really? You know my friends the majority of the time I made outside of school in theater and certainly I have friends in school. But my school is very small. So it doesn't feel like it's like such a huge thing to be not going to prom. So but I’ll be tutored, and I’ll finish my senior year that way presumably.

Alan: Well you mentioned high school and your friends outside of high school.
I guess your theater friends are your best friends, that's your tribe I guess for lack of a better description. But like you're still young, you're 17 now. But when did you first start singing? When did you get into theatre and performing?

Andrew: Yeah. So I saw my first show when I was three years old, I saw beauty and the beast on Broadway and I was a very sort of, I was very mature for a three year old and I am...

Alan: Is that Chris Sieber? Was he...

Andrew: He was in it. I don't remember if he was in years of past, but I know he did play guest on at some point. But I saw it was at the palace theater and I didn't, it was just sort of the switch that turned on in my brain that was like oh I get what's happening here. Like we're being invited to step into another world, and I was obsessed with that. Even though I didn't really fully understand it on an articulate level. I really just something instinctual happened when I saw it. And like five years later I was eight years old and somebody said, hey there's this community theater they're doing a production of Annie and do you want to go audition and I was like this is a thing we can just do? Like we can just go to a place and do this? We got to be chosen by god or something and so I played Mr. Bundles, the laundry man in the worst production of Annie ever. I was 8 years old and I was like yeah this is what I want to do forever.

Alan: And where was that?

Andrew: I don't remember. I live on long island. So it was in like the five towns maybe like valley stream or something. I don't know. But up until that point I didn't really understand how to get into that world and I just sort of lived my life as if it were a movie. Like I just sort of narrated in my head things that were like I really would talk to myself and [inaudible].

Alan: You are 17-year-old me. I would always pretend that someone was watching me.

Andrew: Exactly. That was up until I discovered theater. Up until I discovered that I could go and be a part of it and it wasn't such an unattainable thing.

Alan: But you're kind of a techie nerd too. Let me ask you if you did the same thing that I did. I imagine someone was watching me, but I imagine they were watching me from the future.

Andrew: Wow that's really good.

Alan: So i was always like when I was just standing in a room by myself, I was always like posing. Not really posing, but it was like I wonder what they're thinking of me right now from 20 years from now. Like watching me do this you know.
Andrew: Well you know I kind of had like very much like a child's understanding of life and its longevity and I sort of, I imagined it as if it were like a movie and there was an audience and it was like scripted. That was how I understood life until I became a part of theater. That was really how I made sense of it all and so I guess I imagined it more of like an audience. And then eventually there would be an end and I don't know. But it was like, that was just kind of how I processed it.

Alan: Wow. Yeah. I totally relate to that. But as you grew up though did you, were you like the class clown or were you the quiet guy who found comfort on stage or were you the attention seeker that just found a natural spot on stage.

Andrew: Yeah. I think once I discovered being a part of theater that's when I really became like a total jerk and like an attention, for like all of elementary school I was the worst. Because I was just like oh, I love this. And I would like there was like an assembly every week and I would always perform and get people together and do a huge thing. But before that my mom always tells these stories of when I was in nursery school there are these performances that we would have to do, and I would refuse to stand up. Like everyone just like was sitting in and they would stand up and sing a song. I would not stand up. I refused. I sat in the back. There are pictures. And so I was up until that point I was definitely not a rambunctious kid. I was I guess pretty quiet.

Alan: We have to get comfortable in your surroundings first.

Andrew: Exactly.

Alan: So then after Annie, what was next after that. I mean you started performing in middle school, high school.
Andrew: Yeah right after that I, so I auditioned for a production of beauty and the beast junior and I didn't know, I had never auditioned for anything. Annie was like a very young kids’ production. So it wasn't like a traditional audition process. But this was like a traditional audition process and do you have any idea what you want to sing. They made me sing be our guest and I kind of knew it and I got cast as Lafoo and this was like, that was when I was oh this is what I’m going to do. I can be funny; I can make people laugh in a really stupid way by being like hit on the head and stuff. And so that was sort of when I found my idol. But also from that I was asked by the director and producer of that show to be in a touring quotes around touring production of a Christmas carol which went to like different libraries around long island. But it was adult, I was with adults and it was when I think I grew up so much. Because I started doing those touring or whatever productions of that and then I did bye bye birdie and a lot of those from the same theatre company that also sort of became a second home to me. And so that was when I grew up a lot. But also found my knack for comedy. Which is really what I grew up doing.

Alan: Interesting because Evan Hansen known for its comedy.

Andrew: You know people don't remember how funny the show actually is and I’ve been able to find a couple of new comedic moments or bring some back from ben that Taylor sort of did away with to focus on a different point of the show and I just have a knack for that and I know Taylor does too. But he really so made that his own and I sort of have taken them all together and blended them into one of them. So I get to bring some comedy to him which I’m really happy about.

Alan: That's fun. Well let's talk about the Evan Hansen, how did you get into the production. How were you asked to audition?

Andrew: Yeah it came from the jimmy awards, which you mentioned before. I was a part of that which is the national high school musical theater awards for people who may or may not know. I won that and was sponsored by the Irvin Hanson, Stacy Mindage our lead producer was in the audience as well as Terry Rubin, the casting director was one of the judges. And apparently according to her side of the story at intermission Stacy texted Tara and was like we need to get him in the room, I think he's our next evan. And that was crazy to me. Because Dear Evan Hansen was my favorite show. It is my favorite show from the moment I saw it, I was speechless. I think it really articulated something that I hadn't been able to articulate and so that was really special to me. And so I got an email a few days later that they wanted me to come in and audition for the male swing. So I would be covering the roles of Evan Jarrett and Conner. Really they were just looking at me for Evan but they wanted to keep their options open I suppose and I talked to some other people who had been through the ringer with the Evan Hanson and you know they see everyone. They do so many open calls. They see as many kids as they can because it's such a specific thing that this role requires. And pretty much from what these people who had been through it before were telling me was that I’d skipped the process. What they'd asked me to do was a work session and then the essentially what would be the final callback with Michael Graff, Steven Levenson, Paskin Paul, Alex Blackmore, Stacey the whole team. And that was ridiculous to me. It was so mind blowing. And so I went and I did the work session. I did the audition and I was so nervous and I remember I walked in and Michael Graff says, why don't you do a little bit of waving for us. I said ok thank you. And they laughed and I said I’m just really excited to be here. And I think that might have been when I got the role. Because that was, I just was so nervous but so happy to be in the room and that was really it. I got a call the next day that said they're going to find a place for you in the Dear Evan Hansen family. And I was like I don't know what that means. And then the day after my mom told me that she had been on the phone with my agent and that I was going to be replacing Taylor, which was nuts.

Alan: That's crazy. Well ok so back up a second. So you already had an agent.

Andrew: I did. Yeah.

Alan: So you had an agent. You were already talented enough and noticed enough to be in the jimmy awards, because not everyone could do that.

Andrew: I was really special. Yeah.

Alan: So i guess. Like when did you know you were kind of like hey I can do this.

Andrew: You know I don't think I know that now. I think it's kind of, I just knew that I really wanted to and I knew that I had if nothing else the determination that I was going to work and grow forever until I got there. So even if I didn't have the skills then, I was going to take every opportunity I could to grow those skills and hone their skills so that one day I could be on Broadway. It just happened way sooner than I or anyone thought that it would. And I’m just so thankful for that.

Alan: Well like I said in the intro this is your first professional gig ever.

Andrew: I've never been paid to do.

Alan: And you're thrust into. Let me check my notes here so I don't get it wrong. Miss mojo the YouTube channel, have you heard of them?

Andrew: Oh yeah.

Alan: Yeah. They put out in February. I think it's pretty recently a list of top ten hardest roles on Broadway.

Andrew: The videos was so controversial. Everyone was so mad about this video. I remember it.

Alan: Evan Hansen is number two.

Andrew: It's number two. I think number one was.

Alan: Mama Rose.

Andrew: Oh yes. Maybe people are mad that Christine wasn't on the list or something. I don't remember. It was, I just remember that video being very controversial. But yes it was number two.

Alan: So never being paid before. You've got an agent who I guess hadn't booked you anything paying.

Andrew: Yeah. You know I’d been to a lot of auditions but it was just smaller stuff and people weren't interested me. Once the jimmy's happened it was like I went to do like a zillion auditions because everyone is wondering who are these kids. Me and Rene and so yeah that was crazy.

Alan: So you were auditioning for other stuff while still doing all the callbacks and the prework for Evan?

Andrew: Yeah the Evan thing it was really just that one callbacks and it was sort of the last thing I did and then I was like I guess I’m not going to audition for stuff anymore.

Alan: One callback. I guess one audition that was even a callback.

Andrew: Yeah that was truly insane that they took that chance on me. It was so special. I think something that I was proud to exemplify in my audition was my ability to take notes and change my performance based on that. And I think they sort of saw okay if you can do this in the room and he can take notes, he can do this and we will train him and make sure he's ok. And they really did.

Alan: [inaudible]. Micaela story too. They called her for Cher Show. Micaela Diamond, they're like they just wanted to see if she could take notes.

Andrew: Yeah I think in the work session they really threw me a couple things to make sure that I could do that and that's just such an important skill to have in this business, especially the way that it is right now where theater is so much more internal, musical theater is so much more internal than it's ever been. And so I think that's so important to be able to change your performance at the drop of a hat to fit a bigger picture.

Alan: You said a few minutes ago that Evan Hansen was your favorite show before you even went into it. Because you articulated something that you were feeling, is that what you said?

Andrew: Yeah. I don't struggle with a diagnosis of anxiety or depression and I’m very lucky and very thankful for that. But I was a teenager and I am a teenager and that anxiety and that isolation is something that we all feel at any level of maturity or emotional maturity. That's something that we're experiencing for the first time I think it is something that everybody knows very well. And it was my first experience with that being articulated in that way. And I was speechless.

Alan: Yeah it did shed a lot of light on teen depression and teen suicide specifically that hadn’t got attention before. But yeah goodness for you for seeing all that. I didn't have broadband, high speed internet until I went to college. He looked at me like what's broadband?

Andrew: I was trying to figure out where you're going with this.

Alan: Yeah. I didn't have broadband, high speed internet cable modem until I went to college which was 98, 1998. I was a 17 at the time. So that was when I was already in college, I was already left my parents. But kids now like all through high school your age and before.

Andrew: We're born with it.

Alan: I didn't have Facebook, I didn't have Instagram, I didn't have vine, I didn't have snap or whatever. What are all the kids are doing these days and the level of exposure that you're subject to now. Like I have two small kids and I worry about them. I worry because my older one especially is very sensitive and I don't want him to be bullied and feel like he can't talk about it or not understand what it is.

Andrew: I mean that's what the show's about. That’s what it is, it is the generation who is born with an iPhone in their hand and feels that isolation from that hyper connectivity. I was sort of at the very very end of the generation that had to like beg my mom for a phone. Everyone just, you have to have it now. Because it feels like you won't be safe, you won't be safe unless you have it. Unless like for kids like if you're going to go out you need to have a phone now. That's why so many parents like have to, their kids have to have it now. So I started with the flip phone, so I could [inaudible]. Yeah it's terrible. I still have it. I throw at the wall and it doesn't break. It's amazing. Yeah so that feeling of oh my god everyone's life is better than mine that you get from the internet. It's something that is so universal now. And it's something that's such a central theme of our show.

Alan: Kids now are going grow up so much better than I did. I look what you said I don't even know if I have the wherewithal to say about that. I'm 38 now and I and I still very similarly to what you said a second ago of like you know everybody feels isolation and sort of like an outcast at any stage of maturity and at 38 I don't feel how I would have expected myself to feel at 38. Like looking back at my younger self and thinking oh my 38 year old parents, I would have expected them to be a certain way or feel a certain way and I still feel like a kid inside. I still feel like totally I’m in my 20s mentally.

Andrew: You never stop figuring stuff out you know. I think that goes without saying. And it's something that I’ve discovered so much from being in this show with all these veterans of the stage who are so incredible. They still are like I can't figure this out. I can't forget that one moment out or I can't you know, I want to change this up. It's amazing. And it's also so encouraging for me that I’m like ok I’m not the only one that's screwing up here you know. So it never stops. And I think that's something that the kids need to know a lot. And it's definitely one that you're Evan Hansen says through the characters of Heidi and Cynthia and Larry that they don't know what they're doing and that's so important that we rely on our parents so much. But they're figuring out just as much as we do.

Alan: Oh yeah, yeah. I mean the show opens with anybody have a map like. The parents have no clue what they're doing. So yeah that's interesting to me. I don't envy my parents because I was a rough first child. I was the older of two. My brother could do anything he wanted. And then I was always getting mad and making him angry and then it's even my older one too. My younger one, my wife says that I am leaning on the younger one, but I don't think so. He just knows what buttons not to push. He learns from the older one. But in Evan Hansen, so you're coming in first professional gig. This is now a job. It's not a limited run. Yeah. It's community theater and that and that echelon right. You rehearse for months and you have like two weeks of performances. Audience wise maybe like if that you know this is eight shows a week. You said you did six now. So how do you maintain your health. Was there anything like surprising about this when you go like I can do anything and... It's not the same.

Andrew: Yeah you know I think Ben Platt set such a precedent for you can do anything like that was his whole thing when he was all the articles everything about ben and he just sits and he's a monk and he doesn't talk and it's like ok I guess that's what I have to do and I got there and everyone is like that's what you're going to have to do and I’m like okay, I guess that's what I am going to do, that's what I do. So I don't talk. I found that talking lightly a little bit like this is fine, because talking lightly a little bit helps so that I’m not starting from scratch when I get to the theater and I’m having to warm everything up from nothing. But yeah my diet is super restrictive. It's way, I think that's the thing. Is that it's way more restrictive than I thought. It was going to be and I’m having way more of a problem with that than I thought I was going to have. I essentially eat the same thing every day.

Alan: Which is what?

Andrew: Now it goes through phases. But right now its, I eat sushi for lunch which is it's avocado mango and shrimp rolls. Those are all super good things that I can have and then for dinner it's an avocado and roast beef sandwich and nothing else on a sandwich. It is avocado and it's roast beef and avocado is really good. Avocado is like Liz Kaplan who's I’ve consulted on the show that's she swears by it. Avocado gives you energy. It's not acidic. It's not alkaline. You can have it. But yeah I’ve tried a lot of other things. And then she's like you can't be eating that. And I was like, oh I got to stop eating that. That was with a lot of stuff. But I remember doing the rehearsal process. I hadn't really started the diet yet. And I guess I was trying stuff out. So I had a burrito like every day. And then eventually I was like this is not working for me.

Alan: That's heavy.

Andrew: Yeah.

Alan: Its a heavy meal.

Andrew: Hey when you're playing this role you got to eat. Lisa [25:56 inaudible] had said something to me, that was like when she was playing Elphaba she was essentially starving herself. She was like I can't eat and then eventually she was feeling like lightheaded. Like she couldn’t do it. She was like, oh I need to eat like a burger every day to get through this role. You need that. You need that protein, you need that fuel. So it's finding the balance of not eating so much that I’m still digesting it. And it's not screwing with my voice. But eating enough that I have fuel. So there's like protein bars and dark chocolate actually really good for your voice. It's okay for your voice in moderation and it gives you a lot of energy. So those are the two sort of major snacks that I have.

Alan: Just chow down on like a mars dark bar in intermission.

Andrew: Yep yep yep yep. Actually the one I have now is, [26:50 inaudible] like 87 percent cacao. Which is kind of gross. But yeah it's good for, it gives me energy.

Alan: That's crazy. And then you cut out dairy too.

Andrew: I did. Which was really hard for me. Every Sunday Liz said that I am allowed to have a little treat. I have some cheesecake, I call it cheesecake sundae. Every Sunday. But other than that because I don't have a show on Monday, so I can wait a day. But other than that ,yeah that was really hard for me. Because that was sort of my whole diet was gross dairy.

Alan: Well you are a teenager. You smell like burgers and cake.

Andrew: Cause I can you know.

Alan: Right. Before your metabolism just all goes to hell.

Andrew: Yeah. I'm not excited for that.

Alan: I don't think you're going to worry about that. You look like you have a very skinny build.

Andrew: Thanks you. That's what it's been my whole life thus far as my metabolism is really really high, which is great.

Alan: Keep it going.

Andrew: I hope I can. Did you get to talk with Bernard.

Alan: Obviously you replaced Taylor, so you had some overlap with him. But did either of them, did they give you any advice for any help on you were like, I don’t know what I’m doing.

Andrew: Yeah. You know it's funny something that they've both said is, they held off from giving me advice. Because they know how personal the process is and they don't want to impose upon that and me finding my own Evans. So it's pretty rare that they gave advice on you know how to approach the character.
It was more advice on how to approach this lifestyle of playing the character and what the world of Evan Hansen is. So the people that I would get to know and how to deal with the tears and how to deal with the social media aspect of you know maybe getting some negative comments. They were both unbelievably helpful in just making sure I had the, I was mentally and emotionally prepared to go into it. But it was rare that unless I ask for it they wouldn't give me advice that was about how to play and it was more just about how to handle him.

Alan: Yeah. I didn't think about that. I mean you're birthing your own version of it, you're not. It is a very, it's such a personal role that you're not doing the Taylor, you're not doing the ben.

Andrew: And you can. If I tried to be ben, I would fail. I have to be evan. I can't try to be ben. I can try to be Taylor and I can try to be me. I just have to try to be Evan and what he means to me.

Alan: Okay. So then what is your take on Evan different to what the two of them did?

Andrew: Yeah I mean you know from an obvious based perspective what people have really seem to respond to is just seeing a teenager and just removing that layer of disbelief that you might have is really I think really powerful to see. So even if I don't do anything else, it's still a kid going through this. And that's really hard to watch. And I think it allows for a bit more forgiveness which is I think so crucial and really special. I'm really thankful for that. But I think in terms of how I play him I think my Evan is very sensitive. He's a lot more sensitive than you know ben's, stuff almost would fly past him because he's so in his head about what may or may not happen. And I think my Evan sort of goes into that more in the direction of, okay you said that you could have meant this or just really really perceptive. And I think it's a bit more, for me it allows me to be as present as possible. Because I’m really really listening. Ben's was so iconic and I just couldn't, I didn't want to replicate that. And so that's sort of what I found, that's how his anxiety manifested itself to me was in that perception.

Alan: Yeah. I haven't seen you do the role, I would absolutely love to. Because you're right, to see age appropriate actors play the characters I think.

Andrew: Yeah I think that the biggest response has been from parents which has been really cool. Because they've sort of been like or if teachers or people who have a lot of kids in their life. And they are like, I get it, I don't want these kids to go through that. I know these are people who work with special ed kids especially are really really touched by it. Because they imagine what it would be like if one of those kids that they work with have in their life would go through the things that Evan does.

Alan: Well so many people do.

Andrew: It's so true. And I think this really opened up that conversation of knowing someone who might go through that. It's so scary to think about.

Alan: Do you read comments on social media?

Andrew: I try not to. I fail sometimes. And that really is hard. You know the majority is positive people. You know you'd have to be pretty bad to not do this role well. It's so hard but it's written so well that it's certainly not easy. But if you do it and you push yourself to do it, you can do it effectively. Maybe not as effectively as ben or Taylor whoever plays the role on Broadway. But you can deliver it and you can make people feel something. But absolutely there are people who are like he's not ben and that's really hard. And I definitely get in my head on a daily basis and feel that doubt of maybe I’m not right for this and maybe there was a mistake made somewhere along the line and I shouldn't be here. But nevertheless I go out and I do it. And if nothing else I use it. Because that's what Evan’s feeling.

Alan: Right. Well you've got 74000 Instagram followers and is that all come about the last like six months since you joined, since the announcement I guess that you were going to be.

Andrew: We were playing a game, my family and my girlfriend were all there the day of the announcement that I was going to be Evan, which was last November. And we just kept refreshing my Instagram literally every second and it was just kept going up. It was crazy and it was so funny and you know it's nice. It's nice that people care. This is a role that it matters whose hands it's in the people. It's one of those roles. It's like an Elphaba. That's what I tend to equate it to a lot. We really care about who's playing Elphaba and we really care about who's playing it. So yeah it's nice to have that audience. Hopefully I can use it to you know put out some stupid things into the world and see.

Alan: Well what else do you do outside of theater? I mean do you have any, do you have any hobbies that you're allowed to have time for right now?

Andrew: Yeah I sort of the quiet activities I do that are sort of to occupy my mind are things like Legos, which we talked about earlier. I build Legos, I’m working on a city right now. I just did Hogwarts. That was a big project. Legos, video games. But I also I write a lot. I pretty much all my hobbies involve theater or a part of theater. So I’ve directed in the past. I run a theater company that I started I guess like six years ago now called [34:40 inaudible] productions which raises money for next for autism, which is an amazing organization and I have directed and I’ve written for it. And so I write a lot. I write a lot of music. That's a nice activity to do. Usually I’m pretty emotionally drained after the show. But if I’m feeling particularly emotional about the show or after the show or what have you. Writing is a really good way to get rid of that.

Alan: You write prose or music.

Andrew: I write music.

Alan: You play guitar?

Andrew: Guitar, piano a couple of instruments. Mostly piano. But I know ish, guitar, drums, bass, ukulele. That's it I think.

Alan: Self-taught or do you ever take lessons?

Andrew: I took lessons in guitar and piano when I was a lot younger, but mostly I ended up teaching myself how to write and theory and stuff like that.

Alan: That's so cool. Yeah I normally ask this to guests that we just kind of glossed around it. But your parents, are they musically inclined or are they in theater?

Andrew: No. My grandmother on my dad's side was a concert pianist. So my dad used to play a lot, but he introduced me to a lot of the music that I listened to like classic rock and a lot of like Beatles and queen and that sort of genre is really my sweet spot. My mom, absolutely not. Never. She was never into it. I have a brother. He's really my cousin. But we were essentially raised together, so who is like crazy musician, an amazing musician. So it's just sort of has come up at random spots in my family. I have another cousin who's an actress and plays the cello. For no particular reason it just kind of finds itself in my family. But my mom did not want me to do this. She did not want me to be an actor. She thought I was going to struggle for years and not make any money and not be able to have a family. But I think what we have now is a really good start. But yeah I really wanted to go to conservatory for college and my mother is a college admissions counselor and she was like, absolutely not. You need a liberal arts education. She was absolutely right, that's what I needed and that's what I planned to do.

Alan: So you still going to go back to college?

Andrew: That's the plan. yeah. Even if it takes a little bit longer, because I’m working or what not. But I do want that experience and I think that's such a formative thing and I think I would really miss out on that if I didn't.

Alan: Are there any other roles that like as pop to mind. Obviously Evan Hansen is a teenager. Are there any roles that pop to mind that you like obsessed over or that you like love to sing.

Andrew: I have a list. You know I’m a theater nerd. I think a lot of us have a list. I think the one that I usually say and I stand by it is, I’m quasi modo in hunchback. I almost got my school to do it and then I did the Evan Hansen instead. But that would have been really cool. I think I love a little shop of horrors and I would love to play [37:56 inaudible] but secretly I would really love to play Audrey too. Even though I know that's not a thing that could ever happen to me. Yeah I mean there's so many. I think what I’d love to do more than anything else is originate a role in a Broadway show. I think just to be part of a new show and be on a cast recording and just love a new piece of work and give it my stamp would be really special.

Alan: And everybody compares all the replacements to you.

Andrew: Yeah that's my revenge.

Alan: Take that Ben Platt. He'll go in and fill your role one day.

Andrew: Oh yeah sure.

Alan: But you said you said you're into Legos. You're into, I was looking through your Instagram feed. You post a lot about Disney.

Andrew: I do. Oh I would love to talk about this.

Alan: Yes please.

Andrew: Yeah. That was sort of another thing that was like. I went to Disney world for the first time when I was six months old I went. Because my parents promised my sister that nothing would change when I was born. And so my first movie I ever saw was Mr. Deeds with Adam Sandler, because they promised they would take her. And so it was that sort of thing.

Alan: What's the age difference with you and your sister?

Andrew: She's 12 years older than me. And so we went to Disney, our whole family. I don't remember it. I was asleep the whole time, but it just sort of that's the foundation that was laid of escapism. Because that's really what Disney is all about is this is another universe. And I think that there's such an overlap there with theater of when I saw beauty and the beast I was like; this is another way to get there you know. And so I am just obsessed with it and I can't explain it. I think it's just such a, I think Disney just gives that feeling of perfection in the world. If you can turn a blind eye which I can and do to the corporateness, the capitalism of the whole situation which that's going to be you know part of anything. I think Disney is art. And it's just a, it's just so magical. And I’m a big [inaudible] parks specifically. But really the whole brand I love. I absolutely love.

Alan: Well they put so much into the entire experience. They do make it an experience.

Andrew: It is so immersive.

Alan: And yeah, it's very immersive like even the lines the cues right. Just waiting, there is games the whole thing is themed. Where you go to other theme parks and you don't get any, it's just boring.

Andrew: It's just like a roller coaster. You go on and that's great. And I love that too. I'm super duper. I'm totally like an adrenaline junkie and I love coasters. I love doing crazy weird stuff. But Disney is just you, it's the easiest way to suspend your disbelief. Because there's no way out of it. There's no way to look at what's behind the curtain, because they do such a good job of covering up the curtain in the first place. It's amazing. And I can't wait to go and see what they've done with galaxy's edge with the new Star Wars, because it's supposed to be totally groundbreaking. Yeah, I’m really excited about it.

Alan: Yeah, I think I’ve done every year, at least once a year with my kids. So they are not into Star Wars yet. They're still too young. But we'll get there. We went to toy story land.

Andrew: I love it. I think they did such a good job. Yeah. It's great.

Alan: And you like animatronics, too right?

Andrew: I'm super into animatronics.

Alan: Instagram feed you are just posting animatronics. I love that stuff.

Andrew: I mean it's unbelievable what they can do now. Now apparently the new rumor is that with the new marvel lands that they're building, they're going to use something called stuntronics. Which are animatronics that can like do flips in the air and like land. They're using it for movies now and they're going to use it in the parks for marvel lands.

Alan: Well what's the Boston dynamic, the robotics company, Boston dynamics.
When they are like hitting it with the hockey stick and closing the doors on it. That's what I picture. I picture it like that kind of robot just coming up and doing flips.

Andrew: They are also, it would be so weird. But I would be very interested to see it and it would work with marvel. Because you know you don't have to have the mouth move or whatever for it like a spider-man sort of thing. So I think it will be really cool.

Alan: I can't wait for that. I did not know; I am going to have to go research. Stunt animatronic.

Andrew: It's just always like what they did with pandora recently, the avatar land, the animatronics they have they are like, you can't distinguish it from a real. I mean there's nothing real to compare to people. If that's what it would be. It's nuts.

Alan: Yeah. I am so impressed with that. If you were not doing theater though would you get into computer science, would you get into animatronics?
Would you want to go be at a imaginitier for Disney?

Andrew: Yeah. We were talking about that. So I think I sort of had this idea when I was young. My family really was like, you could be a computer programmer because we don't want you to be an actor. Because I don't think that's a steady job. And you should do it like on the side or whatever. But like as a backup plan you can go into programming because you know a lot about computers. What I soon learned is that I know a lot about computers compared to my family, because they are older and don't know about it. I did take some classes, I did take some programming classes and I just quickly realized, I can't do this. I can't live my life behind a desk. I don't think I could do that my whole life and I was pretty optimistic about it up until that point and it was when I was sort of at a point where, okay maybe acting isn't such a good idea. Maybe I’m not cut out for this. But it sort of came at a time when I started to become more and more confident in my acting from doing, from being able to play new roles. I'd always played these comedic roles in then all of a sudden, I played Galileo in we will rock you. And it was the first role that I’d been given where I was able to belt my face off and wear a leather jacket and it will never happened to me ever again. Because I look like this, but it was sort of, oh I’m good at this I’m good enough at this that I can maybe make this work and I don't like sitting behind a desk and typing and making snake games all day. So I think I’m not going to do that. So in reality I think if this didn't work out, I would probably be a jungle cruise skipper. That is what I would be doing.

Alan: I love the jokes on that ride. I always have to go on the jungle cruise.

Andrew: It's good to see each person's take on it. And I really love it when you can tell they don't want to be doing that. This is not the job that they wanted at Disney world and they're phoning it in. That's my favorite kind of jungle cruise.

Alan: I can always tell who's really into it and who's like and just saying my lines. Here we go. Because I think that deadpan shtick is what makes it work.

Andrew: That's what's so great about it. It's because it started, the jungle cruise started as like whoa these animatronics are so cool. And then over time people were like these animatronics are not cool. And so they added all those jokes in so they didn't have to change the ride and they could just make a joke out of these bad old animatronics, which I think is so cool.

Alan: I didn't know that. I bet you're like a full-on Disney kid.

Andrew: I am. My favorite ride is the haunted mansion. And in addition to having it memorized like the ghost host script, there's this book that the imaginiers wrote. That's how it was made and I’m like obsessed with it, with its history.
It's awesome. I'll do another podcast for you if you want. Just about the haunted mansion.

Alan: Oh dude, please [inaudible]. Because I would love to.

Andrew: I would really love to do. I'm in.

Alan: Well my grandfather helped build Disney world.

Andrew: That's so cool.

Alan: He was, well what do they call him? An estimator. He was a project manager. Oh wow. And he had to figure out how much all the rides were going to cost.

Andrew: Oh i think you talked about this with Michael lee brown, because he's also a huge Disney fan and we bonded over that very quickly. Yeah that's so cool.

Alan: Yeah. So he promised to tell me some secrets that he didn't. And now he's gone. So I’ll read the book. But you know we should do that. So we'll wrap up here and we'll just go to our standard three closing questions. So first one very simply what motivates you.

Andrew: I think the best thing that helps you on a daily basis is to look back like a year from now and see what I was doing and when I was cast in the Evan Hansen, I was playing Mr. Toad in wind in the willows. This happened the week of the show and I was like, got the call that I was going to do it. And then I had to play Mr. Toad at night. And it was like, the voice of that character was like poo poo. And I was like this is what I’m doing right now a year from now be. So to look back at that is kind of like how could I not be thankful, because this is all I’ve ever wanted and how could I not be motivated by that. Then it's just sort of, when I meet kids at the stage door who it means so much to them or when I get to do a workshop or q and a or something with some teenagers, that's really special. Because I was working so hard and that's how hard I was working, and I should never be working any less than that.

Alan: Can you give me a line from weaving through the window as Mr. Toad.

Andrew: Yeah. I've learned to slam on the brake. I would just tell the director the other day before I even turn the key. It's actually pretty applicable, because he's very obsessed with cars. So that works a little bit. But he crashes them. So I guess he hasn't learned. Before I make the mistake it's like the duke of Weselton from frozen. That was really my basis for the voice.
Alan: So the second question. Second question what advice would you give to your younger self not too that old. What advice would you give to your younger self and younger people now listening starting out down a similar path.

Andrew: Yeah. I think I’m really proud of my younger self for working as hard as I did and not never giving up on it and recognizing that there's room to grow. And I think that's the number one thing that all young people wanting to get into this business need to know is that you're not the best, you're just not. You're not better than anyone else in the room. You just need to work hard, and you'll never be the best person in the room because everyone has something different to bring to the table. But you just need if you want to be quote unquote good enough to get into this business, you just need to keep working and you can get there and there's no reason to think that you can't. Even if it takes you know however long as long as you keep growing there's no limit to how much you can grow. But I think to my younger self I would just want to say to keep doing it I guess and never feel ashamed or don't get distracted by just work I think and enjoy it. I think that's probably really important and that's probably what I would say enjoy it as much as you can.

Alan: And then last question if you'd only see one show for the rest of your life, but you can see it as many times as you want. What would you see?

Andrew: Well I mean I truly love Dear Evan Hansen. And I think but I won't use that as my answer because that's lame because everyone thinks I’m being paid to say that and I am, but I really mean it. Because I think it's the pretty perfect musical. You know I think my answer might be a little shop of horrors. I love that show. And it's just so fun. I don't think you can see one show for the rest of your life and if it's like really sad that would be great. I think a little shop is just so much fun and it's never not fun. I think that's my answer. I love the shop of horrors.

Alan: Great. So we can find you online on Instagram at Andrew b Feldman_.
Is there another Andrew.

Andrew: There is, and I’ve been thinking about reaching out to him. He's a lawyer. He's still on Instagram and I’ve been thinking about reaching out to him. It seems like a lot of people do not like him. Because I get accidentally tagged in a lot of really mean things to Andrew Feldman on twitter. Maybe it's another politician. I don't know. But anyway.

Alan: So Instagram Andrew b Feldman_, on twitter @Andrew b Feldman. There hate that guy, that guy didn't go out to twitter and claimed the name. You get more of me in the theater podcast at the www.theaterpodcast.com. Please show your support via the www.theaterpodcast.com/patreon, theater podcast on Instagram and twitter, facebook.com/officialtheatrepodcast. Please share with your friends, tell your friends, rate the podcast. That's how we grow and get amazing guests like Andrew. And this is produced by Jillian Hochman, edited by Matthew Hendlershot. And thank you to jukebox, the ghost for the intro and outro music. Andrew thank you so much. I really enjoyed this. You are such a good person.

Andrew: Oh thank you so much. That's so kind of you. Thank you so much for having me.

[outro]

After winning the 2018 Jimmy Award for Best Performance by an Actor, Andrew Barth Feldman found his way — at the age of 16 — into the title role of Evan Hansen in Dear Evan Hansen, his first professional gig, ever.

We cover his humble upbringings, falling in love with theatre, being discovered by Stacey Mindich and Tara Rubin, deciding to leave high school to be on Broadway, and beyond.

Interview content begins at [2:57].
Closing standards begin at [46:13].

Connect with Andrew online:

Connect with The Theatre Podcast:

A very special thanks to our patrons who help make this podcast possible!
Paul Seales, David Seales

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