A new Evan is taking over the titular role of “Dear Evan Hansen,” and he’s the first Asian-American actor to do so. Zachary Noah Piser talked to PIX11 News about breaking down barriers on Broadway.
“Those nerves turn into more excited feelings of just oh my gosh, this role is entirely 100 percent mine and that is, so special,” said Piser.
Piser has been in the “Dear Evan Hansen” family since March of 2019. He starred in the international premiere of the show in Toronto and has been an “Evan” alternate on Broadway, but now it’s a chance to make the lead character his own. Piser is set to takes on the role full-time starting May 17.
Since it’s Broadway premiere in 2015, the show has garnered accolades and a slew of Tony awards. Much of the critical acclaim has been for its storylines tackling issues facing many of our youth today. “Dear Evan Hansen” is filled with heavy, but powerful themes and opens an important discussion about mental health.
“This show is so spectacular for so many reasons. It’s got the most incredible music, the most incredible book, this incredible story,” said Piser. “The thing that makes it singular and the reason why I was drawn to the material is because it creates space to talk about mental health.”
Evan Hansen is a high school student dealing with social anxiety. In an effort to boost his self esteem, his therapist encourages him to write letters to himself, like daily pep talks. After the suicide of a classmate, Evan fabricates a story about his role in that student’s life. The show also touches upon bullying, loneliness, depression, and overall teenage angst, all against the backdrop of a soaring music score.
“I think at the end of the day, ‘Dear Evan Hansen’ is about a young man who feels like an outsider,” said Piser. “People come up (to me) or they message us and say I was able to start a conversation with my kid, or with my parents, about how I was feeling.”
As Piser steps into the role, he steps into history as well.
“I’m going to be the first Asian-American to play this role, a role that wasn’t written for an Asian-American person to play and I just hope that opens more door and opportunities for other people of color,” said Piser. “I do feel a sense of responsibility to uplift the Asian-American community as I take on this role full-time.”
When Piser dons that famous blue striped polo, he says he’s drawing from his own life experiences.
“Middle school was pretty tough,” said Piser. “I was that kid in California who was desperately searching for a face that I thought I could connect with or that I saw myself in, on the stage, on the screen, and they were there, but it was really few and far between and to be able to be that for future generations for older generations, really means the world to me.”