Ever seen Dear Evan Hansen on Broadway? Are you making plans to see the show before it closes on September 18th?
Dear Evan Hansen follows a teenage boy named Evan Hansen struggling with social anxiety and the difficulty he encounters when trying to connect with other people. Early on in the musical, Evan’s classmate, Connor Murphy, commits suicide. After a series of events accidentally falls into place in a way which convinces Connor’s parents he left a suicide note for Evan before he died, Evan proceeds to convince the Murphy family that the two of them were secret best friends. In reality, they barely knew each other. This turns out to be Evan’s chance to be in the spotlight both in school, and with everyone in his life, as well as something that makes for an audience who always laughs and cries throughout every performance!
Here at Fandomize, we were fortunate enough to chat with Mateo Lizcano. Mateo is currently starring in Dear Evan Hansen as the Evan alternate, playing the lead role of Evan Hansen at least twice every week on Broadway.
Shaun Hood: I know you’re currently the Evan alternate in the broadway production of Dear Evan Hansen. Tell us about how you got there. When did you join the company, and what was that process like?
Mateo Lizcano: So, I had auditioned for Dear Evan Hansen a few times before I joined the company. I think my earliest audition was back when I was 15, and I had gotten a callback, but I couldn’t make the callback because I was doing another project at the time. Then I was asked to stand in for the tour, which I did, and I got to the final callbacks, but I was just too young at the time. I think I was like 16 or so. Then, in summer of what I want to say was 2021, I was asked to come in and audition again, and send in a tape. I sent in a tape, and it got to the finals again, and then I was finally cast as an understudy. For all of these auditions, I was auditioning strictly for the Connor, Jared, and Evan understudy role.
So then, I started back up with the cast when they did their relaunch after the pandemic. That was a lot of fun – seeing a show that already exists get back on its feet again, and seeing little changes being made. That was really, really nice and definitely an experience I’ll never forget. The first role I actually learned was Connor. I started off with Connor in around November. In November and October we started rehearsals. I put in for Connor around December, and then I was just for the most part just sitting backstage. And I was only a Connor at that time, because I only knew Connor. I hadn’t learned anything else yet.
Then, I think it was at end of January – I started to learn Evan. I put in for Evan at the end of February, and then I had Evan under my belt, which meant that I could go on for Evan. I ended up going on for a weekend – one the Saturday matinee and the Sunday matinee. Then, I went on again on a Friday, and those were my first three times ever going on as Evan.
I’ve never gone on for Connor at this moment in time. It still could happen with the few weeks of the show that we have left. But yeah, that’s how I got into the show. Zach, who was the alternate at the time while Ben Ross was Evan and while Jordan Fisher was Evan, was moving up to be the lead Evan Hanson. So the alternate position was open, and they offered it to me, which was really, really nice and really great. I truly couldn’t believe it, and I couldn’t believe that I would get to perform this role two times a week and more given the circumstances or if somebody calls out. Ever since then, I’ve gotten a lot more comfortable with the role now that I get to do it a lot more frequently.
SH: What’s your favorite song in Dear Evan Hansen?
ML: My favorite song in Dear Evan Hansen is “Sincerely, Me.” It’s my favorite one to perform, especially because the show is so depressing and sad, and of course there’s little comedy moments in there, but, Sincerely, Me is the most comedic that you can get in the entire show, so it’s the time where I’m having the most fun, because I can really just let loose, and I don’t have to be sad or anything or have that overwhelming feeling of sadness or anxiety as much. I can just have fun on stage with all my fellow cast members.
SH: Nice. I feel like it’s kind of like that for Evan too, in a way, because “Sincerely, Me” is kind of that moment where he gets to imagine what a real friendship is like, and as it seems, aside from everything that comes after that, when he inserts himself into the Murphy family, pretty much it’s just “Sincerely, Me” and everything that comes after it is what gives him what he is always wanted. That’s the way I see it.
So, it’s interesting you say that, because it’s kind of like a parallel to what you said. Evan’s always anxious and sad, but then, in “Sincerely, Me,” that’s his moment, like, “Let’s do this. I want to have people around me.”
ML: That’s so true. I never thought of it like that. That’s very cool.
SH: Yeah, and I think it’s also interesting how you said that the show is kind of depressing. I think some people who have seen it have said that to me, but, I feel like it’s emotional, but, in a way that we need it to be, almost like a “therapeutic production.”
ML: I totally agree.
SH: I saw Dear Evan Hansen twice: once in Providence, Rhode Island earlier this year, and last week on broadway. I cried both times, especially last week, which, by the way, was one of your performances. The musical is very relatable for me, as I, and a lot of other audience members, feel like I WAS Evan at a few points in my life when I was a teenager. How does it feel to touch people’s hearts in a way that hits so close to home at every performance?
ML: It’s crazy, but it’s also a privilege in a way. I feel incredibly fortunate that I get to tell this story and that I get to touch people in that way. I think I’ve realized slowly, as the show is going on, and as I’ve done more performances, gotten more Instagram DMs, and just more people at the stage door telling me about themselves, you begin to realize that, as a performer in this kind of show, you hold a bit of responsibility in at least waving to them when you walk out the stage door or taking a few photos with some people as you’re walking out of the stage door. You don’t necessarily have to, but I feel like it’s something that you should do, especially if you’re an actor in a show like this, because you just spent the entire two hours and 45 minutes crying and singing and making people feel while you’re also feeling the same emotions and the same thing. It’s kind of like you’re so vulnerable with the audience, they feel so vulnerable with you, so it’s kind of like you both just went through this experience together, and it’s nice to acknowledge that at the end, when you walk out of the stage door and you wave to them, or you take a photo or you sign a playbill.
SH: Tell us about your own interpretation of “Waving Through A Window,” and how the song and its lyrics illustrate Evan’s social anxiety.
ML: I think something that the director Michael Greif has said to me, is that “Waving Through a Window” is Evan’s soliloquy in a way. He’s saying, “I need to be better at being invisible. I need to be better at not being seen,” Right before the song starts, he gets seen by Connor, and he gets pushed. So it’s kind of like he’s saying, “This is why I decide to stay quiet, and this is why I decide not to speak, and this is why I try so hard not to be seen, because when I do speak, when I am not the center of attention, but when I am noticed, I just do the wrong thing or I say the wrong thing.”
That’s where the anxiety stems from – being in a group of people, especially in a school. That social anxiety of, “I don’t want to say the wrong thing. I don’t want to do the wrong thing, because then somebody’s going to think I’m weird, or I’m going to get hurt…” There are all these things that rush through your head, and I think “Waving Through a Window” is a good example of wanting to connect with people and wanting to talk to people but just being so afraid of it and constantly being shown that being quiet is your best option. But sometimes you don’t want to just be quiet. Sometimes you want to be seen, which is why when he sings, “When you’re falling in a forest and there’s nobody around, do you ever really crash or even make a sound?” It’s like, “If nobody is there to see you, do you even exist? That’s the same thought with the song, “Disappear,” and all the songs throughout the show. It’s that idea of being alone, and, “If you were to be gone tomorrow, would anyone care and would anyone notice? Does that matter to you, and should that matter to you?” It’s that kind of thing.
SH: As for specific lyrics from “Waving Through a Window,” what do you think it means to “tap on glass”?
ML: You can see that he does make attempts to connect with people, especially at the beginning of that school scene, right before Connor pushes him to the ground. He so badly wants to connect with people, but he’s just always shown that, “No, I can’t. I shouldn’t. I just shouldn’t do that. I need to stop.”
SH: If I am correct, you just graduated high school this year. Now, you’re playing Evan Hansen on broadway for a few shows per week. I’m not sure how much longer you’ll be in that role for, but the show is closing next month, and I’m sure you have some even bigger things coming up to add to your resume as an actor. How does it feel for you to be making all of this progress? Is it awesome just to be where you are now, or do you find yourself focusing on what’s coming next?
ML: I think it’s a little bit of both. When it was announced that we were closing, it hit really hard, because I had deferred my enrollment to college for a year for this show because I was offered the alternate, and I had planned a lot of my life around the show for the next year, so it was really hard at first. It takes time, and I think I’ve gotten to a place where I can be both grateful for this experience and at the same time focused on what’s next for me.
I’m very grateful for this experience. I mean, this show will always be such a big part of my life. It was my Broadway debut. It was my alternate debut as well. I’s the first time I’ve ever felt fully accomplished as a performer. I’ve been doing this since I was nine, so getting this job was not a finish line, but a checkpoint. I feel like I worked really hard to get where I am, and I’m so fortunate to be there, but I know that you never stop learning, and there’s just more ahead of me. So I’m so grateful for this show, and I’m so grateful for all the experience that I’ve gotten from it, but I’m also at the same time just so excited to see what comes next, and I’m looking at the positives. When one door closes, another door opens.
SH: Nice. Honestly, I’m not an actor, but, I do feel really passionate about a lot of movies that I watch, and in the past year I’ve been seeing a lot of live musicals, including Dear Evan Hansen of course, but until this year I wasn’t really a live theater person. But regardless, what I’m saying is, I usually don’t cry during entertainment, and it’s just that this show brought that out in me, because of how relatable it is. This is just a turning point in my passion for pop culture, especially as someone who’s studying to be an entertainment journalist, if that makes sense.
ML: That’s amazing.
SH: Getting back to the musical itself, to me, there’s a compelling aspect of Dear Evan Hansen, specifically when we look at things from Evan’s perspective. It has always been difficult for him to make friends, which is why he benefits so much from inserting himself into the Murphy family, even though he and Connor were not actually friends. In a lot of ways, he’s taking advantage of the Murphys’ grief. What is your perspective on feeling sympathy for Evan as a character, even though he is not exactly making the most ethical choices throughout the story?
ML: I think I’ve thought about this a lot, especially before joining the show, because I feel like recently, especially ever since the movie has come out, a lot about the the moral things that come into question when you talk about Evan as a character, and Dear Evan Hansen as a whole, and the story as a whole, and how you follow a protagonist who’s not necessarily doing the right thing. I feel like what needs to be talked about more is the fact that Evan is probably one of the most flawed characters we have seen in a while in theater. Not that there aren’t flawed characters in any shows.
SH: But Evan is flawed in a very specific way that’s very different from a show like Breaking Bad. Evan is not like Walter White!
ML: I will piggyback off of that, because that’s basically where I was going. The truth is that we’re all flawed, and we’ve all done horrible things. I’m sure not to the extent Evan has, but we’ve all done things in our past that we regret. I mean, life is a learning experience. You live and you learn, and you’re going to make those mistakes, and you’re going hurt the people that you love. That’s just inevitable. That’s going to happen. So I think it’s just the fact that you have to look at Evan as a regular person. I think that’s why so many people connect with him. While that a regular person might not make this specific mistake, they would make a mistake. What would you do if you were put into that situation? I mean, in the show, he does try to confess, and he does try to be honest.
SH: I don’t think he’s proud of these choices at any point.
ML: Yeah, he starts off very well meaning. He never means for it to become an issue. He even tries to tell the truth at first, but he just sees how distraught Cynthia is, and he wants so badly to make her feel better. Evan doesn’t want her to feel so upset and sad because he sees his own mother in her. That’s what would’ve happened to his mother or that’s what his mother would’ve felt and been going through if Evan had killed himself, so he understands what she’s going through and he wants to make sure she doesn’t feel like that. He starts off very well meaning, and then it ends up benefiting him and then it gives him everything he’s wanted this entire time, so that’s what just spirals. That’s why it spirals, and that’s where that selfishness comes from.
SH: Is there anything else that you’re working on or that you have coming up that you’d like our readers to know about?
ML: Nothing currently in the acting world. I’m still auditioning for stuff and I’m still sending in self tapes, so that is all still going. I’m also a writer, and I do write my own songs and my own music. I have a song out right now called “Turn Back Time” on Spotify. I also write musicals, and I wrote a musical with my friend from high school, my writing partner, Ashley DeLorenzo. We won the American Theater Wing songwriting competition back in 2021. That song got recorded by professionals and that is out to listen to now on Spotify as well. The song is called “Birdy-Lingo,” and it’s from our musical.
Be sure to check out Dear Evan Hansen on Broadway at the Music Box Theatre before the sold out final performance on September 18th. Get your tickets today!