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Interview: Ian Coursey Talks the Importance of DEAR EVAN HANSEN at Fisher Theatre!

The remarkable shows runs 9/27 - 10/9 in Detroit!

Dear Evan Hansen
L to R: Anthony Norman (Evan Hansen),
John Hemphill (Larry Murphy),
Lili Thomas (Cynthia Murphy), and
Alaina Anderson (Zoe Murphy).
Photo Credit: Evan Zimmerman

A letter that was never meant to be seen, a lie that was never meant to be told, a life he never dreamed he could have. Evan Hansen is about to get the one thing he's always wanted: a chance to finally fit in. Dear Evan Hansen is the deeply personal and profoundly contemporary musical about life and the way we live it. From September 27th to October 9th, this inspiring and remarkable show will visit the Fisher Theatre in Detroit. BroadwayWorld Detroit had a chance to speak with Ian Coursey, a current University of Michigan student on tour with the show, about his roles and the importance of the show. Check it out below!

BroadwayWorld Detroit: Can you give our readers a brief background of yourself and your theatre career as to how you got to Dear Evan Hansen for an introduction?

Ian Coursey (he/him): Yeah, absolutely. I grew up in Silver Spring, Maryland. I always loved theatre from a really young age, but I also loved baseball. I have an older brother who played baseball his whole life. I was kind of following his path with that. Growing up, I played baseball. But I was also involved in a youth Shakespearean company in the area where I live. I always loved it. But I wasn't extremely passionate about it until I got to high school. I was playing baseball my freshman year. But my best friend at the time told me to go audition for the school musical, which was Titanic. And I never had a voice lesson before that; I've never auditioned for a show; never been in a musical. I auditioned. And I got a great role, and I had a blast. And from that moment on, I kind of I dropped baseball.

I signed up for as many shows as I could. I started doing like three to four shows at a time. I found my voice teacher, an alum of my high school. He started teaching me voice and completely transformed my life. I'm very grateful to him. I did the University of Michigan musical theatre intensive, MPulse, the summer going into my senior year, I think, or maybe my junior year. I fell in love with the University of Michigan and the faculty there. I went through college auditions, and I ended up getting into Michigan. I'm currently a junior at the University of Michigan, but I'm taking a year off to do Dear Evan Hansen. About the second semester last year, I got a self-tape request from Tara Rubin Casting, who casts Dear Evan Hansen. I sent in a tape for the Connor and Jared understudy, which is what I am doing right now. That got me a final call back, and that ended up getting me the roles. And here I am!

You mentioned that you cover the roles of Connor and Jared. Can you tell our readers what that involves for you?

So, these are two different tracks in the show. And they're very different tracks. Fun fact, my older brother's name is Connor. So it's, it's very fun. Whenever I get to go on for Connor, I get to write his name on the cast. But it's interesting because they're such different characters. They're kind of polar opposites if you put them on a spectrum together. Growing up, I never really played the funny, nerdy guy. But when I got the audition materials and saw that I was in for Jared, I was over the moon because it's something that I hadn't really done before. It's something that I could explore and challenge myself with acting-wise.

I found a way into Connor a little easier than Jared, but switching between the two is so much fun because they're so different. Connor doesn't have as much stage time as Jared in the show - a fair amount but Connor has some of my favorite songs in the show. So, I love going on for both of them. I have gone on for Connor a good amount, actually. During my first week on contracts, our principal Connor, Nikhil, who is fantastic. He took a one-week vacation, so I got to go on for Connor the whole week. I did eight shows in Boise, Idaho, and it was a blast! My parents got to come out for my birthday and see the show. It's always a great gift to be able to go on and be either of the characters; they're both so much fun.

Would you be friends with Connor or Jared in real life?

Oh, that's tricky. You know, I think I could be friends with Jared. I think I would want to be friends with Connor, but I think he shuts himself off to a lot of people just because of, you know, his emotions and what he's going through. I think if I found a way to connect with him like he tries to do with Evan, which doesn't end up too well, I think we'd be great friends. He has a great side. He has a lot of sarcasm and wit that he gets to show early on in the show, which I think a lot of people would find amusing and would love to be friends with him. But he has his complications. Jared is just a blast. He can be annoying at times. But I think I would be friends with them.

How would you describe Dear Evan Hansen in your own words?

I think it is a show to which anyone in the audience can connect. I think there's a character for everyone in it. Whether you're a parent or identify more as Evan, Alana, or Jared, I think it's a show that teaches people how to connect and take care of those you care about. I think the beautiful thing about this show is that it opens up new doors of communication for the audience. I just saw an Instagram post the other day of a mother and son who left the show in New York, and they're so thankful because now that they've seen the musical, they could talk about what happened and have these important conversations that maybe some of the characters in the show don't get to have. So, it's really beautiful that it teaches the audience how to be, especially with social media, which can be a very dangerous thing, and a very helpful thing. It teaches kids how to set their boundaries on social media, how to use it to their advantage, and what not to do.

Adding on to that, why do you think this show is such an important piece of theatre?

I think it came at a time when we desperately needed it. I think its presence during the pandemic was very important with a lot of kids being online for school and social media being the only thing they really have for this sense of connection. I think many ways are similar to Evan; they were trying to use it to connect with people. There's a part of the show for everyone. And they can learn from these characters.

Okay, we'll simplify it more, describe the show in five words.

Okay, great. Communication, love, connection, trust, and friendship.

Oh, I like those.

And family. I'll throw a family in there.

Do you have a favorite song to perform and why?

I love doing 'Sincerely, Me' as both Connor and Jared. But it's just such a blast to be up there and look at whoever's playing Connor, Jared, or Evan in the eyes and just be with them for that moment, dance, and have fun. It is pretty much the only big dance number in the show. And the audience goes crazy every time, and it's such a fun song to sing. Being up there with my buddies, doing what we love to do, and singing a great song is always so much fun.

I know you're not from Michigan, but you're attending U of M. So, you must know that the Fisher Theatre is an iconic stage. What is it like knowing that you're going to perform on it?

Absolutely. It's kind of funny. Last semester, I went to the Fisher Theatre and saw An Officer and A Gentleman. That was the first time I'd been to the Fisher Theatre. I walked in with my roommate and was like, 'oh my gosh, this is beautiful.' Never in a million years did I think I would be with the show that's performing there a few months later. And it's really special to me to be that close to campus. I'll be going back and forth between Detroit and Ann Arbor a lot to see some of my friends, and many of my classmates will come out and see the show. So, being in Detroit is very special. It's going to be great to be in a place where I feel at home and familiar with.

Finally, what would you say to Detroit audiences to encourage them to come to see Dear Evan Hansen?

Get ready to cry. Get ready to sing and clap. And most importantly, get ready to have these important conversations necessary to keep your loved ones close. Go along with his journey with these characters and try to learn from their mistakes. And see what the music does and where the story takes you.

This production contains some adult themes, including discussions of suicide.

Dear Evan Hansen runs September 27th through October 9th at the Fisher Theatre in Detroit. For more information, visit www.BroadwayInDetroit.com. For tickets, visit www.ticketmaster.com, by phone at 800-982-2787, and in person at the Fisher Theatre Box Office.

A $25 digital lottery will be held for every Dear Evan Hansen performance. Visit www.luckyseat.com now until 9am EST the day before the performance. For Saturday and Sunday performances, entries must be received by 9am EST on the Friday before. Fans who have been selected will be notified daily via email and can then purchase up to two (2) tickets at $25 each.

Connect with Ian Coursey

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Connect with Dear Evan Hansen

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Connect with Broadway in Detroit

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