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BWW Interview: Sam Tutty Talks DEAR EVAN HANSEN

Dear Evan Hansen
Sam Tutty (left) in Dear Evan Hansen

Last year, recent drama school graduate Sam Tutty landed the role of a lifetime: the lead in Tony Award-winning musical Dear Evan Hansen, which is now playing in the West End (read our review here).

He told BroadwayWorld about his audition journey, experience of the show, favourite songs, and dream future roles...

What was the first piece of theatre you saw that really inspired you?

Definitely Phantom of the Opera in Year 7.

Did you do a lot of acting all the way through school?

Yes, I did Drama GCSE and Drama A-level, but nothing really outside of those - nothing at the weekends or anything. I was too scared to put myself out there properly when I was younger and followed a fairly conventionally academic route until drama school.

When did you realise you wanted to pursue acting professionally, and what did you learn from your time at Italia Conti?

I realised performing was something I wanted to do for the rest of my life when I played my first role as Doody in Grease at the Chequer Mead Theatre in East Grinstead. I loved the rush of performing and the spontaneity I could bring to the role on stage, and the process of finding out what made audiences laugh.

Italia Conti gave me a foundation of etiquette, a strong repertoire of songs and taught me how to dance. Basically everything I know, despite my mum saying I get it all from her!

Dear Evan Hansen
Doug Colling and Sam Tutty
in Dear Evan Hansen

I love the video of you performing "Waving Through a Window" while you're still at Italia Conti - what was it about the show/score that you connected with?

I loved "Waving Through a Window" particularly because the story arc within the song is so strong. The melody is beautiful and the message it sends is beautiful. The character of Evan and his struggles seemed so raw and really struck a chord. To think that I would be working with Benj Pasek and Justin Paul years later is mind-blowing.

What did you take from the experience of doing Once On This Island at Southwark Playhouse? Did that help you transition into the professional realm?

Yes, it really helped. It set up my stamina, helped me hone my craft and understand how to stay in the right gear for a week full of shows.

Tell us about the experience of auditioning for Dear Evan Hansen

Originally, I went to the graduate call and froze, so I didn't get it. Then I did my third year showcase at the Playhouse Theatre and got my wonderful agent from that, who put me up for the closed audition. Thirteen auditions later and I got the call to say that I be the alternate! Then, two weeks later, Stacey Mindich - our amazing producer - rang me up saying they wanted me to play the main Evan.

Where were you when you found out you were playing Evan, and who did you tell first?

I was in my flat when I found out and rang my mum straightaway! She almost fainted and had to prop her feet up in the air.

Was it tricky to get other interpretations out of your head, so that you could find your Evan? And do you identify with him?

I never watched the bootleg or saw the show before, so I was lucky in a way. In fact, I tried to stay completely free with the material and find my own Evan organically.

All of us can find ourselves in situations we don't know how we got into, and I can certainly identify with that - even if not quite to the same extent. My parents got divorced when I was 10, so I can understand that obstacle.

Dear Evan Hansen
Sam Tutty and the cast
of Dear Evan Hansen

There's an incredible physical aspect to the role - from the super-fast speech to all of Evan's tics and posture. How did you build that, and is it physically taxing to play?

I got the rhythm of the speech into my body early on in rehearsal. Also, the pace of the speech was a part of the audition process, so I had an understanding from the beginning. After our first run, I was so exhausted I fell asleep on the Tube! So there's definitely a physical element I've had to get used to. But it's in my body now and I can handle it a lot better.

The tone of the show is so clever, switching between emotional and very witty. Do you enjoy those different aspects?

Yes. The book by Steven Levenson is so intelligent, it could stand alone as a play in itself.

Without giving away any spoilers, the plot walks a fine line when it comes to Evan's behaviour and how we respond to him. How did you find that balance?

Our director Michael Greif always said the key to Evan is that the audience understand why he gets himself into the sticky situation he does - that he's not a bad person and the audience have to understand that. I always try to have that in the back of my mind in performance.

Dear Evan Hansen tackles some really important subjects, like depression, bullying and suicide. Have you had to look after your own mental health, so you can do that material justice without it becoming overwhelming? And what does it mean to you that you get to help people by exploring these issues?

It is an absolute honour to open up a platform where people can identify with Evan so deeply, and seeing how the show moves people is incredibly touching. The messages I get are also amazing, and I've done a great deal of research in order to play Evan accurately, so it's good to hear that people can connect with my performance.

When I step on stage and completely embody the character, the script is so moving that I never have to force the tears, which makes it easier when I step off stage and become Sam again. I also make sure I take time to wind down every night with a steam and some cucumber and hummus.

Dear Evan Hansen
Sam Tutty and Rebecca McKinnis
in Dear Evan Hansen

As someone who's grown up with social media, do you think the show represents that aspect well?

Completely. The show sheds light on both the positives and negatives of social media and how it has the potential to snowball out of control, like it does for Evan. Regarding the show itself, it's an honour to get tweets and messages about how it has moved people, and we wouldn't get that in such an influx without social media. It creates such a beautiful community.

What are your favourite songs to sing in the show and why? And which song of another character's do you love watching?

"Sincerely Me" is my favourite song because it's a chance to just have fun with my friends and co-stars onstage. "So Big So Small" is one of the only ones I'm not in and also absolutely stunningly sang by the phenomenal Rebecca McKinnis, who plays my mum.

Is it nerve-wracking leading a huge show like this so early in your career?

Yes. But I have a great support system around me in the cast. We all get on so well, which makes doing the show every day still so exciting. The more experienced cast have really looked after me and forgiven my naivety. They are some of the best people I've ever worked with.

I'm sure we'll see loads more amazing performances from you in future! Do you have any dream roles, or people you'd love to work with?

I love Miss Saigon and Book of Mormon, so any parts in those would be a dream come true. Moulin Rouge is also a favourite of mine. Working with Pasek and Paul will take some topping, but meeting Andrew Scott at the Evening Standard Awards after being a huge fan of him in Hamlet - working with him would be amazing.

Finally, if anyone hasn't seen Dear Evan Hansen yet, why should they come along?

To laugh and cry and to come out feeling undeniably moved and uplifted. It really is more than just a musical theatre piece. It's a story of love and forgiveness, of a family who needs a boy and a boy who needs a family.

Dear Evan Hansen is currently booking at the Noel Coward Theatre until 30 May

Photo credit: Matthew Murphy

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