From carrying the banner to being found, Mike Faist is currently taking a stand on Broadway in the hit show Dear Evan Hansen. We chatted about his experience with Newsies and why he thinks “bully” is a made‑up term.
Joy: What was your first exposure to musical theater, and what made you want to pursue a career in it?
My first exposure to musical theater was watching old MGM films with Gene Kelly. I kind of idolized him and Fred Astaire and I wanted to be exactly like them, so that’s what got me into taking dance classes and children’s theater. I moved to New York and knew that this is what I wanted to do and just kept going and kept at it.
Who were your role models growing up?
Gene Kelly. He was really the biggest one. And they evolved and changed from more musical theater to more actor‑based people such as Dustin Hoffman and Denzel and just wonderful actors.
Newsies was a huge phenomenon. Did you expect that to happen when you were in it and were you a fan of the movie beforehand?
Going into the audition, I suspected that it was going to do well. I felt like I needed to at least try and be a part of it – luckily it worked out in my favor. There was a cult following to that movie growing up and it’s Disney. I am not surprised that it did as well as it did.
What was the biggest challenge about Newsies, and what was the best part of Newsies?
The biggest challenge with a show like Newsies was just staying healthy. Every single one of those guys was either injured or sick all the time and Disney really worked us like crazy. The best part of it though was the guys – some of those guys I am still best friends with today.
And are you excited to see Newsies on the big screen?
Yes, sure. I think that will be fun.
You were with Dear Evan Hansen from the beginning – what was it like creating the role of Connor?
It was a process. Originally Connor was very two‑dimensional and kind of stereotypical, if you want to say, I guess just bad‑boy bully. Over the years they have complicated him and shown the parallels between him and Evan in a lot more ways. I think one of the great things about the show is that the word “bully” gets thrown out. I think the word “bully” is a made‑up term used by adults to undercut and minimize what young people are going through. The reality of what these characters are going through is the challenge of allowing other people to see who they are. So in Connor’s instance, he puts up walls because people put him in a box. For him it’s an opportunity for allowing Evan to see who he is and there is miscommunication and unfortunately, Connor dies and it’s sad because the audience doesn’t actually get to know who he is.
How do you prepare yourself for this emotional show every day?
Luckily everyone is like a stand‑up comedian backstage. So we are actually having a lot of fun and we have rituals of our own as a cast. We have dance parties in the hall and no matter what, right before we go on stage the cast gets in a circle and either hugs e