Young Tony Nominee of ‘Dear Evan Hansen’ Gets Ready for His Big Day


But first an obstacle course of sorts had to be navigated. Down a couple of floors was Hugh Jackman, eager to meet the show’s stars. “It’s my second time here and I plan on coming back again with my daughter,” he tells Mr. Faist. “I’m turning into a stalker.” (The show has seen a constant stream of celebrity visitors, including Paul Rudd and Meryl Streep, since it opened this fall. The cast is still hoping for Hillary Clinton to show up.)

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Mike Faist entering the subway station in Times Square after a matinee performance of “Dear Evan Hansen.”

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Andrew White for The New York Times

A few minutes later, Mr. Faist was out on the street and headed toward the W train, for his trip down to SoHo. But there was a surprise fellow passenger sitting in the subway car: Michael Greif, the director of “Dear Evan Hansen,” (and a fellow Tony nominee), coming from another show. The two laughed at the chance encounter before Mr. Greif hopped out at 14th Street and Mr. Faist continued on to Prince Street.

Exiting the car, it became clear the disguise hadn’t worked. A young Japanese girl, surprised at spotting him on the platform, shouted, “Omigod, what!??” before bursting into tears. Mr. Faist walked over and gave her a hug while her mother took a picture. As the scene unfolded another commuter, a middle-aged man in business suit, asked who Mr. Faist was.

“He’s an actor in ‘Dear Evan Hansen,’” one person with Mr. Faist said.

The man looked puzzled.

“The Broadway musical,” the person added

“Oh, I don’t do musicals,” the man said dismissively, then walked away

Soon, Mr. Faist was in the offices of the P.R. firm Maguire Steele, stripping down to his Calvins and being eased into the Turnbull & Asser black velvet dinner jacket, white dress shirt and tuxedo pants that he had been chosen for Tonys night. Mr. Faist had earlier looked through about a dozen options before choosing this one, which had a youthful, almost New Romantic look to it. (For an event for Tony nominees last month, Mr. Feist had worn an outfit designed by EFM Engineered for Motion, another Maguire Steele client.)

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Mr. Faist chatting on the subway with Michael Greif, seated, the director of “Dear Evan Hansen.”

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Andrew White for The New York Times

“I think when it’s your first major red carpet, you want to feel really comfortable in the clothes,” Megan Maguire Steele, the owner of the agency, said.

As Simon Jacobs, the Turnbull & Asser tailor, pinned back the pants, to give them a slimmer look on the actor’s six-foot frame, he asked Mr. Faist if he wanted “a flush or a break” finish to the hem?

“I don’t know, what do you think?” Mr. Faist said, adding, “Actually, what’s the difference between the two?”

They went with a break, just skimming the top of the black Billy Reid monk strap shoes he had also chosen for the evening.

The outfit selected and fitted, there was one more element to be resolved: the tie. From the beginning, Mr. Faist had requested the kind of floppy, oversized black tie that Daniel Day-Lewis had worn when he won his Oscar for “My Left Foot” in 1990.

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Mr. Faist inspecting his look as the tailor Simon Jacobs continues with his adjustments.

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Andrew White for The New York Times

Easier said than done.

Turnbull & Asser had no ties like that in its line, and at first, the label’s representatives suggested an ascot in its place.

“I’m like: ‘Ascot? I don’t think so,” Mr. Faist recounted.

So, they spent some time on Wednesday looking at larger and larger bow ties, to see if one would work with the smoking jacket, before Mr. Faist realized it was almost 6 p.m.

“I’ve got to go eat,” he said. The tie issue would have to be resolved another day.

A few minutes later, he was sitting in the bar of the Crosby Hotel, ordering a chicken Cobb wrap and a glass of tap water. “Water is the best friend to an actor; you have to stay hydrated,” Mr. Faist said, adding that he drinks four liters a day.

He talked of how he learned about his Tony nomination. “I was grocery shopping,” he said, having tried to sleep through the early morning announcements but after being awakened by a blinding sun through his bedroom window, decided he had to get out of the apartment.

“I went to Whole Foods and I’m walking down the aisle, and I start getting all these text messages, congratulating me, and I figured it was for the show. And then my agent calls me and says, “You got nominated.” And I’m like, right, ‘best musical,’ that’s great. And she says, ‘No, you got nominated.”’ (“Dear Evan Hansen” is Mr. Faist’s second Broadway musical. The first was “Newsies,” which he was cast in at 20, a few years after moving to New York from Columbus, Ohio.)

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Mr. Faist offering his arm as the tailor Simon Jacobs adds cuff links to a white shiry

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Andrew White for The New York Times

He has been on a wild ride these past few months, with television shows to appear on, parties to attend and magazine interviews to give. He has even done fashion shoots for both Interview and Vogue, the latter with Gigi Hadid (“I didn’t know who she was; I had to Google her”), wearing Alexander McQueen and shot by the photographer Patrick Demarchelier.

“I was really nervous about meeting Patrick,” Mr. Faist said. “He’s a very famous French photographer and he was probably like” — Mr. Faist switched to a caricature of a French accent — “‘Oh this actor, he knows nothing. He is pathetic. Why did you bring me this piece of garbage?’”

“But,” he added, “they all ended up being so lovely.”

Though Mr. Faist is only on stage for about 20 or 25 minutes of the show’s running time of two and a half hours, his character is the catalyst for much of the musical’s plot and, in some ways, is always on the minds of the audience.

Getting cast in the show went surprisingly smoothly. “I auditioned once,” he said. “I read two scenes, sang 16 bars of ‘Yesterday,’ the Beatles song, and then left. Then, about 10 minutes later, I got a call from my agent, who said, ‘Yeah, they want you to do it.’”

Mr. Faist said the burden of accurately playing this troubled, complex teenager wore on him early in the show’s run.

“I tried several different things to start the show off in the right place,” he said. “I would lock myself in my dressing room and listen to the Smiths or Chet Baker. I would stay by myself, alone. It was starting to take a toll.”

He said that after he finished his first big scene in the first act, “I would run up to my room, and just collapse. I remember not being able to get up. I was drained, I was exhausted, I was destroyed. And then I start thinking, ‘Maybe this isn’t helping anything.’”

Then, he said, he realized that “just trusting the text” was a more practical way to get through the show. “It’s all there,” he said. “As long as I am committed to the text and I am present in the moment, that’s the most important thing.”

He also said that working on the physical aspects of his character helped him define the role more clearly. “There is this line in the show, ‘Nice coat, Connor. Very school-shooter chic,’” Mr. Faist said. “So, I thought: ‘Let’s commit. This is what this kid looks like, He’s either got a buzz cut or extremely long hair.’”

He added, “So, I grew my hair out for the role; I did these nails for the role,” looking down at his chipped nails, with the black polish he applied two weeks ago all but worn away. “This isn’t me. This isn’t Mike.”

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Mr. Faist standing for a portrait in the lobby of Maguire Steele in SoHo.

Credit
Andrew White for The New York Times

And that brings him back to that disguise and that, when he walks out into the street after a show, people often expect to meet Connor Murphy and not Mike Faist.

“I really don’t like doing the autograph line because of that,” he said. “I feel that they are expecting something, or someone, that they just saw. And that isn’t me.”

He acknowledged that some of the young fans want to share their own stories with him or Ben Platt, who plays the title character, seeing the two as kindred spirits. “All we can say is, really: ‘Listen, we are not mental health experts. Obviously.’ But the more important thing is just to let them know, ‘I see you. I’m listening to you, and I hear you.’ That’s all that they are really looking for — someone to see them.”

“That’s what happened with the girl in the subway station,” he added. “She just wanted to me to see her.”

With that, and a glance at the time, Mr. Faist realized he had to go. The hat and sunglasses went back on, and he headed out the door and toward the subway.

There was another show to do.

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