Chicago actor Anthony Norman front and center with ‘Dear Evan Hansen’ role

Though he now calls New York home, star of the touring production still considers Chicago ‘the pinnacle of acting.’

SHARE Chicago actor Anthony Norman front and center with ‘Dear Evan Hansen’ role
Anthony Norman stars as Evan Hansen (far left) with John Hemphill (as Larry Murphy, background, from left), Lili Thomas (as Cynthia Murphy) and Alaina Anderson (as Zoe Murphy), in the North American Tour of “Dear Evan Hansen.” 

Anthony Norman stars as Evan Hansen (far left) with John Hemphill (as Larry Murphy, background, from left), Lili Thomas (as Cynthia Murphy) and Alaina Anderson (as Zoe Murphy), in the North American Tour of “Dear Evan Hansen.”

Evan Zimmerman for MurphyMade

Though he now calls New York home, when he isn’t on tour, Anthony Norman — appearing in the national tour of “Dear Evan Hansen” at the Nederlander Theatre through Dec. 31 — is still very much a Chicago native through and through.

When he calls in for an interview and his phone still has a Chicago area code, it’s an immediate tell.

“Chicago born and raised,” he proudly says.

Theatergoers here may recognize him from his breakout role as the sweet and naïve apprentice Tobias Ragg in Paramount Theater’s 2017 Equity Jeff Award-winning production of “Sweeney Todd: The Demon Barber of Fleet Street.”

Dear Evan Hansen

‘Dear Evan Hansen’

When: Through Dec. 31

Where: James M. Nederlander Theatre, 54 W. Randolph

Tickets: $39-$120

Info: broadwayinchicago.com




The national tour of “Dear Evan Hansen” puts the actor front and center in the title role.

“The last time I was in Chicago performing was with the ‘Newsies’ national tour. This is the first time I’m here and I’m starring in the production,” he says. “Chicago family and friends have sent me photos of my face on taxicabs, buses and at ‘L’ stations. I still find it all somewhat surreal.”

Norman says he grew up in awe of the stagecraft and talent working steadily in the city. Ensemble work is one thing that Chicago excels at, and Norman, who hails from the Logan Square area, says the New York theater scene is worlds away from the one he grew up in here.

“Things are 100 percent different in New York,” he says. “For me, I still think of Chicago as the pinnacle of acting. Theaters like Steppenwolf are bigger than Broadway. That’s where ACTING happens.

“Broadway [however] has been more attainable for me than Steppenwolf,” he adds. “Despite all of that, the Chicago theater scene is still a little more humble than its New York counterpart.”

sweeneytodd.jpg

In 2017, Anthony Norman played Tobias Ragg in Paramount Theatre’s “Sweeney Todd: The Demon Barber of Fleet Street.”

Liz Lauren

The Tony Award-winning musical tells the story of a high school senior who suffers from severe social anxiety and who puts himself at the center of another student’s tragedy.

Norman says the lead role wasn’t exactly a given for him. He was initially set to audition just before the COVID pandemic hit, and by the time theaters opened back up some two years later, the actor says he thought the role had passed him by.

“I thought maybe I was too old or that I wasn’t right for the show,” he says.

One person who was convinced otherwise was Michael Greif, who directed the original Broadway production of the show as well as the current tour.

“Anthony proved in auditions that he had the necessary emotional access to play Evan,” Greif says. “He shared Evan’s great intelligence and verbal dexterity.”

Norman says it wasn’t until he was preparing for a callback for the role that he had an epiphany: “I realized there are things he says and lyrics he sings in the show that I have said at one time or another. I was wrong; I was right for this role.

“I started thinking about his journey and how relatable it is no matter what your age,” Norman continues. “We have all experienced a feeling of being left out, and with social media I think this has become even more amplified, because you can see everything that you are missing out on at a the drop of a hat.”

After securing the lead role, Norman says he was fortunate to work further with Greif.

“He was adamant about me finding my ‘Evan.’ There were certain ticks and mannerisms I bring to the role and he said, ‘Yeah, lean into that.’ ”

As in the now-shuttered Broadway production, the actor playing Evan full-time on tour only does six shows a week and not the more-standard eight shows. Norman says he is thankful for the two-performance break.

“Even with only doing six shows a week, I’m exhausted most of the time,” he says. “I don’t go out with the cast for drinks after a show. I pretty much come back to my room and sleep because the role takes so much out of me.

“And yet I somehow managed to get COVID in Los Angeles and again recently,” he adds with a laugh. “It’s frustrating because there isn’t much more that I can do that I am not already doing to avoid getting [it].”

To the friends and family hoping to meet up with the actor after a performance: Mask up. Norman says he really doesn’t want to go a third round with the disease.

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