Ben Platt isn’t afraid to play the outcast. The 21-year-old actor—best known as magic-trick-obsessed Benji Applebaum in the movie Pitch Perfect and its sequel—stars as the title character in Dear Evan Hansen, a world-premiere musical directed by Michael Greif (Rent, Next to Normal).
Like Benji Applebaum, Evan Hansen has trouble fitting in. After a private letter goes public, he takes on a fake identity and gets caught in a web of lies. The play tackles deceit, self-discovery, and the drawbacks of social media. “Every thought that you decide to post is just given free rein to be judged,” Platt says. “We’re having to make these decisions daily: ‘Am I okay with this being everyone’s view of who I am?’” It’s a very modern, relatable conflict, which is part of what drew him to the role: “I like to do projects that people can see themselves in.”
Hansen journeys to a greater self-awareness, unlike the one-dimensional yet irresistibly charming Applebaum of Pitch Perfect. The stage role’s physical demands are also greater: Acting and singing in eight shows a week is no easy feat. For Platt, that only makes the reward greater: “I get to give my whole self.”
Until this gig, he had visited Washington only twice—for a wedding and for the obligatory eighth-grade field trip. Platt will be in town for two months this summer, fulfilling one of his longtime ambitions: “My dream ever since I was a kid was to do original, musical theater. It’s quite a big bite to chew, but I’m really excited.”
Dear Evan Hansen runs from July 10 to August 13 at Arena Stage. $40 to $90.