Chicago native Anthony Norman is coming home, and he’s coming home a star.
The Millikin University graduate plays the titular character in the North American tour of “Dear Evan Hansen,” the Tony Award-winning Broadway musical about a socially anxious teen who inadvertently becomes a social media star following the suicide of a high school loner.
“To be headlining at a theater I grew up seeing shows at? It’s pretty overwhelming to think about,” said Norman via email. “I’m going to soak it all in, day-by-day, minute-by-minute.”
Moreover, having friends and family members in the audience is a comfort, said Norman, whose credits include “The Prom” on Broadway and a national tour of “Newsies,” among others.
Chicago native Anthony Norman returns home as the star of the North American tour of “Dear Evan Hansen.” – Courtesy of Evan Zimmerman for MurphyMade
“It’s comforting to know someone in the audience, who’s seen my journey from 13 years old, is cheering me on and in my corner,” he said, adding it’s people like that who “make this gig feel like the best job in the world.”
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Introduced to theater in high school by his sister Vanessa, Norman first appeared on stage in an Arthur Miller play.
“I’ll never forget a scene where I got to sing ‘It’s Only A Paper Moon,'” he said. “It was my first time singing on stage aside from a talent show, and I started getting attention from fellow students and girls, which was very cool.”
Being on stage made him feel alive, “the most alive I ever felt. I just didn’t know it yet. I couldn’t explain that feeling,” he said. “I still feel it to this day.”
Since he decided to make theater his profession, Norman has never wavered in that goal.
“I knew this was what I was supposed to do,” he said. “I’m very lucky for that because a lot of people aren’t sure what their calling is.”
Anthony Norman, left, plays Evan Hansen and Coleen Sexton plays his mother Heidi in Broadway in Chicago’s “Dear Evan Hansen,” running through Dec. 31 at Chicago’s James M. Nederlander Theatre. – Courtesy of Evan Zimmerman for MurphyMade
A show like “Dear Evan Hansen” confirms he made the right choice.
“The music is special,” he said. Composer/lyricists “Benj Pasek and Justin Paul have crafted a score that is so beautiful, so rooted in the story, that you can’t help but be swept away.”
Evan’s story is relatable.
“No matter what age, gender, social status, political or religious beliefs everyone can relate to the feeling of being on the outside of something. Feeling like they just don’t fit in, especially in the age of social media, where you literally see every single thing you’re not a part of,” said Norman.
Lastly, the show’s message is universal.
“You are not alone,” he said. “Stephen Sondheim said it in ‘Into the Woods,’ and it still holds true to this day.”
• • •
“Dear Evan Hansen”
When: Through Dec. 31, recommended for ages 12 and older
Where: James M. Nederlander Theatre, 24 W. Randolph St., Chicago; (800) 775-2000 or broadwayinchicago.com
COVID-19 precautions: Masks recommended