by Carlee Malone ‘20
When he sang and danced on the Ertzman stage in Rock ‘N’ Roll, Noah Kieserman (‘14) never imagined that just five years later, he’d be performing on a Broadway tour for thousands of people each night. Now starring as Connor Murphy in Broadway’s six-time Tony award-winning musical, “Dear Evan Hansen,” Kieserman’s theatre journey began with a one-of-a-kind childhood experience.
“My passion for theater was sparked while sleeping on prop tables back when my mom volunteered at MTC (Musical Theatre Center),” Kieserman said. “I’d always hoped to be doing this professionally because it’s a wonderful community of people, and stories have the power to change the world.”
A graduate from the University of Michigan’s elite Musical Theatre Program, Kieserman was quick to jump onto new career opportunities, sending an initial “self-tape” audition to the producers of “Dear Evan Hansen” his junior year. After sending subsequent materials his senior year, he was called to New York for an in-person audition for the entire production team.
“It was terrifying at first, but I prepped about 8 hours a day for a week,” Kieserman recalled. “Upon stepping into the audition room, I felt so prepared that I was able to tell myself, ‘if you don’t get this, that’s not your opportunity because you are doing your absolute best.’” Just two days later, he learned that he was offered the opportunity to understudy on the show’s national tour for three of the show’s lead characters: Evan Hansen, Connor Murphy, and Jared Kleinman. The national tour spans 50 cities–an honor granted to the most in-demand Broadway shows. Previously showing at the Kennedy Center in D.C from August 6 through November 8, the tour is currently in St. Louis, Missouri until November 3.
Now faced with the task of memorizing and perfecting three different roles with the “stipulation that [he’d] do it at a moment’s notice,” Kieserman spent countless hours every day taking on this new challenge.
His hard work as an understudy paid off. Currently, Kieserman permanently plays the role of Connor Murphy: a struggling, misunderstood teenager whose suicide ends up pulling Evan Hansen, Connor’s anxiety-ridden classmate, into a maze of lies and self-discovery.
“It was a lot of digging into myself and being honest about moments in my life when I could relate with the characters’ journeys.” Kieserman said. Beyond just the deep introspection required for the part, Kieserman acknowledges that his character is emotionally “unstable for the first 15 minutes of the play”, so he “always [has] to be mindful of [his] own mental health as Noah.”
A show filled with a plethora of relatable characters and circumstances (facing anxiety, peer-pressure, stress to fit in, and growing distance from their parents), “Dear Evan Hansen” provides many lessons for its audiences, and especially for Kieserman, who has had the chance to learn and reflect.
“In high school, there’s so much pressure to fit into a specific group or identity, to secure approval from your peers” Kierserman said. “This show is the journey of someone who goes to great lengths to do that, falls short, and must learn to love his true self. So, performing in this show is a reminder to stop judging myself.”
Now working on composing his “passion project”, a musical called SHEL about the life of world-renowned poet Shel Silverstein, it is clear that Kieserman’s talents and love for theatre expand far beyond the stage.