By Frankie Kujawa
Winner of six 2017 Tony Awards, including Best Musical, Dear Evan Hansen will run at Baltimore’s Hippodrome Theatre from Tuesday, March 15th through Sunday, March 22nd. Thanks in part to a letter that was never meant to be seen, a lie that was never meant to be told, and a life he never dreamed he could have, Evan Hansen is about to get the one thing he’s always wanted: a chance to finally fit in. Audiences will find that Dear Evan Hansen is a deeply personal and profoundly contemporary musical about life and the way we live it. Cast member Matthew Edward Kemp chats with us about the upcoming Baltimore performance.
“The musical at its heart, for me, is about forgiveness,” began Kemp. “It’s about realizing that you’re not alone. [It emphasizes] the message that ‘you will be found.’"
"When I am in the back of the house," Kemp continued, "I feel the audience collectively breathe, laugh and cry together. When I’m watching the musical, too, I’m almost right there with them. You can find yourself in different parts of this story. I think togetherness, and the feeling of we’re not alone in this terrible, terrible world – especially in this current moment – is definitely one of the messages this show portrays.”
A native of Rochester, New York, Kemp covers all three of the male leads as understudy for the roles of 'Evan Hansen,' 'Jared Kleinman' and 'Connor Murphy.' This tour marks Kemp's return to the Dear Evan Hansen national tour, after making his debut pre-pandemic. “I booked this show three weeks after graduating with a BFA in Musical Theater from the University of Michigan and moved to New York. It was a very quick turn-around,” Kemp laughed. “I [performed with the tour] seven-months, pre-pandemic,” Kemp continued. “And, then [after the pandemic hiatus] we started back up, thankfully, and I’ve been touring again with the show since November of 2021.”
In regard to traveling with the national tour, Kemp enjoys his time on the road. “I love it! This post-pandemic schedule is a little difficult because, for the most part, we’re only in a city for one week at a time. So, we travel on Mondays, get into a new city and have about 2-3 rehearsals as understudies a week. So, the days are very busy for us, too. Then once we get into a four-show weekend, we’re pretty much almost at our next city.” Kemp added, “I can tell this [Baltimore performance] is going to go fast because it's so nice here. We were walking around and there are restaurants and coffee shops, and we’re in a very cute area of Baltimore.”
Kemp hopes that audiences walk away with plenty to reflect upon after this performance. “Everyone takes away different things from this musical. For me, it’s the ability to forgive someone. Some [audiences] have said that they feel the show puts mental health in a bad light; saying that people with mental health issues get a free pass. I, personally, don’t think that’s the case. Particularly in the last scene, we see that Evan is torturing himself over the harm he did to this family and these people. But it’s the character of Zoe who just happens to give him the gift of forgiveness. She basically says that everyone needed ‘the lie’ for something. Sometimes, I don’t know if the audiences realizes that a full year passes at the end for the final scene. It’s just such a beautiful scene.”