West Side Story’s Mike Faist Compares Movie Musicals To Starring In Dear Evan Hansen On Broadway

Movie musicals are a tried and true genre in the film world, which have been entertaining audiences for decades. 2021 contained plenty of thrilling adaptations, with the most recent being Steven Spielberg’s new take on West Side Story. And Riff actor Mike Faist compared movie musicals to starring in Dear Evan Hansen on Broadway.

Actor Mike Faist has been getting a ton of praise for his performance in West Side Story, bringing new sides to the Jets leader Riff. Broadway superfans will recognize him for his acclaimed performance as the original Connor Murphy in Dear Evan Hansen opposite Ben Platt. As you can see in the video above, I had the privilege of speaking with Faist about his role in the Spielberg flick, where I asked him to compare the challenges of doing eight shows a week vs. eight takes in a row. He broke it down to me, saying it was the,

Same rules, different playgrounds. We’re still trying to do he exact same thing in terms of what we’re trying to accomplish. I think more psychologically I keep saying with theater you always get to show up and try again tomorrow. I got home and I’m like ‘I need to do that. I can do this better,’ or something, you know? So I get to show up again tomorrow. And then [with movies] at the end of the day you’re trying to go to bed and you’re like, ‘Damnit! That was it. Okay.’

Well, he’s got a point. Mike Faist plated Connor Murphy in Dear Evan Hansen for over a year on Broadway, which allowed him to return to the role time and time again. But the window of opportunity in film is different, with the Tony-nominated actor learning to let go throughout filming West Side Story. Luckily that process seemed to pay off in the theatrical cut.

Mike Faist as Riff in West Side Story

(Image credit: 20th Century Studios/ Disney)

The cast of West Side Story filmed the movie musical over a series of months back in the summer and early fall of 2019. Mike Faist’s role as Riff was slightly altered, as he was given new features like singing “Cool” alongside Ansel Elgort. Although it definitely sounds like a learning experience for the 29 year-old actor.

Later in our same conversation, Mike Faist when on to explain how filming a musical taught him new skills when compared to bringing a character to life on stage. As he put it,

It’s that practice of letting go, and just allowing. And being present and just accepting, and having fun.

That practice seemed to serve Mike Faist well, as both critics and moviegoers alike have thrown praise at his performance in West Side Story. The new screenplay by Tony Kushner helped to flesh out the various characters of the story, including Riff and his girlfriend Graziella. 

West Side Story is in theaters now, and will presumably continue making money at the box office over the holiday season. Be sure to check out the 2022 movie release dates to plan your next movie experience.

Corey Chichizola
Movies Editor

Corey was born and raised in New Jersey. Graduated with degrees theater and literature from Ramapo College of New Jersey. After working in administrative theater for a year in New York, he started as the Weekend Editor at CinemaBlend. He's since been able to work himself up to reviews, phoners, and press junkets-- and is now able to appear on camera with some of his favorite actors... just not as he would have predicted as a kid. He's particularly proud of covering horror franchises like Scream and Halloween, as well as movie musicals like West Side Story. Favorite interviews include Steven Spielberg, Spike Lee, Jamie Lee Curtis, and more.