Tony Winner Ben Platt Studied with Janet Adderley

By Sarah Stockman 
Staff Writer

On June 11, at the 71st Tony Awards in New York, Beverly Hills native Ben Platt, 23, won the Tony for Leading Actor in a Musical for his titular role in “Dear Evan Hansen.”

In his acceptance speech, Platt thanked the Adderley School in Pacific Palisades for nurturing his love of theater.

“When I was six years old I was the prince in ‘Cinderella’ in a blue sequined vest at the Adderley School in the Palisades in California,” Platt said. “I’ve spent every single day of my life since then madly in love with musical theater.”

The founder of the Adderley School, Janet Adderley, was in the Tony audience with Platt’s family, including his father Marc, who produced the movie “La La Land” and the Broadway musical “Wicked” (2003).

Adderley told the News that the experience of watching her student on the Tony stage was exceptional.

Ben Platt gives his teacher Janet Adderley a hug. She was in the audience when it was announced that Platt had won a Tony for Leading Actor in a Musical for his titular role in “Dear Evan Hansen.”

“I could not have been more proud of a young man in my life,” Adderley said.

Adderley, a Broadway veteran who starred in Andrew Lloyd Webber’s “Starlight Express” in 1987, founded the Adderley School in 1993. The school now has three locations: the Woman’s Club, Santa Barbara, and, most recently, Austin, Texas, her home city.

“I taught all five Platt kids,” Adderley said. “I named them the Von Platts because all of them are musical.”

In November, on “Late Night with Seth Meyers,” Platt told Meyers about his debut role in “Cinderella,” and Meyers then showed the audience pictures of Platt in his bright-blue sequined vest dancing with his Cinderella.

In his Tony acceptance speech, Platt said “[The Adderley School is] where I found everything I’ve ever loved and where I belong,” Platt said. “I’ve dreamed every day since of being on this stage and being part of this community of artists.”

Platt attended the school once a week during the school year and camp five days a week during the summer for 10 years. “In 10 years Ben Platt never missed a session,” Adderley said.

Four years after starting at the Adderley School, Platt made his professional debut at the Hollywood Bowl at age 9, “playing Winthrop in ‘The Music Man’ opposite Kristin Chenoweth,” Adderley said.

After that performance, Adderley knew that Platt was headed for great things.

“I’ve always said to him, ‘Someday when I’m a little old lady in a rocking chair, I will be waiting for my invitation to see you fifth row center in a Broadway show.’”

That chance came much earlier than expected in 2014 when Platt, then 19, made his Broadway debut as Elder Cunningham in “The Book of Mormon.” Adderley, her daughter, and her mother went to see him perform and sat fifth row center at the Eugene O’Neill Theatre.

“To see a child that I sort of nurtured from 5 years old . . . [was] like watching your own child jump off the high board into a pool,” Adderley said. “I was a basket of tears, scared to death . . . [but] he was magnificent.”

Platt, who attended Harvard-Westlake for high school, got into Columbia University, but was not able to complete his degree because of “The Book of Mormon.” He played Cunningham on Broadway from January 2014 to January 2015. He started rehearsals for “Dear Evan Hansen” a few weeks later in Washington, D.C., where the show made its world premiere on July 10, 2015.

Dear Evan Hansen opened on Broadway last December to rave reviews.

“This gorgeous heartbreaker of a musical . . . has grown in emotional potency during its journey to the big leagues,” New York Times reviewer Charles Isherwood wrote on December 4. “Rarely—scratch that—never have I heard so many stifled sobs and sniffles in the theater.”

The show follows Evan Hansen, a high schooler with crippling anxiety who tells a lie after a boy at school commits suicide. “As the title character in Dear Evan Hansen . . . the marvelous young actor Ben Platt is giving a performance that’s not likely to be bettered on Broadway this season,” Isherwood wrote.

Besides theater, Platt can also be seen on the silver screen in “Pitch Perfect” (2012) and “Pitch Perfect 2” (2015), where he played lovable magician Benji, who desperately wants to be in an a cappella group. He also had a small part in “Ricki and the Flash” (2015) and “Billy Lynn’s Long Halftime Walk” (2016).

Despite all the hype and fame, Platt still takes the time to mention the Adderley School and his instructor/teacher and the influence she had on his life.

“Janet Adderley . . . was my first ever musical theater teacher when I was six at her Adderley School,” Platt told People magazine’s Jess Cagle. “It’s all thanks to her, really.”

Along with playing the prince in “Cinderella,” Platt also starred as the Baker in “Into the Woods,” Charlie Brown in “You’re a Good Man, Charlie Brown,” Billy Crocker in “Anything Goes,” Albert Peterson in “Bye, Bye Birdie,” and Motel the Tailor in “Fiddler on the Roof.”

In May of this year Time magazine named Platt one of the 100 Most Influential People.

“Because of the way Ben brings Evan to life, that story [of Evan Hansen] becomes instantly relatable for any person who has ever felt conflicting emotions without having an outlet,” Zac Efron, star of “Baywatch,” wrote for Time. “His performance brought me back to a sensitive place. It was almost difficult to watch, because it hit so close to home.”

Eric McCormack, Megan Mullally, Ben Platt, Debra Messing, Sean Hayes — (Photo by: Chris Haston/NBC)

Platt continues to play the role of Evan Hansen eight times a week on Broadway, although his last performance will be November 19. He can next be seen on the silver screen in “Drunk Parents” out later this year and as a guest star on “Will & Grace” on October 5.

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