Evan Strand is currently starring as the lovable reindeer Sven in the North American tour of Disney’s hit musical, Frozen. Or, at least he was starring in the role. This interview was done right before the COVID-19 pandemic swept the world like wildfire, so once everything gets back to normal, here’s hoping he’s back on stage!
In this interview, Strand talks about playing Sven, the massive costume he has to wear and the lengths he went to to get the role!
How’s the tour going so far?
Evan Strand: It’s good. Tour’s been going real well. The shows have been progressing well. Normal catch ups here and there, with any kind of live performance, with just unforeseen things falling off things. But nothing serious. Everything’s moving along, more or less.
Is this is your first tour?
Evan Strand: Yeah. This is my first tour. My first real Broadway performance. I grew up on the stage, so I’m not unfamiliar with it, but one of my bigger musical theater shows. I did a little bit of musical theater throughout high school and college, but this is the big one.
How does it feel good to go from that to this? And Frozen, everybody wants to see Frozen.
Evan Strand: Everybody wants to see Frozen. Everybody loves all the characters. All the little girls want to be Elsa.
How did you get the part? Was Sven the role you were wanting to do?
Evan Strand: Well, I grew up doing classical ballet. I’ve been dancing my entire life, doing that, and really love the art form. Ballet’s definitely my favorite dancing medium. But living in LA, I realized that I needed to do something that had a little more weight to it, and a little bit more opportunity within the field. So I got into film acting, and I’ve been doing TV and film for several years now, and found quite good success with that so far, and all kinds of stuff. And still pursuing that.
But when this opportunity came… that Frozen was doing their national tour… I’ve always been one to look at what I want and just go for it. And when the tour came around to auditioning in LA, I told them, I’m like, “Hey look, I want to be either Hans or Sven. And I didn’t know at the time, but they had already found their Hans, so they just kind of went, “Go for Sven.” I went, “Okay, sounds good to me.” And I just danced. Simple as it is, that’s really all I did.
Everything was cast out of Los Angeles?
Evan Strand: I did the ensemble audition through my agency, and we did the big ensemble dance call, and then we did partnering, and then we did singing, and they made cuts throughout that. But as I mentioned, I told them, day one, when I first walked in, “Hey, I want to be considered for Sven.” I think they were looking at me to see what I could do, but also had kind of taken me out of that category, and weren’t really having me compete with everybody else in that sense.
And then, it’s actually kind of a funny story, when they called me last year, I guess it was in March, they said, “Hey, we got Sven auditions, final callbacks in New York, the second week of April, can you make it?” And I said, “No, I can’t.” I booked two other TV shows that were shooting that week, and I had already signed contracts with them, and I couldn’t just drop those contracts for an audition. So I was pretty heartbroken about it.
Evan Strand: I was really looking forward to going after this, and getting my hands on it. So the people I was communicating with, a week or two later, I wrote them an email and said, “Hey, I apologize for the way this worked out. It was not my intention. I did not foresee it going like this. I was really looking forward to this. Thank you so much for your time.” And just was very considered about, “Hey, I know you guys have been asking me to come. I’ve been asking. We’ve been trying to work this out. I’m sorry it didn’t work out.”
A couple of days, later they responded, “Well, we haven’t found Sven yet, can you come in May?” I said yes before I booked the plane ticket. I found a flight that day. I was in and out of New York in 23 hours, and I made it happen. I got out to the audition that time.
And there was about seven of us there, and they said that they knew pretty early on. They could tell. Once you got in and you walked around a little bit, they knew who they wanted. It’s was one of those things, especially for actors, ask for what you want and don’t ever give up. It’s never too late.
I’ve seen pictures of the costume that you wear. Can you describe what it feels like? It looks heavy and massive, and I know if it were me, I would just be a big, massive ball of sweat.
Evan Strand: You do sweat quite a bit, but the whole costume altogether, with the packs and everything, is about 80, 90 pounds.
But Michael Curry, who, his company is the one that designed the puppets, created the puppets, has been working with Disney for a long time, he did Lion King. So he’s familiar with this kind of operation, even though Sven is a really big step up in the puppet world and what it’s creating. But he did everything possible to really make it as light as he could. He was commenting that many other companies that have done similar things, their products would weigh 150 pounds. And at most, ours is about 80, 85. But that’s with the bag. Without the bag, the whole carapace and the body of Sven is only about 50, which is nice. But just operating within that, Curry did a phenomenal job of really slimming it to operate as easily as possible.
Do you have to have people help you get the costume on before and after the show, or even during intermission?
Evan Strand: Yeah. I have two guaranteed dressers with me at all times, because it would be impossible for me to get in and out by myself. I have to have help. There’s just too many hooks, too many zippers, too many clips that I have to get into, that my head’s limited, my hands are limited. I need help.
It says that you play Sven at certain performances. Is it so rigorous that doing like the whole run of the week… are you doing eight shows a week on tour?
Evan Strand: Yeah. So the tour, the show is just like Broadway. And we are a double cast because when Andrew Pirozzi, who originated the role, they were work-shopping it in Denver. He’s a strong guy. He’s very talented. And from what I understand, he was like, “Oh, I could do eight shows.” After a few weeks, went, “Eh, maybe I’ll do six.” And then after a few more weeks, he went, “Let’s do four and four.” And it is, it’s just such a physically demanding role that… I firmly believe that it’s a little bit less about conditioning and not being strong enough to do it eight shows a week, and more so that there isn’t enough time between each show, if you do eight, to actually have the body recover.
That’s the hardest thing to train. Because the physical strength, give us enough time to condition and train. I know several people, a handful of people that would be capable of doing it, but it’s the return, the muscular return, that we have to pay attention to, for the human body to extend for a year, two years, three years. If we only did this one week, yeah. You can do it. Fine. But we’re looking at a much longer lifespan than just a week or two.
What are you doing on your days off while you’re on tour? Just hanging out and going around each city and sightseeing?
Evan Strand: Yeah, depends on the city. Sometimes I’ll go sightseeing. We did a lot of sightseeing in Seattle. Being from LA, I just went home while we were there. I saw my family and whatnot. But otherwise, I do spend a lot of time… sometimes I did wake up, and I go, “You know what? I don’t want to do anything today.” And I’ll just rest. Maybe I’ll go find a massage, or a spa, and relax a little bit. Or just take the day off and lounge a little bit.
That sounds like the perfect day anytime.
Evan Strand: Yeah, right?
Like you said, you were a ballet dancer before you got the role. How did that training… has that helped you play Sven?
Evan Strand: Certainly. I feel like everything I’ve done has helped me play Sven. And I try to incorporate… and a big reason why I became an actor is because I have so many extracurricular things I do. It’s the only place I’ve been able to incorporate everything I do into what I do.
Growing up, I grew up in Huntington Beach. I performed and trained with Southland Ballet Academy, Festival Ballet Theater, right there in Fountain Valley. And the ballet training for strength, the focus, being on the stage, understanding how the stage operates, where to look, where to be, not upstaging people, knowing my placement in the environment, and making sure I’m aware of what my surroundings are is a huge factor that developed through my ballet. Absolutely.
How long are you contracted to be in the show?
Evan Strand: All principals are contracted for a year, so we’re scheduled through till November 8, 2020, so far.
When you’re done with the show are you going to head back to LA? Or are you going to maybe go to New York? What’s your sort of future plans? Have you thought about it?
Evan Strand: I’m open to all kinds of things. I reserve the right to make any decisions right now, because it’s too early in the contract to figure anything out. I’m constantly working on my craft. I’m still taking voice lessons, and I’m plunking around with the piano when I can, and doing other little creative things just for myself. But I’m studying movies, still focusing on my acting training, and going out for what I can, just to keep everything sharp. We’ll see what comes up. The acting industry has always been such a flexible, so to speak, industry that you never really know what happens.
Believe me, don’t I know it.
Evan Strand: Theoretically, I could be on tour for five years. But the other side of the coin is, six months from now I book a TV series, or another play in New York, or a show in New York. It’s a lead and it’s a better gig, and we figure everything out, and I go do that instead.