BWW Interview: Jessica Phillips Talks Taking DEAR EVAN HANSEN On Tour
Jessica Phillips (Heidi Hansen) has established herself as one of Broadway's premiere leading ladies over the past several years. Broadway credits include: Leap of Faith opposite Raul Esparza, Priscilla Queen of the Desert, Next to Normal, Jesus Christ Superstar (25th anniversary revival), and The Scarlet Pimpernel.
Her regional work includes Deathless, It's Only Life, Into the Woods, Thoroughly Modern Millie, and the starring role in the Williamstown Theatre Festival production of Michael Friedman's Unknown Soldier in 2015. Jessica's film and television credits include La Vida Inesperada, The Impostors, Absent Mind, "Elementary," "Royal Pains," "Unforgettable," "The Ordained," "Bronx Warrants," and, most notably, 4 seasons as A.D.A. Pippa Cox on "Law & Order, SVU." In 2015, Jessica appeared as a featured vocalist for ASCAP's 100th Anniversary Celebration of New Music at The Kennedy Center honoring, among others, Benj Pasek and Justin Paul. In addition to stage and screen, Jessica's voice can be heard on multiple cast albums and on iTunes with her band 10th& Carlisle.
What's it like bringing Dear Evan Hansen to audiences across America?
Dear Evan Hansen fans are so diverse, so passionate, so dialed in - it's been amazing to meet people from every region and absorb the impact this piece is having on them. It never gets old hearing someone say to me at the stage door, "I've been waiting for two years to see this show and even though I know every word of every song from the cast recording, seeing it was better than I ever imagined."
The show started out in West Coast cities, and now you're moving east - do you see a difference in East vs. West coast audiences? Do certain things get different reactions?
Yes! There are some audiences that have tended to respond more to certain moments in the show. For example, Los Angeles loved my Trader Joe's dumplings line, Des Moines gave a consistently audible reaction to Cynthia's "Evan, you call and tell your mother when you spend the night" line. Every city we've played has a noticeably unique personality.
You're one of the adult cast members on a tour with a lot of young people - do you find little bits of Heidi in your day to day interactions off stage?
Oh, for sure, and I love it. In fact, my real life 18-year-old son tells me he likes watching the sweet relationship I have with Ben, my fictional 18-year-old son, when we interact away from the theatre. Phoebe Koyabe ("Alana") and my son have become friends and they hang out when my family visits. We are truly a family in every sense of the word.
Heidi experiences a lot of strong emotions throughout the show, especially in Act 2 in the space between Good For You and So Big/So Small. Does performing this show take a big emotional toll?
Yep, yep, yep, the second act wrings me out but I don't view that as a negative thing. Some days it can actually be cathartic when I'm processing out my own grief, or feeling fragile, or frustrated, or even when I'm feeling great and have tremendous gratitude those theatrical moments are opportunities to slow down and be present.
What are some ways you try and leave Heidi at the theatre?
I tend to stick with a post-show routine of going straight home to unwind. I like to catch up on television shows at night, then crawl into bed with a book. Those moments of solitude are valuable.
What's your favorite moment in the show?
Probably riding off on the couch after So Big So Small when the gorgeous transition music is swelling, and my heart is swelling from the connection we made in the scene. It's beautiful and moving and really satisfying.
What are you looking forward to next on tour? Any cities you're especially excited about?
I can't wait to get to Boston where I lived for 4 years when I was at Emerson College!
If you could give Heidi and Evan one bit of advice each, what would it be?
To them both I say YOU'RE ENOUGH, YOU'RE ENOUGH, YOU ARE SO ENOUGH!
If you could play any other character in the show, who would it be and why?
Oh I think probably Jared because who doesn't love to make people laugh?
Why should audiences come to see Dear Evan Hansen on tour?
This group is so very special, the performances so incredibly potent, the magic inside the relationships so palpable. Even if you've seen the show before, you haven't taken the ride with us and we're so proud to bring it to your city!
The winner of six 2017 Tony Awards, including Best Musical, Dear Evan Hansenfeatures a book by Tony Award-winner Steven Levenson, a score by Grammy®, Tony® and Academy Award® winners Benj Pasek and Justin Paul (La La Land, The Greatest Showman), and direction by four-time Tony Award nominee Michael Greif (Rent, Next to Normal).
The tour, now playing at Chicago's James M. Nederlander Theatre through March 10th, has broken numerous records across the country. The tour recouped its investment at a remarkable pace-after only 12 weeks on tour. It also shattered previously-held weekly box office records at the Ahmanson Theatre in Los Angeles and was the first show in Ahmanson Theatre history to gross more than $2M in a single playing week. The show also became the highest-grossing week in the history of San Francisco's Curran this December and sold out all available inventory during presales in one day in Tempe, Arizona.
For a full list of touring cities, tickets, and more visit dearevanhansen.com.