With two teens of her own at home, Jessica Phillips feels deeply connected to Heidi Hansen, the mom she portrays in "Dear Evan Hansen," on stage at Citizens Bank Opera House in Boston, July 10-Aug. 4.
"I have two Evan Hansens at home (sons Jonah, 18, and Malcolm, 15), so I really relate to Heidi — I see so much of myself in her," said Phillips, who grew up in Worcester, during a phone interview from Cleveland.
"Dear Evan Hansen," the ground-breaking show that won the Tony Award for Best Musical two years ago, has struck a chord with audiences and critics all over. It delves into teenage angst and anxiety set against modern-day life, where social media rules. Evan, a teen with few friends, writes a letter that was never meant to be seen, then tells a lie that was never meant to be told. And that leads to him having a life he never dreamed he could have and finally being able to fit in.
Heidi Hansen, Evan's single mom, is totally relatable, Phillips said.
"She's worked hard to be a good mom, but she swings all over the place," Phillips said. "She loves him fiercely but doesn't know how to connect with him."
The show resonates with audiences because they can connect with everyone
they see on stage.
"Kids see traits in themselves in all the characters," Phillips said. "And the adult characters resonate with people, too."
The two moms — Heidi and Cynthia — are like "two sides of the same coin and reflect each other," she noted. "Even though Cynthia is affluent and Heidi a single mom, they are both grappling with the same issues."
Phillips graduated from Worcester Academy and Emerson College. Her Broadway resume includes "Leap of Faith," "Priscilla Queen of the Desert," "Next to Normal" and "Jesus Christ Superstar"(the 25th anniversary revival). On television, she has appeared as ADA Pippa Cox on "Law and Order SVU" for four seasons, plus has been in "Royal Pains" and "Elementary."
She looks forward to bringing "Dear Evan Hansen" to Boston, reconnecting with friends and seeing more of her sons.
"The first months were a challenge on tour, since we were on the West Coast and flew out every three to four weeks," she said. "But they have grown up with me performing, so they are used to it."
Her boys have seen the show numerous times and love it.
"The first time they saw it, they elbowed each other and said, 'Mom actually says that.' The writing is so real, it's fascinating," Phillips said.
Tickets start at $49.50 and are available at 800-982-2787 or by visiting www.BroadwayInBoston.com.
Nancye Tuttle's email address is firstname.lastname@example.org.