Tony Award and Grammy-winning musical “Dear Evan Hansen” has been lauded as a groundbreaking theatrical production for its depiction of teenagers dealing with social anxiety and mental illness.
But, the production also offers a peek into something else we rarely see on stage: realistic depictions of motherhood.
Jessica Phillips plays Heidi Hansen, the single mother of the title character who is attempting to raise her child while excelling in her career, and Christiane Noll plays Cynthia Murphy, a mother attempting to put her family and her life back together in the wake of her son’s suicide, which happens early on in the show.
In the first song of the musical, “Does Anybody Have a Map,” Phillips and Noll as Hansen and Murphy express their fears and uncertainty about how to connect with and protect their children. Unlike the glamorized depictions of motherhood the we see on the internet and in television shows these days, this song and these characters depict the vulnerability that most real mothers deal with.
Noll and Phillips are both parents themselves, which they say has profoundly informed their performances. “When you see an actor who is a parent and one who is not, there’s a difference,” says Noll. “Parents are used to having their hearts ripped out and stomped on.”
“As a parent, I’m inundated every day with blogs and social media and fellow parents who seem to have it all together,” says Phillips. “It leaves, I think, a lot of parents feeling like, ‘Why don’t I have it together? Why am I not excelling this way?’ It is so crucial for us to see reflected in art these qualities in ourselves.”
Phillips spent part of her childhood in Auburn, Massachusetts, and is an alum of Worcester Academy and Emerson College, where she studied with esteemed faculty like Scott Wheeler and Leo Nickole. Phillips says she’s excited to come back to her childhood home.
“It’s the cherry on top of a very sweet sundae,” she says. “This is near the end of the tour for me, and I’ve been looking forward to it the entire year.”
“Dear Evan Hansen” runs at the Citizens Bank Opera House from July 10 through August 4. Purchase tickets, here.