In “Dear Evan Hansen,” high school students go to great lengths to fit in with their peers, inventing backstories and relationships to help navigate their treacherous teen years. Ciara Alyse Harris, who plays Alana Beck in the musical’s North American touring company, says she can relate to her character’s desire to carve out a spot in her high school’s hierarchy.
“Her No. 1 thing is that she’s an overcompensator. She needs to show everyone that she’s the smartest person in the room. I can definitely relate to that,” says Harris, who is Black. “I went to an almost all-White school, and I felt like I had to prove my worth.”
Harris and the rest of the “Evan Hansen” cast will hit the stage at the San Jose Center for the Performing Arts June 8-19, when Broadway San Jose presents the show’s South Bay premiere.
Harris has been with the tour since 2018, picking it up again last November after a pandemic hiatus, during which she and her castmates ran lines virtually. “Evan Hansen” is her first North American tour.
During the show’s hiatus, Harris also kept up a blog and a podcast, which she says was “really informative and healthy.
“It was really good for me to try doing other things,” she adds.
In spite of keeping up with her dialogue and musical numbers, Harris says she still faced a learning curve when she stepped back into her role.
“The lines never really leave you, but the blocking does,” she adds. “I’ve been in the show for so long, and it was really fun coming at it in a different way.”
Harris got a real-life reminder about high school life recently when she taught a master class for teenagers.
“They’re dealing with the life I pretend to deal with on stage,” she says. “In high school we’re all reading the same book, and everything means the same thing to all of us.”
“Evan Hansen” was inspired by the experiences of Benj Pasek, the show’s lyricist, who witnessed his high school classmates tell false stories of being part of the life of a student who died of a drug overdose. The show’s title character inadvertently creates a link between himself and Connor, a student who committed suicide, leading Connor’s parents to embrace Evan in hopes of better understanding their late son and creating tension between Evan and his mom.
For Harris, this family dynamic is an important part of the show.
“Lots of parents can feel like they don’t know how to help their kids,” she says. “I think the show gives them good tools to help.”
“Dear Evan Hansen” runs June 8-19 at the San Jose Center for the Performing Arts, 255 S. Almaden Blvd. Tickets are $35-$175 at broadwaysanjose.com or 408-792-4111, or at the San Jose Civic box office, 150 W. San Carlos St.
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