Interview with ‘Dear Evan Hansen’ actors Christopher Anthony and Ciara Alyse Harris
For Stephen Christopher Anthony and Ciara Alyse Harris, starring in the nationwide tour of a Tony Award-winning Broadway musical after the pandemic shut down the industry for two years is a dream come true.
It’s even better to do it in their hometown.
Anthony and Harris, both Miami natives and New World School of the Arts alumni, lead the cast of Dear Evan Hansenwhich runs through February 20 at the Adrienne Arsht Center for the Performing Arts.
Anthony, who plays the lead role, grew up in Palmetto Bay and says days at the beach with his family are his favorite childhood memories of living here. After attending New World in high school, he studied musical theater at Florida State University and has since performed on Broadway and in national tours and regional productions.
As a child, Anthony remembers sitting in the audience at the Arsht Center to see The light in the square, an experience he describes as “life-changing”. Now he returns to the scene as an interpreter.
“It’s quite surreal to step onto this theater stage where I was so inspired to pursue my career,” Anthony said.
Harris, who plays Alana Beck on the show, grew up in Miami Gardens. Theater, baseball and Miami were central to his upbringing. (His father, Lenny Harris, was a member of the Marlins’ World Series championship team in 2003.) Just two months after graduating from the University of Cincinnati College-Conservatory of Music in 2018, Harris booked the role on the Dear Evan Hansen national tour.
Harris says growing up in such a diverse environment, especially going to the New World, was a must.
“Growing up in Miami at this school really helped me become an individual artist,” she explains. “It’s something I took for granted once I went to school in Cincinnati, where there weren’t as many people of color and there weren’t as many kids. black.”
Dear Evan Hansen, which explores mental health and its intersection with social media, centers on a teenager on the fringes of high school social life who, in an effort to fit in, finds himself caught in a spiral of lies. It made its Broadway debut in 2016 and won six Tony Awards and a Grammy.
“It’s an important topic of conversation for families, children, and people with mental health issues,” Harris says. “We’re just humans trying to be human, and it can get really easy to feel like we’re the only ones feeling what we’re feeling.”
The cast is only here for a week, and most of that time will be spent in rehearsals and performances. But while they’re at home, Anthony and Harris will visit family and show other cast members around Miami.
Harris, who spent the pandemic in South Florida, plans to get a massage with her mother at the Fontainebleau and have a meal at her favorite local restaurant, the Houston Steakhouse.
“We’re all excited to be around culture and really good food,” she says.
Anthony is also ready to taste the house.
“I’m hoping for at least a good breakfast at Sergio’s,” he says, “and maybe a good late night trip to Los Perros.”
After the race in Miami, the tour is expected to stop in 20 other cities. Anthony and Harris say they are beyond thrilled to be back on stage.
Anthony has been part of the cast since the tour began in 2018, and when COVID shut it down in March 2020, he was scared for the future. (Dear Evan Hansen was originally planned for the Arsht Center in the spring of 2021.)
“I did one thing since I was 11, and it disappeared overnight,” Anthony says. “I embraced the slower pace; I learned to be happy with less. And I think that kind of gentle acceptance made me even more open to sharing my heart more deeply as Evan.”
The tour relaunched on December 7 in Greensboro, North Carolina. For Anthony, returning to the stage was daunting.
“After two years of isolation, the idea of standing up in front of thousands of strangers and baring my soul was very alien and daunting. But once we opened, I felt like home,” says- he. “And we’re giving it absolutely everything, because we realize how quickly it can all go away overnight.”
So far, Harris says, the show has gone without a major COVID outbreak. The casting is tested every day.
“We’ve been so safe, but of course it’s very scary. I mean, we already have these very fleeting jobs,” Harris says. “There are a lot of things that we constantly think about. But all we can do is keep moving forward and be grateful.”
Besides the fact that two leads are locals, Anthony and Harris want Miamians to see the show for its powerful message.
“I hope you come out and give your hometown boy a big round of applause,” Anthony says. “But also because after the two years we’ve had, we all need to know that we’re not alone. We need a place to come together and laugh and cry and hopefully come back to life. having good conversations.”
Dear Evan Hansen. 8 p.m. from Wednesday February 16 to Friday February 18; 2 p.m. and 8 p.m. Saturday February 19 and 1 p.m. and 7 p.m. Sunday February 20; at the Adrienne Arsht Center for the Performing Arts, 1300 Biscayne Blvd., Miami; 305-949-6722; arshtcenter.org. Tickets cost between $40 and $135.