Pierce Wheeler took time out to talk to us about his role in the Dear Evan Hansen (hereinafter DEH) tour, and about his favorite things.
Ralph Malachowski: Pierce, tell us about yourself and what we can expect when DEH comes to Philadelphia.
Pierce Wheeler: I just turned 19 this month. I am so grateful to be starting my professional debut in this touring company. This tour has a completely new cast. We started in Boise, Idaho. The audiences were fantastic. Today, we’re in Ottawa, Ontario. It’s cool here, not like back home in Amityville, NY. We are all looking forward to Philadelphia. Many of us are looking forward to having a Philly cheesesteak in Philadelphia.
RM: Tell us more about DEH and the role you play in it.
PW: I am so lucky being the understudy for both Evan Hansen and Jared Kleinman, so I hope to have a chance to play both roles while in Philadelphia. So far, I’ve played Evan four times, and once in Los Angeles. I played Jared the last two Saturdays we were in Los Angeles.
I’ve learned so much watching Anthony Norman in the role of Evan Hansen. Jeffrey Cornelius is wonderful to work with. He is also an alternate cast member for Evan Hansen and Jared Kleinman.
RM: Your biography notes state that, among other things, your favorite film is Carrie, your influential actor is Nathan Lane, and Ben Platt as Evan Hansen was phenomenal. Tell us about the strange juxtaposition of Carrie v. DEH.
PW: Wow! When you put it together like that, it does seem … strange. I love the cinematic Carrie, not how she demonically destroys her classmates! DEH is a totally different story, and thankfully, with a very different ending.
I forgot about actors. I admire Nathan Lane’s work onstage and in cinema. I hope to have a fraction of his skill someday. Ben Platt, for sure. I saw DEH with him starring, as well as with two subsequent Evans in the role. Seeing DEH several times before now, and watching Anthony Norman now gives me insight into how I can play Evan. I’m just getting started in the role, and I welcome anything that might help me be a better actor.
RM: I won’t ask you what was your least favorite stop on the tour, but rather what city do you and some of the cast most look forward to playing?
PW: Funny you should ask me that! Just last night a group of us got together to talk about just that! As a gay man, I’ve heard that Philadelphia is a great gay party city, so I’m eager to find out for myself. After Philadelphia, which we are looking forward to, I would enjoy visiting Memphis, TN. I have never been. I would like to see the sights, hear the music, and taste the food. Right after we close in Philadelphia, we go straight to Washington, D.C. until September 25. Washington is a beautiful city I’ve visited and look forward to seeing again.
RM: After DEH, what roles would you like to explore? More theatre, TV? You know, Hamlet would be about your age.
PW: What a question! I am still living my dream in the touring company of DEH. We are booked into next year. Hamlet? No, I don’t think I am ready for all that. A role I’ve wanted to play is Claude in Hair.
RM: Pierce, are you ready for throngs of fans seeking your autograph or an item of your clothing in exchange for their gifts to you of car keys, Franklins secretly slipped to you with business cards, and airplane tickets at the stage door of the Forrest Theatre?
PW: What? That would be different. That would be great.
Dear Evan Hansen is at the Forrest Theatre, 114 Walnut Street, Philadelphia, until August 28. Running time listed as 2 hours and 35 minutes. Audience members should be 12 and over.