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Life comes full circle for “Dear Evan Hansen” actor Phoebe Koyabe

Colette Greenstein
Colette Greenstein
Colette Greenstein has been a contributing arts & entertainment writer for the Banner since 2009. VIEW BIO
Life comes full circle for “Dear Evan Hansen” actor Phoebe Koyabe
Phoebe Koyabe. PHOTO: courtesy of Broadway In Boston

Phoebe Koyabe’s life has come full circle. The young woman who once said to other professional actors, “I want to do what you’re doing,” is now offering advice to other young actors and fans who approach her after performances in the first national touring production of “Dear Evan Hansen.” The Tony Award-winning musical, from the same songwriting team as the Oscar-winning “La La Land,” plays at the Citizens Bank Opera House in Boston July 10 through August 4.

Koyabe made her professional debut last year, at the age of 17, playing overachiever and “school busybody” Alana Beck in the touring production of the show. Now, she’s telling other young actors “I was you like six months ago,” she says in a recent phone interview with the Banner. “It’s really cool to be able to be like, ‘You can do this. It’s possible.’”

Born in rural France to a French mother and Kenyan father, Koyabe came to the U.S. as a toddler and was raised in the suburbs of Arizona. She was home-schooled as a child, and at the age of 9 enrolled in a theater workshop where she fell in love with musical theater.

Being home-schooled prepared her for life as an actor in ways that attending a regular school might not have. It gave the French-Kenyan a lot more time to develop her interest and sharpen her skills in creative areas like dance (including ballet, tap, jazz, contemporary and hip-hop), as well as voice and acting. “It was a big asset for me because it gave me more of the freedom an adult might have while still being in school,” says the now 18-year-old. “I think the biggest hurdle to overcome was time. Having flexibility of my schedule made a huge difference.”

Koyabe made her stage debut in a production of “Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat” at the Hale Center Theatre in Gilbert, Arizona. She also performed in regional productions of “Bring It On,” “Sister Act,” “Annie,” “Hairspray,” and “The Wiz.” In 2015, at age 13, she earned a spot on season two of “The Voice Kids France” during blind auditions with her stunning rendition of the Etta James classic, “Something’s Got A Hold on Me.”

When Koyabe landed the role of Alana, she had yet to see the musical. In fact, it wasn’t until the first week of rehearsals that she saw the show for the first time. But she considers that a plus. “I was familiar with the music, but I didn’t really know all of the scenes my character was in. I didn’t know the show. I hadn’t seen it, so it was a lot easier to kind of come in and give my own spin on it.”

Koyabe, who has trained and worked really hard to get to this point in her career, says that one of the most rewarding comments she can hear after seeing the show, is, “’I hadn’t noticed Alana before, and I noticed her this time,’ or ‘I hadn’t seen that she was alone, and I noticed it this time.’”

If you go

what: “Dear Evan Hansen”

where: Citizens Bank Opera House

when: July 10–August 4, as part of the 2018–2019 Lexus Broadway In Boston Season 

tickets: Tickets can be purchased at Ticketmaster by calling 800-982-2787; by visiting www.BroadwayInBoston.com; and at the Citizens Bank Opera House Box Office, located at 539 Washington Street in downtown Boston, Monday through Friday from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m.

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