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BWW Interview: Meet DEAR EVAN HANSEN's New Zoe Murphy, Gabrielle Carrubba!

Meet this understudy turned leading lady!

BWW Interview: Meet DEAR EVAN HANSEN's New Zoe Murphy, Gabrielle Carrubba!

Gabrielle Carrubba will sing a requiem tonight... and tomorrow night... and eight times a week after that. That's because the Dear Evan Hansen understudy has officially taken over the role of Zoe Murphy on Broadway.

Gabrielle, who replaces Mallory Bechtel, has understudied the role of Zoe (and Alana Beck) on Broadway and has gone on in the role, but this marks her official Broadway debut in a principle role. Her other credits include American Repertory Theater's Burn All Night, North Shore Music Theatre, and The Goodspeed Opera House's Festival of New Musicals (Sweetwater).

Below, Carrubba checks in with BroadwayWorld to tell us all about her first official week of performances, what she loves about Zoe, and so much more!

I know that your first official show as Zoe was last week. How exciting was that for you?

I still just can't even believe that this is real life! All of Tuesday I would just randomly start laughing and say, "Is this real?" [Laughs] I was an understudy before this, so when I would find out I had to go on, it could be a day's notice or an hour's notice. But now I have so much time!

When did you first join the cast?

I started as a vacation cover in October [2018]. One of the understudies, Olivia Puckett, went on vacation and I came in for three weeks, learned Zoe and Alana, was there for the performance week, then I left. Then I found out a couple of weeks later that they wanted me to come back and be an understudy full-time.

How many times would you say you've been on as an understudy?

I actually made my Broadway debut as Alana. Then a week later I made my debut as Zoe. I probably went on 20 times? Maybe more, maybe less.

I think you have such an interesting perspective, being able to really study the character up close for so long...instead of being thrown right in like so many other people are.

I had the best teachers. Mallory Bechtel played Zoe so gracefully and so beautifully. It's such an acting lesson just to learn from her. There is such an idea of theatre being so performative and over the top and really playing a character. I got to learn from Mallory, who really just existed and trusted herself that her essence was enough. I think me being a completely different person... I can now trust that I am enough. My Zoe is completely different from hers, but I got to learn so much in just watching her and Laura [Dreyfuss] and Olivia [Puckett] and all of the other women who have had the honor to play her. And I can say, "Oh, I take a little bit of that! And I can sprinkle a little bit of that too."

It obviously would have been a dream to originate this role, but I cannot image not learning about this complex young lady from someone like Mallory. She taught me so much. And our associate directors and director and really everyone on the team have been so helpful in letting me navigate this. They've given me freedom to make it my own.

That's a wonderful gift!

I know! And it's so different as an understudy. When I just started rehearsals, our director Michael Greif said, "If this doesn't feel natural to you, then change it." Whereas three months ago, learning it as an understudy, I had to do everything exactly how Mallory did it. And now my understudy, I cannot believe that I can even say that [Laughs], gets to study my show. That is really a full circle moment.

How would you describe your Zoe? What do you love about her?

I think Zoe is the epitome of empathy. No one really understands Evan Hansen the way that Zoe does. I think that's why they fall in love. She just understands him and can make him feel safe just with a look. They can communicate without words. It's such a beautiful relationship, especially because I think it's their first love. At lest that's my interpretation- that they are each other's first everything.

I think another amazing thing about Zoe is that she is confident without really knowing it. That is what makes her so lovable. But she's also so smart and socially aware. Sometimes I think she's the smartest person on that stage. I'm sure every other character would disagree! She's so mature for being 17. You can't be taught that, she just is. It's so awesome to discover that part of myself too- to trust in her.

Do you remember the first time you saw or heard this show?

Uh, yes! [Laughs] My first time hearing about it was when I was at school and someone said, "You know, you'd be really good in this role!" and I was like, "Oh god, don't say that to me." Because every time someone says that to me I get totally obsessive. I remember being on a plane and I listened to the whole cast recording like ten times. And I kept listening to "Requiem" over and over and over. I was like, "Oh, I am going to sing this song one way or another!"

So I was in college while I was auditioning, and I never got to see it until I officially joined as a vacation cover. I had the privilege of watching Taylor Trensch do Evan Hansen and I remember not being well! I was so unwell! [Laughs] I went backstage and I hugged Mallory and Taylor. Everyone on that stage gives 110% every single night. You can't not give your whole heart with this material, or else it won't honor how brilliant it is. I watched it every night for about a month and that did not go well for my emotional state. And in watching it over and over, I saw myself in it more and more.

This show really resonates with people. Do you feel that in the audience?

The only time that I really get to see the audience is at the end of the show, when I'm walking onstage for the orchard scene. There is a moment of stillness when I am sitting on that bench and I can hear the crying in the audience. And I think, "Ah, we did it!" It's not about making people cry or making them upset, we just want to tell the story truthfully. I know that any person in the audience can empathize with any of these characters at any point in their life. It takes a really good show to do that. It's so honest and heart-wrenching. Some days I watch and I say, "Oh god, I'm such a Larry Murphy today." That's the beauty of it. You can see yourself in anyone. It's the most cathartic experience ever.

Do you have a favorite moment in the show?

Me and Andrew [Barth Feldman]'s favorite moment is in the scene in "Waving Through a Window" when Zoe and Even talk to each other for the first time. Evan is word vomiting and Zoe is just taking it in. It's this moment when you can see her not judge him. In the scenes before, everyone is making Evan feel small, and in this one she is just taking him in. It sets the ground for their relationship.

And the audience really gets their first sense of who she is in that scene.
Exactly. Also the scene before "Good for You" is one of my favorites. The writing leaves you biting your nails. It's so awkward! It brings out such visceral responses. Every scene has something that will tug at you... until the big release.

What are you most looking forward to in the months ahead?

I think I'm looking forward to making it my own and learning from her, growing with her, growing in her. I am so excited to see how much I can bring to her and how much Zoe can bring to me. I want to play and hav fun and trust that it will be different every night. I want to trust that there is no right way- that I can trust my instincts. And that is enough.

Dear Evan Hansen is currently playing on Broadway at the Music Box Theatre.

A letter that was never meant to be seen, a lie that was never meant to be told, a life he never dreamed he could have. Evan Hansen is about to get the one thing he's always wanted: A chance to finally fit in. Both deeply personal and profoundly contemporary, Dear Evan Hansen is the new American musical about life and the way we live it.

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