You might already recognize Laura Dreyfuss as one of the twin cheerleaders from Glee’s final season, but her current critical acclaim has come by way of a much bigger stage: the Broadway production of Dear Evan Hansen.
In the musical, Dreyfuss plays Zoe Murphy opposite Pitch Perfect star Ben Platt. The story follows a boy struggling to find identity in high school (sound familiar?) when a white lie and classmate’s suicide change his life drastically. It’s become The Great White Way’s latest wild card, making its way from off-Broadway stages to the big time—smashing box offices all along the way. Some believe the music, written by La La Land lyricists Justin Paul and Benj Pasek, will follow a trajectory similar to Hamilton.
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Despite the growing acclaim, Dreyfuss finds herself star-struck by the play’s celebrity attendees like Melissa McCarthy, Tyra Banks, and even Dreyfuss’s idol, singer-songwriter Carole King.
“Honestly, I don’t think I formed coherent sentences,” Dreyfuss said of her encounter with King. “It was a chance to meet someone who has actually influenced the way I see the world. She looked at me and was like Do you want a picture? All I could manage to say was ‘Yes!’”
Dreyfuss’s small screen and Broadway roles both landed her back in high school battling teenage drama, bullies, slushies to the face, and other school-aged horrors. But she drew a more meaningful link between the two roles.
“Glee is about a bunch of theater dorks trying to perform songs and be liked by everybody,” she said. “Dear Evan Hansen has very different subject matter, but the themes are essentially the same. It’s about people who are outsiders desperately trying to connect.”
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Dreyfuss said that she’s proud that the musical is helping families (including her own) talk about tough topics. During a performance in D.C., the actress’ sister (who has two small children of her own) had to excuse herself to sit in a bathroom stall by herself and cry. She later told Dreyfuss that the musical hit home, saying that it’s a parent’s worst nightmare for your kid to be that unhappy.
Though it can be difficult to perform such an emotional musical again and again, after nearly three years of performing together, the cast found their own way to deal with the subject of grief: “This is a cast of comedians,” Dreyfuss said. “As soon as we get off stage we’re making each other laugh. It’s important to rely on one another to get through a dark subject matter like this.”
Hansen’s cast is extremely tight-knit, according to Dreyfuss, who’s formed a particularly special bond with costar Ben Platt. The duo has developed many rituals on their way to Broadway, like watching The Bachelor every week on their night off. “We’re obsessed. I think that’ll be something we do for as long as The Bachelor is on TV.”
Reality TV aside, Dreyfuss said she’s learned quite a bit from playing an imperfect character. “There are moments when I feel very vulnerable on stage. It feels like I’m showing ugly parts of myself through Zoe,” Dreyfuss said. “But I try to be unafraid of my own power. I don’t have to be this perfect love interest; I can be complex. As long as I’m bringing myself into the role, that’s what matters.”