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Person of the Week
North Haven’s Gabrielle Carrubba Ready to Return to Broadway
North Haven native Gabrielle Carrubba made her Broadway debut right out of college in the original cast of Dear Evan Hansen as an understudy, later playing the role of Zoe Murphy. (Photo courtesy of Gabrielle Carrubba)
Gabrielle Carrubba has had a love of performing for as long as she could remember. She began dancing when she was five years old, spent her 7th-grade year in a Broadway national tour of Annie, and found her calling in the school musicals at North Haven High School.
Gabi knew she wanted to further her theater career and she moved to New York City after graduation. After a short time, she realized she needed more training and was accepted to the Boston Conservatory. Upon graduating, she earned a spot on Broadway as an understudy in Dear Evan Hansen, later taking on the role of Zoe Murphy.
“Throughout it all, my love of performing remained consistent and being on stage has always been so fun,” says Gabi. “All I wanted to do was perform every night. I’d gone on as understudy plenty of times, but I wanted to play the part full-time and thankfully I was able to do that.”
Unfortunately COVID-19 brought productions to a screeching halt, darkening the lights of Broadway. Despite the disappointment of the past year, Gabi has worked to make the most of her time.
Prior to COVID, she was performing in eight shows a week—sometimes two in one day—with Mondays off. In addition to the grueling schedule, Gabi says that Dear Evan Hansen is a “very emotional” show, which was also taxing.
“I’ve been using this time to slow down, take note of the things that I need, and figure things out day by day,” says Gabi, who lives in New York City. “This pandemic has forced me to reassess my life. I’ve been auditioning for TV, film, and voiceovers—anything I can do to keep the creative juices flowing. I try to fill each day with purpose and intention.”
She has also focused some of her creative efforts into new hobbies such as photography and videography. Gabi treated herself to a new camera and has spent time practicing her technique by photographing her friends and sharing the images on Instagram @gabitakespicturesofyou.
Of course, Gabi also makes time for singing each day, whether it’s for herself or for her students. She has been teaching voice lessons via Zoom and has students all over the world, passing on the knowledge she has gained throughout her career and the voice lessons she continued to take while part of Dear Evan Hansen.
“Whenever I feel sad about the situation, I’ll have a voice lesson with a student and they’re so passionate about theater that it’s inspiring,” says Gabi. “I’ve always paid close attention to what worked for me and what didn’t. It’s valuable to be able to learn from someone with knowledge of performing and the stamina it takes.”
Gabi has also gotten involved in helping her community during the pandemic. Early on, she began Googling ways to help, wanting to focus her efforts close to home. She discovered Upper Manhattan Mutual Aid for COVID-19, which has a goal of neighbors providing support to neighbors.
The group has focused on reaching out to neighbors in need and doing what they can to purchase and deliver groceries, medicines, and other items to those in need. While some volunteers do the shopping and delivery, Gabi has focused on helping on the remote side through fundraising and marketing for the cause.
“I was frustrated one day and looking for ways to help and this came up right here in Washington Heights,” says Gabi. “What better way to help and be hands-on than to work directly with local residents?”
When it comes to returning to the stage, Gabi and her colleagues continue to wait for a plan. She hopes that with the rollout of the vaccine, she will be able to return to the stage in Dear Evan Hansen.
“We’ve had a full house since opening so in the beginning, when they were limiting capacities, it was weird to see empty seats, but people love the show so much that I’m confident Dear Evan Hansen will come back,” says Gabi. “The theater is left in the dark right now. I recently went to Times Square to get stuff out of my dressing room and it was an actual ghost town. They can figure out how to have the Super Bowl but can’t figure out a plan for theater. We’re waiting for people understand that this is our livelihood.”
A lifelong Dream
Gabi has worked toward this livelihood since she was little. Gabi began dancing at five years old, spending every day at the dance studio and participating in competitions. She attended school in Wallingford until her family moved to North Haven before her freshman year.
“It didn’t matter where I went to school, I could always come back to my dance studio,” says Gabi. “Dance was my hobby and my sport.”
Though she was part of a national Broadway tour in 7th grade, after she returned, she thought she was done with theater. Her family then moved to North Haven, though, where Gabi immediately enrolled in chorus classes.
Ashley Hahn was the chorus teacher at the time and through those classes and her involvement in the school musicals, Gabi’s love of theater was reignited. She felt the support from Hahn and the rest of the staff at North Haven High School.
“I took every choir class you could be in and was in the musicals—it was my life and made me what I am,”
Gabi says. “I always knew I could sing, but Miss Hahn reinforced technique and singing as a group, while expanding my mind to Broadway and choral music. She always welcomed me. If it wasn’t for her, I wouldn’t be as into theater as I am now.”
Gabi often spent her lunch period singing in Hahn’s classroom while Hahn played the piano. Gabi also helped start an all-female a capella group, finding her place among like-minded students.
“Chorus and choir was such a safe place,” says Gabi. “At that point, I realized I’m never going to be cool and embraced being the theater nerd. We were all so close and loved being there.”
In addition to being inspired by Hahn, Gabi remembers being encouraged by her guidance counselor, Melissa Griffin, as well as her teachers and the principal. The support she has felt over the years started long before her high school career, though, as her parents, Michael and Michelle, and her sister, Olivia, have always been there for her.
“Everyone at North Haven High School let me be what I was meant to be,” says Gabi. “ It was such a good school and it’s home to me. Miss Griffin even came to see Dear Evan Hansen and that was a really full-circle moment.
“My sister is my best friend in the whole world,” adds Gabi, whose family now lives in East Haven. “My parents have always encouraged me and instilled in me that you can be whoever you want to be.”
When Gabi thinks about the future, she hopes to originate a role in a musical and land a role in a movie or a television series. For now, though, she is counting down until she can return to the stage.
“I love doing this so much that working at it and practicing is fun for me,” says Gabi. “To me, there’s no difference between Broadway and the stage at North Haven High School because as long as I’m performing, I’m truly happy.
Jenn McCulloch is the Correspondent for Zip06. Email Jenn at .