When the show is called Dear Evan Hansen, you’d expect Evan Hansen to get most of the attention. Which, in the Tony-award winning musical is mostly true. But there’s a character named Zoe, and to me, she’s the true heart of the show. Especially if you’re lucky enough to see her played by Canadian actress Stephanie LaRochelle, who along with the rest of the cast will be bringing Dear Evan Hansen to Calgary from February 18th to 23rd.
During the show’s recent stop in Dallas, I got the change to catch up with Stephanie and chat about how someone from Ottawa ended up starring in one of the most talked about shows in the world!
Mike Morrison: You play Zoe in Dear Evan Hansen. It’s such a cool role. How did you end up getting it?
Stephanie La Rochelle: This would’ve been a couple of years ago now. I got an email from my agent, and they asked if I wanted to go up for it. I actually didn’t know too much about it at the time. It had been on Broadway and all that stuff, but I wasn’t too familiar with it. So, I listened to some of the material and I had a few auditions in Toronto and then a final callback in New York. And here we are.
Mike Morrison: You’re from Ottawa, and you’re talking about auditioning in New York for these roles. What’s that journey like? Is that surreal?
Stephanie La Rochelle: It really was. I don’t think I’d ever been more nervous in my life to do that audition. But I grew up doing community theater and singing, and all that fun stuff. And after high school, I was supposed to go to college for musical theater, but I was swept up into a reality TV show on CBC.
Mike Morrison: Oh, which one?
Stephanie La Rochelle: It’s called Over the Rainbow.
Mike Morrison: Oh, yeah, of course.
Stephanie La Rochelle: And then that opened up doors, and then I started working in TV and film, and doing some singer/ songwriter stuff. But nothing on this scale.
Mike Morrison: What your reaction was when you got the part, like when they called. Was it a call? Was it text?
Stephanie La Rochelle: It was a call. I remember it. It was a summer day in Ottawa. I was actually going to meet a friend at Tim Hortons for a coffee. So Canadian. I had flown back from New York that night from the audition. And the plane was delayed. I got home at like 2:00 AM, so this was the next afternoon when I got the call. And my agent said, “Would you like to play Zoe?” I was very poised on the phone. But once I hang up, I freaked out a little bit.
Mike Morrison: Amazing. When I saw this production of the show, I was in awe. Most people might think that a touring show is not the same thing as Broadway, but this production is top of line, It’s an amazing production.
Stephanie La Rochelle: Yeah, there’s some pretty incredible actors. I’m very lucky to be a part of it.
Mike Morrison: This part of Zoe is like the steady hand in the show. Is that how you would describe it?
Stephanie La Rochelle: I’ve heard that a few times that people think Zoe grounds the show a little bit. For me, it’s very exciting to play… She’s such a complex character, and such a strong female character, which is really thrilling for me. And there’s just such a character arc. And it’s just really fun to play with that.
Mike Morrison: If someone hasn’t heard of Dear Evan Hansen, what’s something you can tell them about..A little nugget to get them to come check it out when it’s in Calgary?
Stephanie La Rochelle: Without giving too much away of the synopsis… so Evan Hansen is a boy struggling with social anxiety. He tells a lie to help a grieving family and that lie spirals out of hand. Social media plays a role into that.
Mike Morrison: That’s all you can tell, right?
Stephanie La Rochelle: I think that’s all I can say. I can’t spoil it. But it touches on mental health. There’s some great music, there is some very funny content. It’s all you’d ever want out of a musical.
Mike Morrison: I agree with that. It’s a very emotional musical. When you hear from the audience, is there a bit of a responsibility as an actor to carry this emotional show that talks about suicide and mental health, and all those sorts of things?
Stephanie La Rochelle: Yeah, we do get a lot of people online on social media and at the stage door even sharing their stories and opening up about their struggles, which is really, really special. And I’m just really proud to be a part of the show that is opening up that conversation and erasing that stigma surrounding mental health.
Mike Morrison: All right. Thanks so much. We’ll see you in Calgary.
Stephanie La Rochelle: Thank you!
Dear Evan Hansen runs in Calgary from February 18th to 23rd, 2020. Click here fore tickets and more info.