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UCLA alumnus Erin Dubreuil brings talent, passion to musical theater

Erin Dubreuil (right) plays Liesl alongside Brandon Keith Rogers (left) as Rolf in “The Sound of Music.” The alumnus said she has maintained a passion for musical theater since she was a child. (Courtesy of Caught in the Moment photography)

By Julianne Le

Nov. 25, 2023 12:08 p.m.

This post was updated Nov. 26 at 7:00 p.m.

Erin Dubreuil has found her community underneath the spotlight.

The alumnus and actress recently completed her run as Liesl in Musical Theatre West’s fall production of “The Sound of Music.” First falling in love with the performing arts at a young age, Dubreuil said she has carried her passion for theater far beyond her time at UCLA with roles in a number of musicals. After winning front row seats to see “Wicked” at the Hollywood Pantages Theatre at 13 years old, she knew she was meant to step onstage, she said.

“I was just in complete awe, and I was like, ‘Wow, I have to do this. This is absolutely what I have to do,’” Dubreuil said.

[Related: UCLA alumni bring passion and kindness to ‘Mean Girls’ musical tour ensemble]

Reflecting on the moment, Dubreuil said this fateful experience helped catalyze her passion for theater. From then on, annual theater productions in elementary and middle school offered her the space to explore her interest in performing, she said. When scheduling conflicts eventually forced Dubreuil to choose between gymnastics and theater as a child, she said it was clear to both her and her mother that she would be retiring her leotard.

Performing remained a priority of Dubreuil’s throughout her time at Mater Dei High School in Santa Ana, said MDHS’s current Vice President of School Relations, Scott Melvin. When Dubreuil attended MDHS, Melvin knew her as one of his choir students. The school’s production of “West Side Story” solidified Melvin’s impression of Dubreuil’s performing capabilities despite her role as an ensemble member, Melvin added.

“The carriage and the effort that she brought to that … role is what sealed it for me,” Melvin said. “I knew she was phenomenal, I knew she was great, but … I saw her take the moment to build a character in something where a character is on the stage for ten seconds.”

Melvin said he does not encourage most students to pursue a career in musical theater, though Dubreuil was an exception to his rule because of her immense talent and passion. After graduating from MDHS in 2013, Dubreuil joined the UCLA School of Theater, Film and Television. She starred as the titular character in the university’s 2017 production of “Carrie” during her fourth year as a theater student, she said. During this period of her theatrical career, she imagined her future self remaining in the industry while still living in Southern California, Dubreuil said.

“I think there were a few unknowns for me,” Dubreuil said. “But I honestly think what I viewed the next few years of my career to be like is almost kind of how it turned out – where I worked regionally at a bunch of regional theaters around the Southern California area, local places.”

In an industry where inconsistent job opportunities are the norm, Dubreuil’s resume of roles exists as a hopeful outlier, she said. She is a longtime member of Long Beach’s Musical Theatre West community, having appeared in their productions of “9 to 5,” “The Wizard of Oz” and “The Sound of Music.” Dubreuil completed her run as Liesl in the company’s fall production of “The Sound of Music,” which was directed by Wayne Bryan and ran from Oct. 20 to Nov. 5.

The show featured the well-known story of a singing family’s interactions with their new governess set in 1938 Austria. Bryan said its central themes included immigration and displacement, family dynamics and newfound romances. He added that he worked with the cast to ensure their performances were informed by the musical’s historical context. Bryan, who has produced and directed “The Sound of Music” multiple times in the past, described Dubreuil as the best Liesl he had ever seen, he said.

“Erin did all of that without any saccharine falseness, without anything dishonest at all in the performance,” Bryan said. “Erin as Liesl became increasingly protective of her young siblings, and Erin was really good about being this offstage as well as on.”

Dubreuil’s care for the production extends beyond the scenes taking place on the stage, Bryan said. The theatrical aspect of community is essential to her experience as an actress, Dubreuil said, having gained various close friends and mentors through different productions.

“Whether you’re onstage, whether you’re backstage, whether you’re in the offices, there’s a lot of people and a lot of work that have to all combine to create an amazing production,” Dubreuil said. “I think a lot of people don’t realize just how many layers there are, even from months before the preparation or the getting the rights for a show.”

Dubreuil said the difference between choosing to book a job in one production versus another can result in a domino effect within a performer’s career. For instance, she said that a 2018 production of “42nd Street” at Palos Verdes Performing Arts introduced her to fellow actress Alissa Wilsey. The two performers met as costars and are now best friends who still enjoy playing trivia together five years later, Dubreuil added.

[Related: Award-winning alumnus incorporates storytelling, Indigenous culture in costuming]

Even as an adult, Dubreuil said the magic she noticed as a child in the front row of the Pantages still exists today. Playing Elphaba, the protagonist of “Wicked,” remains her dream role, she said. Looking ahead, Dubreuil said the nature of musical theater careers leaves performers with guaranteed uncertainty, heavily influencing her wishes for the future. Despite this, the feelings of fulfillment and “pure happiness” after a successful production continue to drive her relationship with her craft, she added.

“I hope that (the future) holds consistent work,” Dubreuil said. “I think that’s one of the things that a lot of actors are hopeful for. Just to work and to get to create art and to get to hopefully make an impact on people that come to see shows.”

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Julianne Le
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