BWW Interviews: Sara Gettelfinger, THE ADDAMS FAMILY's Morticia Addams
Who is creepy, kooky, mysterious, spooky and altogether ooky? The Addams Family of course (snap snap). America's favorite family macabre has been a staple of pop culture ever since Charles Addams introduced us to Gomez, Morticia and their creepy clan in the pages of The New Yorker magazine.
Atlanta audiences will have the chance to meet the latest incarnation of these fabulous characters when The Addams Family makes its way to the Fabulous Fox Theatre August 14 – 19. Portraying the cool and confident matriarch, Morticia, is Broadway veteran Sara Gettelfinger who sat down with me to talk about her experience with following her own dreams of being an actor.
BWW: Hi, Sara! How are you?
Sara Gettelfinger: I'm doing great!
Great, thanks! We're looking forward to the show coming to Atlanta!
We are excited to come there!
Can we start by hearing a little bit about how you got started in the theatre?
Well, I was bitten by the bug quite early. I did my first dance recital when I was two. My parents weren't maniacal stage parents, they noticed that I had coordination trouble so they put me in class to improve on my walking and skipping. I did my first professional production when I was 13 and conservatory for college. I was very young when I knew that was the direction I wanted to take my life. I was very lucky to have some great mentors who were able to suggest some wonderful programs that had great training and ties to New York for getting into the community once I was out of school.
And you have a very interesting musical background as well. Tell me a little about Three Graces.
After I finished Dirty Rotten Scoundrels I was invited by Universal Records to participate in this experiment that was to be a trio of one pop singer, one opera singer, and one broadway-style singer. They put me together with two lovely women, Joy Kabanuck and Kelly Levesque. We basically took two years, made and album and toured. It was a great experience. I learned so much about the record industry and a different style of singing and production that was a little bit of a departure from my typical theatre environment. It really taught me a lot about singing and collaborating and ended up being a really great asset even when I returned to the theatre community.
Was the type of music you produced something you were interested in already or was it an eye-opening experience for you?
It was the type of music I enjoyed, but not the type of music I had considered certainly from the writing end. So, it was a completely new learning experience, and a completely new set of tools that opened a new channel artistically.
So, lets talk a little about being part of a show like The Addams Family. I am sure many who come see the show are familiar with the TV show or the New Yorker cartoons. What can we expect from our favorite family macabre in the show? Familiar faces? Familiar themes? New twists?
There are very familiar faces, but the great thing about our show is it is very contemporary. It is very comedic and is a wonderful night at the theatre for all ages. It really has something for everyone in terms of families coming to see the show. It is a great way to introduce young people to the theatre. Definitely you will see all your favorite characters, hear some of your favorite lines and some of your favorite music, but they bring a really nice contemporary story to the table with some twists and turns that aren't necessarily something that you have seen before. So, we manage to give everybody what they will be looking for in terms of what they know and love, but we bring our own twist to it.
What drew you to be a part of this musical?
It was the part mainly, but a big part of it was the creative team. I had worked with the director, Jerry Zaks before and had adored that experience. I was a huge fan of the composer and the writers and the choreographer. Andrew Lippa was our composer, Marshall Brickman and Rick Elice who did Jersey Boys, were our writers, and Sergio Trujillo has been a dear friend of mine and I have been a fan of his work for years. So it sort of felt like the dream team from the production end. And Morticia is this fabulous iconic character that really presents lovely challenges for an actor. She is this independent, sexy, unique individual but at the same time there is a huge part of her that just wants to be, in the vein of Donna Reed, a very good mother running a successful household with a successful relationship with her children and spouse. So, there are many levels to try and tackle when you play her.
And with a family as strange and odd as the Addams, there seem to be certain universal themes that everyone can relate to.
I think that is part of the reason people have loved this family for so many years in so many formats. When you go to see a story about The Addams Family or enjoy the cartoon they are definitely going to provide a sense of escapism as far as stepping into a bizarre and kooky world. At the same time they are incredibly relatable and you are going to find parts of yourself that you recognize, even in their absurd environment. I think that is part of the reason why people love them.
And people realize that every family has its quirks.
Exactly! And that ties into a big theme of our show: "Define Normal". It really is a wonderful life lesson. Just because on paper or at first glance people may seem strange or different, chances are you have a lot more in common than you might expect.
So many great actresses have portrayed this character: Carolyn Jones, Angelica Huston, Bebe Neuwirth. How do you make a role like Morticia your own?
Well, there are certain things about her that you see as a given. There is a certain way she moves and a certain way she speaks. There is a certain confidence that you can draw a pretty consistent line through many of the women that have played her. She has a darker carriage; she has a deeper voice and a very elegant way of moving and speaking. But, at the end of the day, the thing about Morticia is she is her own person, she is an individual. So, therefore the only way you are going to fully have a shot at inhabiting her as an actor is to bring your own individuality to the part. I think that's what the great actresses have done before that played her and that is something I strive for in trying to provide the audience with what they expect but make it my own.
And how do you prepare for a role like this?
The biggest physical adjustment I made was wearing a very tight skirt that pretty much bound my ankles. You quickly learn how to take very tiny steps and have an upright posture when you have clothing that is that constricting. You make the physical adjustment to make her mobile but graceful. That was a big adjustment, especially in terms of some of the singing and dancing. It is amazing how the aesthetic qualities inform your character. By putting on that confining skirt, I instantly adjusted in what her posture and movement would be. In putting on the long wig, you instantly have a different feeling of weight and balance as far as how your head and hair moves. In putting on the dress it informs your posture, being very confident and sexy but at the same time very careful that nothing moves where it is not supposed to.
What part of playing Morticia do you do you like the most?
It's her confidence. Her confidence in who she is, in her relationship with her husband and her children. She is very much not afraid to stay true to herself and stay true to what her family needs as far as having the best shot they can at being happy and authentic.
I have to say, this looks like one of those shows that is just a blast to be in. You and the cast must have a ton of fun.
It really is. We are very fortunate that we have a group that is not only incredibly talented but they are incredibly kind and positive people. So there is not only a real sense of celebration when we go out every night but a real sense of gratitude. We know we are lucky to be together, lucky to have a great job and that we get to tell the story again for a new set of eyes and ears.
What about other musicals or plays? Do you have a role you would like to play one day?
Well, I would have to say as far as pieces that already exist, I'm madly in love with many of the roles in August: Osage County. As far as upcoming projects, I definitely have my eye on Bullets Over Broadway. But, I really believe in my heart that my greatest experience will be in something that is an original work. I have been very fortunate since I have been in New York to be involved in quite a few original pieces. There is nothing like getting to be in on the creative process from the ground up with the writers, the composers - really getting to put your own stamp on developing characters as they take form and make their way to the stage.
What has been your favorite city so far on the tour?
We just came from Washington, D.C. and that was incredible. To be at the Kennedy Center was an incredible opportunity and to be around all those monuments and museums was great. I also had a wonderful time in Cincinnati because I have a lot of family there, so I was able to be with my loved ones and go to work every night so that was the best of both worlds.
What's next for you beyond this show? Do you have any other special projects in the works outside of the tour?
Well, for now I am just focused on the tour through the end of the year and then excited to go back to New York in January for pilot season. I am sure the unemployment office is excited to have me calling them again come January too!
And have you performed at The Fox Theatre before?
I actually performed in Atlanta with the Three Graces at the Fox. It is such a beautiful theatre and we are very excited to get back to it.
Is there anything else you think our readers should know?
I just would like to reiterate that it really is a fabulous show for the entire family. It is a great way to introduce young people to the theatre. There is something for everyone based on the range of characters and subject matter and its really nice to have a show that you can be very confident in saying that the whole family will have a great time.
The Addams Family, based on the bizarre and beloved family of characters created by legendary cartoonist Charles Addams will play the Fabulous Fox Theatre August 14-19. Ticket prices range from $25to $65and are available at the Fox Theatre box office, by visiting www.FoxAtlTix.com, or by calling 855-ATL-TIXX (855-285-8499). Group orders of 10 or more may be placed by calling 404-881-2000,emailing email@example.com or online at www.foxtheatre.org/groupsales.aspx.
For more information, visit www.theaddamsfamilymusicaltour.com.
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Photo credit: Jeremy Daniel