BWW Exclusive: How BEETLEJUICE's Jill Abramovitz Finds Balance as a Broadway Mom
It's one of the most physically, mentally, and emotionally demanding jobs. With long hours and little sleep, you're expected to consistently portray a myriad of contrasting roles at the drop of the hat, sometimes with no prior experience or preparation - full out, no marking. All with a contract that offers no out, no sick leave, no vacation time, and no pay. Would you be down for the role?
In this exclusive BroadwayWorld feature, we're talking all about the actresses who were!...the Moms of Broadway. How do they juggle sleep schedules and rehearsal schedules, or go from the bottles of champagne on opening night to bottles of milk at home? Read on to find out!
This month BroadwayWorld celebrates spook-tober by sitting down with Beetlejuice actress and Mom, Jill Abramovitz. While currently playing Maxine Dean and Juno in Beetlejuice, Jill is no stranger to the Broadway stage; making her debut in Martin Short: Fame Becomes Me, before appearing in 9 to 5, Cinderella, and Fiddler on The Roof, amongst a slew a regional and Off-Broadway productions, principal and co-starring film and television roles, and being a passionate and award-winning lyricist and bookwriter.
Her proudest accomplishment, however, is her most rewarding role yet - being a mother to her nine-year-old son, Leo. A role that she found came with challenges she didn't see coming.
"I had this misconception that once I had a child, auditions wouldn't really matter. All that would matter was my child. But in fact it became quite the opposite. Everything mattered ten times more. I needed every job more because now I had this other human to care for and financially support. So the stress level went through the roof."
The fervent desire to work, however, is often met with logistical challenges that are commonly experienced by performing parents in the theatrical industry. Namely, "the scheduling. 1000 percent, the biggest challenge is the schedule." With both Jill and her husband (composer Brad Alexander) working in the industry, she finds "a large part of my and Brad's lives is texting and logistics, but then also trying to find time as a couple and as a family that isn't about texting and logistics. And of course that requires more texting and logistics. We also write together, so that adds a whole other layer of texting and logistics. It's super fun!"
Jill notes that it's gotten incrementally easier as Leo has gotten older, saying that, "now we can leave the house without a stroller and a million bags and we just go. He's like a regular person. And when I leave for work, Leo understands where I go and why I'm going." And, while the auditioning and working with a young child was difficult, between the sitters and the "especially hard moments for him to say goodbye to me, and even harder for me to say goodbye to him," it's an upbringing Jill, and Leo, wouldn't change.
"It's the absolute greatest, best thing I've ever done in my life. It's been insanely crazy, but I love and treasure our time together, and I feel like he's gotten a particularly interesting childhood growing up in this business".
'Particularly interesting' is a humble description of the magical and exciting moments Leo has grown up experiencing. "It's always fun to bring your kid backstage," Jill said as she spoke about when Leo visited her at Cinderella, continuing, "I have the best pictures of him walking around the Cinderella stage in the fog when they'd test the dry ice before the show. The crew was incredible. They'd put him on Buttercup the Horse and then he'd get down and run around the forest. The folks in wardrobe let him try on a suit of armor when he was four. Such sweet memories."
If you ask Leo, however, what his favorite part of Cinderella was, he will tell you it was in fact "the food cart. I loved the giant food and the fake grapes".
Or, more recently, moments like attending the opening night for Beetlejuice, or the ability to give his Mom grief for leaving early when she ducked out of the theater following the show when Nick and Joe Jonas were in attendance. "I am deeply regretful and apologize to Leo daily since the Jonas Brothers are now a huge part of our existence and I blew my chance to meet them. I've promised not to let it happen again. " Super Jonas fan Leo holds out hope that they'll return as "Kevin didn't go!".
Memorable moments aside, Jill reflects on the opportunities that being a performer has granted her as a mother. "My schedule means that I make our time together really count. Plus, it's an odd work week, so during the summer when there's no school we can spend long days together, or at least lazy mornings, and that's really, really delicious. We spend post-school afternoons at the playground or biking. And of course Sunday nights and Monday nights are sacred. But Leo also loves coming to the theater and seeing where I work. I hope that he's proud to have a mom who does something she loves".
When asking Jill what her advice would be for new or expecting parents both in and out of the industry, she says, "I guess the advice I would give, even though it's harder to take, is to try and be in the moment. Be in whatever you're in. Be happy when you're with your kid and soak in. You'll work again. I promise. And then be happy to be at your job, and know that your kids are going to be okay without you. By being a working parent, you're modeling something great for them."
And, in a piece of advice often reiterated by Moms, "Find your community, reach out to people, take them up on their offers when they want to help... because you're gonna need it. And take care of yourself. Because often you're giving so much that you can end up exhausted and resentful. It's like that 'put your oxygen mask on first' thing. Hard advice to actually implement, but I think it's real. I'm still working on it."
You can catch Jill Abramovitz eight times a week in Beetlejuice at the Winter Garden Theater, with tickets currently on sale through April 2020. For more information, or to purchase tickets, head to BeetlejuiceBroadway.com.