Sunday, May 27, 2001

Sara Gettelfinger


CCM grad dances through musicals

By Jackie Demaline
The Cincinnati Enquirer

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Sara Gettelfinger
(Joan Marcus photo)
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        When Sara Gettelfinger moved to New York in '99, she had a plan.

        “Well, I sort of had a plan,” she acknowledges. “An "if there is a God' plan.

        “I had $800 when I left Cincinnati. I figured I had three weeks to get an apartment, get an agent and get a show.”

        Three weeks later she had an apartment, she had an agent and she'd been cast in the revival of Company starring Donna McKechnie.

        Now that's a plan.

        Until last Sunday, you could have spotted her as the tallest, leggiest of the Bird Girls in Suessical. Ms. Gettelfinger, 23, has been that rare bird because she hasn't been out of a job in a musical since she put her bags down in her new apartment.

        The Suessical closing notice took the cast by surprise. A couple of weeks earlier, Ms. Gettelfinger had reported by phone, “we seem pretty confident the show will run through the end of summer.”
       

Heady company

               Like her college classmate Leslie Kritzer, Ms. Gettelfinger points back to the CCM Senior Showcase as the connector to everything that came after.

        She was approached by Paper Mill Playhouse after the showcase. The following summer season would include a production of Pippin. One of the show's creators, Stephen Schwartz, was coming back to work on it.

        “I called my agent,” Ms. Gettelfinger laughs, “and said, "Hold them to their word!' ”

        Sure enough, Paper Mill dithered. They decided they wanted someone older, thirtyish. She called them. “I can wear a lot of eye make-up!” They relented.

        But we're getting ahead of ourselves.

        Company was always intended to be a limited run. “There was about three weeks left,” Ms. Gettelfinger recalls, “and I was wondering, "What's next?' when a call came in. Ann Reinking would like to see you dance this weekend for going on the road with Fosse.”

        There isn't much more a hopeful dancer can ask than auditioning for Ms. Reinking, star of Chicago and keeper of the Bob Fosse flame.

        “I would have been happy to move chairs,” Ms. Gettelfinger says.
       

Understudying her idol

               Happily, Ms. Gettelfinger dances like a dream; moving chairs was never an option. She danced at 10 a.m., by the time she arrived at the theater for a dress rehearsal of Company, a message was waiting with an offer. She went on the road for nine months.

        At an audition for City Center's staged singing series Encores!, there came a moment straight from 42nd Street. She was pulled aside and told, “You need to be seen for Suessical.

        She danced her way into a job and found out she'd be understudying Mayzie LaBird (the one who flies off to Palm Beach to leave Horton minding the nest).

        Mayzie is being played by none other than Michele Pawk (CCM class of '85). “I've idolized this woman all through school!” Ms. Gettelfinger says. “I was listening to her CDs even before I came to Cincinnati.”
       head Almost got the job

        Not too long after, Ms. Gettelfinger gets to answer the question “What's better than dancing for Ann Reinking?” Dancing for Susan Stroman, the director/choreographer of The Producers.)

        Earlier this spring, Ms. Stroman was looking for the featured dancer (The Girl in the Yellow Dress) for the road tour of Contact, her Tony winner from last year.

        “It was a pretty wild audition,” Ms. Gettelfinger says. Shades of A Chorus Line, “First there were 50 of us, then 10. We danced seven times.”

        Then there were two.

        “When it gets down to between you and that other person. . . ,” Ms. Gettelfinger says, sighing. “It didn't happen, but it's great when you get that close.”

        She's already heard from Stroman & Co. again, invited to audition in a preliminary round for Ms. Stroman's next project, a revival of Oklahoma!

        “You just wait it out,” says Ms. Gettelfinger, which wasn't so hard to do when she had a show to go to every night. “I'll hear more in September.”

        She's having the time of her life, but. “I miss my family (they live in Jeffersonville, Ind.) a lot,” Ms, Gettelfinger says immediately, “but I'm unbelievably grateful.

        “I try to always stay hungry. I'm still looking for the next project. I want to keep moving, never get settled. My mom says, "You're very lucky to be this far along at your age' and I say, "You're right,' but I'll never get anywhere by adapting to the expected schedule.

        “I have to do it on Sara's timetable. And do my best to keep my head on straight.”

       



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