Sara Gettelfinger may have a resume that other actresses covet-now starring as the mysterious, intriguing, maybe even a little bit frightening Morticia Addams in the national tour of The Addams Family, she's been on Broadway in A Free Man of Color, Seussical the Musical, The Boys from Syracuse, Nine and Dirty Rotten Scoundrels and she's toured in Fosse and 101 Dalmatians-but, truth be told, the highlight of her resume for me, at least, is a stint on the storied, now lamented and defunct, CBS soap opera Guiding Light.
When I tell her that, she laughs heartily, maybe even raucously, recalling her time on the daytime staple: "My character on Guiding Light was an evil bellhop," she says. "I was on staff at a hotel, paid to cause trouble for two couples having romantic interludes at the hotel. It was so much fun, I can't help but laugh when I talk about it!"
And laugh she does, in a completely infectious and thoroughly genuine way that makes her all the more appealing and charming. In fact, it's that generous peal of laughter that completely disarms you, drawing you into any conversation with Sara Gettelfinger that will leave you feeling as if you're old friends sharing war stories and gossip about her time on the stage. Born and raised in Louisville, Kentucky, she's a true Southerner, which is exemplified by her ease in telling a story, her ample wit at the ready, and the warmth that radiates even through the magic of modern technology via a telephone conversation.
That she is so charming comes as no surprise to anyone lucky enough to have seen her onstage in any of the roles that have made her presence felt in the theater: Her stage presence is palpable, her ability to hone in on any character's attributes in order to illuminate them nothing short of remarkable. Quite frankly, when you walk away from a Sara Gettelfinger performance (whether onstage or on a soap opera), chances are you'll find yourself-as did I-feeling like you've just fallen a little bit in love with her.
When we talked, it was the morning after opening night in Chicago for the national touring company of The Addams Family and a week away from the company's Nashville stand at the Tennessee Performing Arts Center (the Louisville native admits this is her first time to perform in Music City despite her family's annual trips to Nashville for days at Opryland USA and evenings at The Grand Ole Opry). The Chicago opening, she happily reported, "was great…it was wonderful to be reengaging after being off for two weeks and the show went well."
After taking over the role of Cruella DeVille from Rachel York in the national tour of 101 Dalmatians, and now assaying the role of the lithe and lovely, if deathly serious, Morticia Addams, Gettelfinger may be cornering the role on musical theater villainesses: "I will take that, happily," she says. "My dream is to tackle all the Disney villainesses at some point in my career."
For now, she's content to play the matriarch of The Addams Family and to bring to audiences across the United States and Canada a show about a "bizarre family" that's not so unlike their own.
"The thing that's so great about The Addams Family, the reason people love it, is that it's this bizarre family who allow you to go into their world and to experience something that's very much a departure from your own life," she suggests. "To escape from what the everyday world is. But when you get into their life, you discover they are very relatable, they are just trying to stay true to themselves-and that's what makes The Addams Family so popular. You're invited to go on a journey as far as the fantasy allows you. You'll see parts of yourself and your own family in the humor, [so] it really resonates deeply with audiences."
The role of Morticia, for which she has received glowing notices on tour, proves more of a challenge than just playing a two-dimensional character originally created for The New Yorker by cartoonist Charles Addams. "It's interesting as far as the nuts and bolts as the role is structured," she explains. "It's a dream come true for me: Morticia is very dark, dry and statuesque. And there's a lot of joy in exploring the less-is-more sensibility because of her stillness and her dryness."