Broadway star Gaelen Gilliland visits Fox Chapel Area Rotary Club meeting
Friday, November 8, 2019 | 12:01 AM
It was Wednesday, but members of the Fox Chapel Area Rotary Club didn’t wear pink.
Still, they got a fetch performance by Broadway actress and Fox Chapel native Gaelen Gilliland, who performed songs from her starring role in “Mean Girls,” which played Oct. 29-Nov. 3 at Pittsburgh’s Benedum Center.
Gilliland, a 1992 Fox Chapel Area High School graduate, portrays multiple roles as Mrs. Heron, Ms. Norbury and Mrs. George.
“It’s not an easy business,” Gilliland told the Rotarians, who gather each week at the Pittsburgh Field Club in Fox Chapel. “I have to find a new job one to three times a year.”
Gilliland has pursued a career on stage since graduating with a degree in fine arts from Syracuse University in 1996.
She credited her parents, Gail and Gil Gilliland (a Fox Chapel Rotarian), for fostering her career through many highs and lows.
“Of the students in my program at Syracuse, I believe one, maybe two, are still performing,” she said.
Gilliland was joined at the Rotary meeting by her husband, Andrew Miller, who works as a stagehand with the props department, and Rebecca Bruce Parker, music director of the Broadway National touring company of “Mean Girls.” The trio discussed the demands of a stage career and answered questions from the audience.
Parker said the show travels with five musicians and hires four more in each city of the 30-leg tour.
“We’re fortunate in Pittsburgh because we have so many good musicians to choose from,” she said.
The four hometown musicians practice only once with the show before joining the orchestra pit for curtain call.
Miller gave Rotary members a behind-the-scenes glimpse of life on the road with a production, which he said is a substantial task. A seven-member props department transported the “Mean Girls” set to Pittsburgh from Columbus, Ohio, in six tractor-trailers.
It takes about eight hours to tear down and pack a stage set and 16 hours to reassemble it in the next city, Miller said.
“A show will typically close on a Sunday night, and the crew will work most of the night and then again after dawn to have it on the road to the next city early Monday. Everything has to be set up, plugged in and working by curtain call Tuesday night,” he said.
Gilliland has appeared in several Broadway shows, including “Wicked,” “Legally Blonde,” “9 to 5: The Musical,” “Honeymoon in Vegas” and “Kinky Boots.”
Roles are earned through a series of auditions, Gilliland said, and there’s no guarantee that the role or the show won’t end quickly.
Performing six to eight times a week requires significant conditioning, Gilliland said. She is typically in the gym up to six times a week, in addition to working with a personal trainer and receiving acupuncture.
And while she’s trekking across the country, Gilliland pays homage to her home with a special note on her resume. It reads, “proficient in a number of dialects, including Pittsburghese.”
“Mean Girls” packed up and moved on to Cincinnati, and then will cross back east to Philadelphia before heading to Cleveland, Chicago and Boston.
For details, visit meangirlsonbroadway.com/tour/.