Kevin Ray Johnson
I would you like to meet the talented Jill Abramovitz. Jill is currently on Broadway in Beetlejuice, which recently began previews at the Winter Garden Theatre, playing the role(s) of Maxine Dean, June, and Ensemble. Jill has also been previously seen on Broadway in Fiddler on the Roof, Cinderella, 9 ot 5 and Martin Short’s: Fame Becomes Me. I am a huge fan of her and this show, so to have the chance to interview Jill is wonderful, wonderful, wonderful!
How old were you when you knew you wanted to be a performer?
Oh gulp, probably eight? After a bad experience playing the role "segment of an earthworm" in Cinderella, I then played the Headless Horseman’s wife in The Legend of Sleepy Hollow and was like, sign me up.
Where did you study? Are there any mentors that genuinely helped make you the performer you are today?
I attended the University of Pennsylvania and got a liberal arts education, which was important for me. I don’t think I would have thrived at a conservatory and I appreciate the giant world I was exposed to at Penn. My first mentor was Jane Wintz who directed the school musicals at Morristown High School in NJ. She taught me discipline in all its forms. Physical discipline (we started every rehearsal with a warm-up and a workout, we were encouraged to ditch the Doritos for grapefruit) and behavioral discipline (be quiet backstage, walk on tiptoes, don’t be late, respect the people you work with), as well as artistic discipline. In her shows, we all had to paint sets, paper mâché props and make costumes - she wanted us to see how many different types of work are involved in creating a piece of theatre, and she taught us the value of all of that work. It really is a team sport.
Congratulations on Beetlejuice! How has your time been and do you have any favorite moments in the show?
Thank you! I love this show. I’ve been involved with it since the first (i think?) reading, two and a half years ago. I’ve enjoyed every moment of this experience, and I think that’s because our incredible director Alex Timbers sets a perfect tone for creativity. It’s a kind room to be in, a room where all ideas are welcome, and people are encouraged to play and invent. I love coming to work. Picking a favorite moment is hard. Some of the moments I love the most are other people’s. But if I had to pick my favorite moment in my own track, I’d have to say I love playing Maxine Dean in the dinner party. Alex and the writers really gave me a lot of freedom to create the lovable wack-job that she is.
Are there any shows (Prior to Beetlejuice) that you have done in your career that will always be near and dear to your heart?
Every Broadway show is special, for sure, because you never tire of the grandeur of it - knowing you’re bringing joy to so many people on such a large scale. So it’s hard to choose - but I really really loved performing in Fiddler on the Roof. I used to say that it was like getting in a self-driving car. It’s so expertly crafted that you just get in and it takes you where you need to go. And Bart Sher’s virtuosic direction was devastating and real and went so deep that it never failed to authentically move me. I’m also a writer, so it was satisfying to be inside a show that I’ve admired and studied for so long from the outside. My other favorite experience was See Rock City and Other Destinations at Barrington Stage company. My husband (composer Brad Alexander) wrote it with Adam Mathias and it’s one of my most favorite scores on earth. The whole show was written in my apartment, so to hear it be created and then be a part of bringing it to life was outrageously fulfilling.
What advice would you give young performers who want a career in this business?
BE GREAT TO WORK WITH. Leave the attitude at the door and show up excited! Be the person that people want to be around. And be just as excited to show up for the non-paying concert reading as you are to show up for your first Broadway rehearsal. Because doing that non-paying gig, you’ll meet people who will want to continue working with you as you both get older and more experienced and go on to bigger jobs.
To learn more about Jill Abramovitz, please visit her website at www.jillaonline.com, and to learn more about Beetlejuice which began previews on March 28th with the official opening on April 25th, please visit – www.beetlejuicebroadway.com