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'Addams Family' actress returns to her Pittsburgh roots

PNC Broadway Across America
Fox Chapel native Gaelen Gilliland appears as Alice Beineke in “The Addams Family” Credit: PNC Broadway Across America

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Saturday, July 28, 2012, 8:57 p.m.

Gaelen Gilliland is looking forward to a visit to Kennywood Park.

She's back in town through Aug. 12 in the national touring production of “The Addams Family” at the Benedum Center. Downtown. Gilliland plays Alice Beineke, the mother of Wednesday Addams' excruciatingly conventional fiance.

“I'm looking forward to showing Pittsburgh to my friends in the cast,” says Gilliland, who hopes to introduce them to the West Mifflin amusement park where she worked for two summers before graduating from Fox Chapel High School.

She also hopes to introduce them to local sites that include the inclines, Primanti's and Wholey's.

Now a resident of New York City, Gilliland has performed on Broadway in musicals that include “9 to 5,” “Legally Blonde” and “Wicked.”

But she got her start here with a best-actress nomination at the Gene Kelly Awards for her performance as “Rosie” in the 1991 Fox Chapel High School production of “Bye Bye Birdie” and her appearance as Sister Mary Leo in Jude Pohl Productions' “Nunsense.”

Pittsburgh also was where she earned her Equity card by playing Maria in Pittsburgh Musical Theater's 2001 production of “The Sound of Music.” That same year, she appeared in “Casper The Musical” at Pittsburgh Civic Light Opera.

A 1996 graduate of Syracuse University with a bachelor of fine arts degree in musical theater, Gilliland has appeared in national tours of “Seussical,” “Sound of Music,” “Grease” and “The Music of Andrew Lloyd Webber.”

The daughter of an artist and an engineer, Gilliland says she was good at math and science but always into singing and dancing.

“Mom said ‘Follow your dream.' Dad said ‘Become an accountant so you have something to fall back on,” she recalls. “But I fell into theater and never looked back.”

— Alice Carter

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