(PCM) Adrienne Barbeau is fondly remembered as Carol, the divorced daughter of “Maude” in the popular 1970’s television sitcom, and she is still going strong some 37 years later.
In fact, now she is flying through the air on a trapeze for her current role as the grandmother, Berthe, in the national tour of the beloved time-honored musical “Pippin.” She has been with the show on and off for a year, and after Philadelphia the tour heads to Amsterdam.
The show, from Feb. 23-28 at the Academy of Music, is the Philadelphia premiere of the 2013 Tony Award-winning revival. Described as “an eye-popping, jaw-dropping, visually stunning extravaganza,” this production is the first revival of “Pippin” since its original run on Broadway 40 years ago.
With a beloved score by Tony nominee Stephen Schwartz (“Wicked”), “Pippin” tells the story of a young prince on a death-defying journey to find meaning in his existence. This captivating new production is directed by Tony winner Diane Paulus (“Hair” and “The Gershwins’ Porgy and Bess.”)
“The Kimmel Center is honored to share the Philadelphia premiere of “Pippin” with our audiences,” said Kimmel Center President and CEO Anne Ewers. “The well-known songs, combined with eye-catching acrobatics, add a new dimension to the artistry of modern-day Broadway productions.”
Now 70, Barbeau, has lived a full life and is still enjoying a rather brilliant career as an actress, writer, voice actor and more. She has made 25 movies, including “The Fog,” “Escape From New York,” “Back to School,” and “Creepshow.”
She was nominated for a Tony Award for her performance as Rizzo in “Grease,” and got her theatrical start in one of her favorite musicals, “Fiddler on the Roof.”
She is also a best-selling author, and a doting mother to three grown sons.
Barbeau has made more than 500 television appearances from the daughter, Carol, in “Maude” to Ruthie, the Snake Dancer, in HBO’s “Carnivale.”
Although so many years have passed, Barbeau still finds fans of “Maude” regardless where she travels. The cutting-edge Norman Lear show, a spin-off of “All in the Family,” aired from the fall of 1972 to the spring of 1978.
“Maude” was about the title character, an outspoken, middle-aged, politically liberal woman whose overbearing and sometimes domineering personality often gets her into trouble when speaking out on these issues.
The character of Maude was living in suburban New York, with her fourth husband, and her daughter, Carol, a single mother and independent woman, played by Barbeau. It was a role that gained her legions of fans, who still enjoy telling her stories of how her character and the show positively impacted their lives.
Q: What are you enjoying about your role in “Pippin?”
Adrienne Barbeau: I absolutely love every aspect of it. I love the character, as well as the opportunity to hang upside and sing my songs from a trapeze.
Q: Is there anything else that especially appeals to you?
AB: Yes. I would say that getting to know the United States. I have visited certain cities that I never would have visited on my own. It was a little more difficult in the beginning because during the first couple of months my sons were in high school in L.A. and I took time off to get back for them. Now, they are in separate colleges, so I don’t have as much of a pull – although my dog would like me to home. But nothing else is demanding my attention in L.A. so I am just having a great time.
Q: You became the mother of twin boys at age 51 – that had to take guts.
AB: I would answer that the same way I would reply to, ‘how can you go on the trapeze without a net?’ I would say, ‘hasn’t it all been wonderful?’ I already had an older son, and having twins was such a different experience. I was overjoyed when my twins came along – all three of them are the greatest joy of my life.
Q: How are your sons doing?
AB: Really great. My eldest son is 32 and getting ready to go on the road with his father, John Carpenter, and my twins turn 19 on St. Patrick’s Day. One is playing soccer at Brown and the other is in fashion merchandising at Marist College in Poughkeepsie, New York. He is a true entrepreneur intent on owning a line of men’s clothing.
Q: What do you attribute your long, rich and diverse career?
AB: I always just wanted to work. I love to work. I come from a strong work ethic; my mother, Armene, who died at age 81 was still working at two volunteer jobs and a paid job. My Aunt Ruby who is 100 years old would be working if she could. I come from a family of Armenian women who had that mindset – you grew up and you worked. I love it. That’s what it comes down to it. I don’t feel I did a day’s work in my life because I enjoy it so much. I love all of it!
Q: Is there any downside?
AB: Sure, I don’t enjoy having to audition. That’s the least enjoyable aspect of it all.
Q: I have to ask you about your TV show “Maude,” and the long legacy of the show. What are fans saying to you?
AB: People are still watching it. The entire six seasons of the DVDs were released a year go and people are watching it again. I still have many people who come up to me and say, ‘My character or Bea’s character gave me a road map for how I could be in the world as a young woman in the ‘70s,’ – at a time when we didn’t even get the Equal Rights Amendment (ERA) passed.
Q: There must be so many stories people have shared with you over the years. Can you tell me one that really resonated with you?
AB: I had a young man come up to me at a convention and he said, ‘I learned from that show that people could yell at each other and still love each other.’ He went on to say that he didn’t have that in his family; they just had the yelling.
Q: That is pretty profound.
AB: Yes. The show had a major effect on a lot of people – especially – independent women. Maude was certainly independent, and my character, Carol, who spoke up for what she believed in and she spoke up for women’s issues. Norman Lear’s liberal philosophy was delivered with so much humor that it was palatable even to those who didn’t agree. That’s what Norman brought to television starting with Archie Bunker in “All in the Family.”
Q: They say you never quite know how great a project like that is while you are in the thick of it. Do you agree?
AB: Oh, yes. I didn’t realize how fortunate I was to be associated with the show. All of a sudden I discovered not everyone was as professional and caring about the material as Bea Arthur was. The show was great on every level and I was so proud to be associated with a show that had some social significance – not just pratfalls and silly jokes. I was just so lucky to be associated with a show that was so important.
Q: What advice do you have for someone who wants a career in entertainment?
AB: When it comes to careers if you can find something you love and earn a living doing that, that’s the greatest gift you can have in your life. I don’t care what my sons do as long as they love it.
Q: Anything else you want to add?
AB: As an actor, the more you can know and can discover about yourself – meditation, therapy, and reading – they better off you will be. You need to learn what drives you, why you react the way you do, and what your strengths are. If you do that, the better off you will be in this industry. I just think self understanding and self exploration is the key to making it work,
Q: In addition to your acting career on television, film and Broadway, you have written four books. How did that come about?
AB: It’s a total surprise to me. I never thought I would have written something than anyone else would read.
Q: How did it happen?
AB: I sort of stumbled on it through a bazaar happenstance.
Q: Do tell me about it.
AB: I met my closest friend film editor on my oldest son’s first day of preschool, and this wonderful woman died from breast cancer in 1998. On the first day of preschool for the twins I met a woman who looked just like my deceased friend. It turns out, she too, was a film editor and she had breast cancer. It seemed like we were destined to be close friends. During our first conversation she told me about a woman who had been on Broadway in musical comedies, and she was teaching a writing class for actors. I felt like my late friend, Suzanne, was telling me I had to take the class. The teacher lived a half a mile away, and I started taking the class.
Q: Then what happened?
AB: I started doing the writing assignments for homework and was writing about my career and my jobs. After six months the teacher told me to get an agent. She said I had a memoir and that I could get it published. That book became my memoir, “There Are Worse Things I Could Do.”
Q: So that was another creative outlet for you.
AB: Yes. Then I co-wrote a vampire book for my horror genre fans, got a deal for two books and the digital publisher asked for a third one, “Make Me Dead.” I finished that one before I went on the road for Pippin. All of this is something I never anticipated happening. The great part of the writing is it is something I can do and not be dependent on anyone else for the creativity. I can just sit down and create. Also, I can do it while I’m on the road with this show.
Q: Tell me about the younger actors in Pippin, and do you give them advice?
AB: These guys are so good there is no advice I can give them other than they should always take care of their health. It is truly jaw-dropping what the acrobats in this show do. It is a remarkable cast and they are all doing exactly what they are doing. Maybe, once in a while, I will tell them to go home and get some rest
Q: What’s next?
AB: I will be taking the summer off to spend time with my sons. There is the possibility of another TV show, but it’s too early to talk about, and nothing is committed. I also have some voice over work for the video games.
Q: Thinking back over the years was the dream of your career anything like the reality?
AB: No, I never thought farther than the next step. I am not a planner. When I went to New York I remember saying to myself or writing in my journal that I would try this until I’m 25 and if I’m not making a living I will go back to school and teach. So it was about what ever came along and sounded interesting. I never had a plan. I never really anticipated becoming a professional actor. I didn’t know anyone who was. I didn’t know it was an actual job.
Q: So then what happened?
AB: A friend of mine suggested I go to New York and study, so I saved $1,000 working for a termite exterminating business on Saturdays and after school. I put everything I had in a box and told my mom when I had an address she could send it to me. I got a job at night so I could go to open calls. I went to a casting director who called me in for an audition and I got the part of Tevye’s second daughter, Hodol, in the Broadway musical “Fiddler on the Roof.” It is still one of my favorites; I have also played the mother, Golda, a few times.
Q: The current revival for the 50th Anniversary is beautiful and emotional – you should do your best to see it. I loved it!
AB: I am going home to L.A. after the tour. But I would love to make a trip to New York soon to see it and some other shows – I will try to make that happen.
Q: Thank you so much, it has been a pleasure.
AB: Enjoy the show!
Tickets for “Pippin” may be purchased by calling (215) 893-1999, at the Kimmel Center Box Office, or go to: www.kimmelcenter.org. Group sales are available for groups of 10 or more by calling (215) 790-5883.
For more information on the tour, go to: www.PippinTheMusical.com
To check out more about Adrienne Barbeau go to: Abarbeau.com.