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Stage Preview: Actress dusts off life on the road

Tuesday, February 25, 2003

By Christopher Rawson, Post-Gazette Drama Editor

The road has been her home, so it was fitting that the phone call found Tracy Generalovich in her car, just passing Warsaw, Ind. "The connection may drop out here and there, but I'm fine," she said, meaning the call wasn't jeopardizing her driving on the Interstate.

Tracy Generalovich plays Babette in Disney's "The Beauty and the Beast," which opens a one-week run at the Benedum tonight.

"Beauty and the Beast"

Where: PNC Broadway in Pittsburgh, Benedum Center, Downtown.

When: 8 p.m. through Friday; 2 and 8 p.m. Saturday; 1 and 6:30 p.m. Sunday.

Tickets: $22-$60; 412-456-6666.

Generalovich was last seen in the Post-Gazette in 1994, squeezed in the middle of the throng of 200-plus Pittsburghers who work in New York theater and who gathered in Times Square.

Now, she appears on stage as Babette, the enchanted French maid turned into a feather duster in Disney's "Beauty and the Beast," which returns to town for a week at the Benedum starting tonight.

The Sharon native graduated from the Point Park College musical theater program in 1993, worked that summer at the Sheraton Lakeview Theater (now West Virginia Public Theatre) in Morgantown, then returned to Pittsburgh for the Christmas show at Gargaro Productions (now PMT). In 1994 she was in the CLO ensemble.

Since then, she's been on the road a lot.

"I've lost track," she laughed. "I've been all over, but I can't remember just where or when." There were three summers at the CLO, not consecutive, and tours in Europe. One of her favorites was her first European tour, "Tabaluga and Lily," a German rock opera starring Peter Maffay, a German Bruce Springstein. There was also a tour of a new version of "Phantom of the Opera" in Portugal and Spain.

After every tour, it was back to New York and more auditions. She did "a bunch of stuff at the Westchester Broadway Theater." There were a couple of summers in Maine, where they have a summer theater tour that also gets down to Cape Cod.

Then there was a tour of "Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat" with Donny Osmond. "That was a pretty major little thing," she said. "And right before 'Beauty,' I did a '40s swing show in New York -- a little big-band dinner and show thing."

But for the past several years, it's been all "Beauty." "It's a little crazy," she said. "I've left several times, but they lured me back in."

The first national tour of "Beauty and the Beast" went out in 1995 for four years. This company, the second national tour, started up in 1999 with Generalovich in the ensemble.

She no sooner decided to leave the company and return to New York that they asked her to fill in for the dance captain, and that turned into a 1 1/2 year stint. Eventually she left the company again, but they brought her right back, promoted to Babette, which she's played since September.

She's not ready to go the assistant choreographer-choreographer route.

"It's not my path yet. I might have aspirations that way, but I really missed performing every day. It was fun and eye-opening. I saw things in a new way. When you're in the thick of it all as dance captain, it's a whole different ball game -- Disney runs theater like a corporate business, there's a lot of red tape to go through. But I really missed being on stage myself."

Disney is said to be a difficult company to work for, but Generalovich points out it's "one of the only production companies sustaining the industry these days. I feel very blessed to have this job."

She keeps up with friends from Point Park. "There's so many of us working in New York. There was a nice group of us from 1993-94, a support group."

She gives a thought occasionally to settling down, but since she's been out on the road so long, she feels she still hasn't given New York her all.

In Pittsburgh, the audience will swell with her relatives, starting with her parents, Mark and Susan. Sharon isn't as far away from Pittsburgh as it seemed when she was growing up -- "Until I was in high school, I didn't even realize Pittsburgh was the closest city."

Christopher Rawson can be reached at crawson@post-gazette.com or 412-263-1666.

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