Issue July 15, 2008

This Louisvillian never leaves Broadway too far behind

This is your typical local-girl-makes-it-big story, but it’s refreshing to find that the local girl — enter Sara Gettelfinger — remains humble amid her impressive resume, ambitious and thankful to a mid-sized Southern city for giving her a start. 

After making her way through the ranks of Louisville’s Youth Performing Arts School (YPAS), and then on to the University of Cincinnati’s College Conservatory of Music, Gettelfinger, a Jeffersonville native, moved to New York City in the late ’90s to find a place on a Broadway stage. And she did just that, landing starring roles in popular musicals like “Seussical the Musical,” “The Boys from Syracuse,” “Nine” and “Dirty Rotten Scoundrels.”

Soon after the curtain closed on “Dirty Rotten Scoundrels” in 2006, Gettelfinger found her career moving in a different direction — she auditioned for and earned a part in an adult contemporary musical group that combines the stylings of opera, pop and Broadway into one power-pop sound. Gettelfinger brought her Broadway musical background to the group Three Graces, which includes Kelly Levesque, a rising pop star who has landed songs on major soundtracks and sang duets with Andrea Bocelli on his last tour, and opera singer Joy Kabanuck, who starred as Mimi in the Baz Luhrmann production of “La Boheme.”

Sara Gettelfinger
Sara Gettelfinger

Three Graces’ self-titled album, which was released in March, mixes some covers (Phil Collins’ “Against All Odds” and Heart’s “These Dreams”) with originals from notable songwriters/producers like Desmond Child and Mark Portmann, and includes two songs written by the trio. A handful of the 11 songs are sung in Italian, Spanish and French.

LEO Weekly caught up with Gettelfinger during Three Graces’ first national tour.

LEO: So tell me how you made the leap from Broadway to Three Graces.

Sara Gettelfinger: At the time I was performing in “Dirty Rotten Scoundrels,” basically during the last months of the show, I heard from my casting office that they were looking for a third member for a singing group. The concept was one opera singer, one pop singer and then someone with a Broadway background. Through a series of meetings and auditions, and meeting with the other women, three days after “Dirty Rotten Scoundrels” closed, I signed a record deal. 

LEO: Was there any apprehension with leaving Broadway?

SG: Usually, the most wonderful things that come in life can sometimes be the scariest things you do. It was certainly something I never thought about, but in everything I’ve done, I’ve tried to, you know, not put limits on what I’m capable of doing creatively. It wasn’t something I was seeking out, but when it came into my path, I thought this might be here for a reason, and it’s a wonderful opportunity — especially getting to work with two other women who are so incredible in what they do and the backgrounds they come from. I thought, regardless of how successful it is, I’m certainly going to learn a lot and grow as an artist by doing it.

LEO: Tell me about the concept of Three Graces and how the song selection came about.

SG: We wanted to find a way to make a new sound combining the three voices, which is accomplished in a lot of three-part harmony while still maintaining flavors of the three genres. So it was sort of, “How do we create a sound and select songs that will exhibit hints of each of our styles as individuals, but also bring a new musical sound by combining the three?” We were very fortunate that a lot of the amazing producers we worked with and a lot of the songwriters who were submitting material were really game to get in on the experiment. It’s a lot of trial and error when you’re trying to fulfill that type of formula, especially with the operatic background. Even some elements of Broadway have more of a classical flavor. 

LEO: And a few cuts are in foreign languages? 

SG: When you’re trying to encompass three genres, encompassing all of the different languages really facilitates more of a sound; it certainly lends itself to more of the operatic flavor, and you also multiply your possible audience — aiming for a world market as opposed to just the English-speaking market. 

LEO: OK, so spill it. What’s in your rider?

SG: Hmmm … (laughing) let me think what we girls ask for … we definitely utilize the Red Bull. And a little trick that Kelly introduced us to: If you ever need some extra moisture for your vocal chords, the salt from Lay’s potato chips does the trick. It’s WD-40 for your vocal chords, so we usually keep a bag on hand. 

LEO: Would you eventually like to return to Broadway?

SG: I think in terms of longevity, our dream would be to do well enough that we can have careers that would allow us to make music together, and each of us return to our individual genres, and then come back together, to where we can go back and forth and really support what makes the group so special.

LEO: You recently had a small role in the “Sex and the City” movie. Is film and TV acting something you’d like to pursue?

SG: It’s the cliché answer: If the right role came into my path, of course I would welcome the opportunity. But I can honestly say that my home, my first love, will always be live theater. 

LEO: What do you miss most about Louisville? 

SG: What don’t I miss about Louisville? I think the older I get and the more time I spend in the city, Louisville is just such an incredible town as far as preserving the charm of the beautiful bluegrass state with horses and gorgeous scenery and everything that is sort of classic and old-school. And the artistic community is just incredible. It is such a forward-thinking, eclectic, creative town. To know you can go back and everything from the best jazz music, theater, ballet … you just kinda pinch yourself knowing you grew up in a town that had the best of everything. It was an amazing place to grow up, and I go back whenever I can.

LEO: Favorite haunts?

SG: Obviously, you gotta love Heine Brothers Coffee. And the Youth Performing Arts School (YPAS) — I can’t imagine a more incredible place to go to school. It offered a great high school experience with being in a great city that allowed you to get your foot in the door with what you want to do artistically. 

LEO: Any advice for someone looking to follow in your footprints?

SG: Especially for kids who live in Louisville, my greatest advice would be to start now. The resources that that city has are endless. If you love it, find a class, find a ticket. It’s all at your fingertips there — you don’t have to be in New York to be surrounded by amazing opportunities in the arts. If you look for it in the city of Louisville, be it a guitar lesson or a dance class … or just wanting to go to the theater or symphony or the opera, it’s there for the taking. So work hard and work now. 

Find more at myspace.com/saragettelfingermusic and www.threegracesmusic.com. Contact the writer at shavens@leoweekly.com