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Talk About Babied Actresses

Adrienne Barbeau returns to the stage--with twin infants in tow--yet she's relaxed. Guess that's how 'The World Goes 'Round.'

June 29, 1997|Susan King | Susan King is a Times staff writer

Adrienne Barbeau hadn't planned on returning to work just three months after giving birth to identical twin boys at the age of 51.

But the actress is back on the boards, starring in the International City Theatre production of "The World Goes 'Round," the award-winning revue of John Kander and Fred Ebb's Broadway and movie tunes. The musical, which features songs from "Flora the Red Menace," "Cabaret," "Chicago," "Kiss of the Spider Woman," "Happy Time," "The Rink," "Woman of the Year" and "New York, New York," opened a four-week engagement Friday at the Center Theater in Long Beach. "World" is the second production in ICT's first season in a mid-sized venue.

A week before the opening, Barbeau is nursing baby Walker in her dressing room at Long Beach Community College before rehearsal. Walker's brother William, dressed in bright yellow, is quietly waiting his turn on the the lap of the nanny.

Though the babies are identical, Barbeau explains that their personalities are incredibly different. "William is very mellow," she says, smiling over at him. "He loves to talk and he's a clown. He makes faces and chats and makes people laugh. Walker has a more difficult time with life. He doesn't like the car seat and he doesn't like the stroller."

Barbeau seems remarkably calm and relaxed despite the fact that she's juggling rehearsals with the demands of two babies. "If they were both difficult, it would really be hard," she adds. "Walker can scream all the way from my house to rehearsal and William never makes a sound. He has a temper, but he's not as easily upset."

It was Barbeau's good friend, director Glenn Casale, who convinced her "The World Goes 'Round" would be the perfect vehicle for her. "We've done other projects together," says Barbeau, who made her Broadway debut in 1968 in "Fiddler on the Roof" and received a Tony nomination as Rizzo in 1972 for "Grease."

"We did 'Strange Snow' in La Mirada and we did 'Pump Boys and Dinettes' and 'Best Little Whorehouse' in Sacramento. He mentioned this and said it's only a couple of weeks of rehearsals and only four weeks of run and it's only four shows a week and you can have the babies at rehearsals."

"I think she's a fabulous actress," Casale says enthusiastically. "She really has a soul that connects to a piece. She puts her soul into a song. She really tells a story. That's why when this came up, I thought it would be a great piece, especially after the babies, to get her back into it. I needed someone who can really tell a story because she has those storytelling songs, 'Colored Lights' and 'Ring Them Bells.' "

First-week rehearsals took place at Barbeau's house which she shares with husband, TV writer-producer Billy Van Zandt, and Cody, her 12-year-old son by her first husband, director John Carpenter.

"We worked on the dance steps and roller-skating out on the tennis court," says Barbeau, best known as Bea Arthur's daughter on "Maude," as well as for such camp horror films as "Swamp Thing." And whenever she wasn't working, she'd be upstairs nursing her sons.

Barbeau acknowledges it has been a bit difficult transporting the babies from her Los Angeles home to Long Beach. "The other night going home I just pulled off the side of the road on the freeway just to calm Walker down. Once I got him calmed down, then William started."

The other thing she didn't anticipate--"not having done a musical in a long time and not having done a musical where I had to learn to play the ukulele, roller-skate and speak German"--is that, because of the babies, she doesn't have time to study the script and the music once she gets home from rehearsals.

"I figured out I am probably spending three times as much on child care right now than I am making on the stage, but that's OK. It's an experience."

Though she began her career in musical theater, Barbeau acknowledges she's really not a fan of the genre.

"I don't choose to see [musicals]," says Barbeau. "I like rock 'n' roll and country-western and more contemporary stuff. The older I get the less interested I am in working at night. I'd rather get up at 5 in the morning and sit on a set all day and do a film then have to get my energy up at night."

Barbeau was surprised by all the press she received when she announced last summer that she was pregnant at the age of 51. "I guess I do understand now, but I really didn't understand why everyone was so interested," she says. "It seems to have affected a lot of people."

But she doesn't want women in their 40s who are trying to have babies to hold her up as an example.

"What I try to be very clear about is, don't take hope from me, because we tried for four years and spent a lot of money and tried a lot of different techniques," she says. "I'm not an example just because I was able to accomplish it. It's not going to be easy. Anybody who is sort of vacillating and moving into their 40s, I say get started if that's what you want."

Since motherhood is her No. 1 priority, Barbeau plans to work sporadically. "I continue to do voice-overs," says Barbeau, who is the voice of Catwoman on the animated "Batman" TV series. "I have my nightclub act, which is something I can do short-term--I am going to do 10 days after the first of the year. Right before they were born, I was recording an album of the songs in the act, so I'll go back and finish that, plus do short-term movies. That type of thing.

"I don't see the point in having children if you are not going to be there with them. My sister-in-law just had a baby, and my heart broke for her because she had to go back to work and she didn't want to. I am very fortunate I can do intermittent things."


"THE WORLD GOES 'ROUND," International City Theatre at the Center Theater, 300 E. Ocean Blvd., Long Beach. Dates: Thursdays to Saturdays, 8 p.m.; Sundays, 2 p.m. Ends July 20. Price: $28. Phone: (562) 938-4128.

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