The Addams Family's Douglas Sills on bringing the altogether ooky family to the stage
It may seem like the members of the Addams Family have been featured in every incarnation imaginable: from animated characters to action figures to even inside of a pinball game. The wealthy, macabre-obsessed family has come a long way since it first debuted in the pages of the New Yorker in comic form in 1938. And now these fictional characters are embarking embark on a new venture: singing. Tonight the national tour of the Broadway musical version of The Addams Family rolls into Denver for a run at the Buell Theatre through July 1.
We recentlycaught up with Douglas Sills, who plays the moustachioed patriarch of the family, Gomez, on being a part of the touring production.
Westword: How did you prepare for and shape the character of Gomez?
Douglas SilIs: I treated it as I would creating a character in any well-made classical play. I worked very closely with the creative team, particularly the director Jerry Zakks. I tried to be available to my fellow actors and respond to what they brought into rehearsals. And I tried to supply my director with honest and entertaining choices for Gomez in the particular given circumstances of the character. I did not feel the need to accentuate, highlight or reiterate any of the macabre aesthetic characteristic of the family. I let the costumes, the sets, the music, the makeup and the dialogue do all of that. I spent a lot of time on the internet watching Spaniards learning to speak English to try to isolate the dialect as precisely as possible. But mostly I spent my time trying to make this fantastical character as grounded as possible in the given circumstances, and then add the counterpoint of painting in bright colors and bold strokes.
What do you like most about The Addams Family?
The most wonderful thing is certainly how wonderfully the comedy lands and the great joy that that gives all of us on stage. Any performer will tell you there's almost nothing as tasty as a successful comedy. I'm also incredibly grateful for my good fortune to travel with such a talented and good-natured company. Rarely do such accomplished performers agree to do a national tour and our little village actually gets along very well, particularly in light of very intense social conditions that are part of being on a national tour of a big Broadway show. And finally, I feel very fortunate to get a chance to sing some wonderful music. There's an indescribable mix of sensory and metaphysical joy in singing in a musical. When that is going well, it feels very much the way athletes describe being in the zone. What's your favorite song to perform in the show?
It changes from week to week. I really enjoy and have in fact fallen in love with all the music that I get to sing of Mr. Lippa's. Lately I've enjoyed singing a song called "Happy/Sad," which takes place in the second act in a small, quiet, delicate scene with my daughter. I like it because it's a beautiful melody and, more important, it's a very big change in tone for Gomez and for the play. there's a great deal of tenderness and stillness in the piece. What do you think makes this production special?
Truthfully, what makes it special is that the experienced creative team had the incredible luxury of watching great performers play their show on Broadway with an excellent cast and then had the chance to go back in and revise it. And then the man in charge, our producer Stuart Oken, agreed to assemble a wonderful group to take the revised version on the road, sparing no expense to make the best possible production. What makes it special ultimately, though, is frankly how much laughter we hear when we perform it. A successful comedy with a strong second act and beautifully executed music and dance is a rare thing to behold. What do you hope people get out of coming to see the show? At the very least I hope like any high-priced hooker that when I'm done, people get away from their troubles for a couple of hours. At most they think about their lives in a different way and recognize that no matter how different people may appear, that we are all subject to the same pains and pleasures and that should put us shoulder to shoulder with one another as we make our way through the day.
Is there anything else you want people to know about the production?
They should know that it's a great show to start a habit for kids, but one where the adults will enjoy it very much on their own level. The kids don't have to endure Romeo and Juliet, and the adults don't have to endure Barney on Ice. It's first and foremost a comedy, and folks should know that they'll rarely have a chance to see a show with such universally acclaimed performers and an extraordinary Broadway ensemble.
The Addams Family runs through July 1, with shows at 7:30 p.m. Tuesday through Sunday, as well as matinees at 2 p.m. Saturday and Sunday at the Buell. For tickets, $25 and up, call 303-893-4100 or visit www.denvercenter.org/addamsfamily.
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