He may not be creepy, kooky or altogether ooky, but Douglas Sills has been wowing audiences in the touring musical production of The Addams Family. Sills plays family patriarch Gomez Addams, a role made famous by the deliciously sly John Astin in the original TV show.
But Sills points out that the Toronto production is very different than the original Broadway show.
“When they approached me for the tour, they told me that they were interested in making some pretty significant changes,” Sills says. “The plot structure has been changed, and Gomez and Morticia have been given a more significant storyline with more meat on it.”
These changes mean more stage time for Sills, as well as some new songs that will be unfamiliar to fans of the New York production. Changes of this sort are normal for a show in development as it prepares for a Broadway run, but, traditionally, once it hits the Great White Way it’s usually pretty much set in stone. Not so much these days, says Sills.
“It seems to be a newish trend,” he says. “I think a lot of producers are recognizing that there is a long and profitable life ahead for shows after Broadway, so they want it to be as good as it can be to take advantage of those subsidiary rights. So now you see things like Disney reimagining their stage production of Tarzan, which maybe didn’t get the best first response when it opened.”
Sills feels another factor is the emergence of social media, which can have a powerful impact on a show’s word-of-mouth. It’s not enough to just get a great review in The New York Times anymore; everyone fancies themselves a critic on Facebook and Twitter.
“It really does give us the luxury of hearing how audiences responded after a show on a larger scale,” says Sills. “It helps in planning ahead for the play’s journey after Broadway.”
The stage production of The Addams Family retains the spooky, lighthearted feel of its television forebear but revisits the family a little further on in life. Daughter Wednesday is now a young woman in love and feeling some trepidation at introducing her kooky clan to her prospective in-laws.
“Wednesday’s fiancé comes from two people we would recognize as Midwestern and conservative,” Sills says. “They’re a very traditional family.”
Such is Wednesday’s fear at unsettling her new family by exposing them to her odd kin that she convinces Gomez to keep her engagement secret from Morticia.
“Morticia knows there’s something that Gomez isn’t telling her, and it ends up putting quite a strain on their marriage,” Sills says. “It goes against his grain to deceive her, and he quickly finds himself feeling the heat from trying to keep that secret. There’s a lot of soul searching about what their marriage has meant to him, and his anxiety at jeopardizing it.”
Sills points out that his flamboyant character isn’t much different from many husbands and fathers – though perhaps minus the cobwebs, disembodied hands and hirsute cousins.
“For me, he’s a guy who feels that the most important thing in his life is his good fortune to find a once-in-a-hundred-year lover,” Sills says. “His wife is the most amazing creature to him. He’s overtly demonstrative and an eccentric, but he’s very protective of her and his family.
“The interesting thing to me is that I don’t think he perceives the world around him to be as different as the world perceives him to be.”
The Addams Family runs Wed, Nov 16–Sun, Nov 27
Toronto Centre for the Arts