A Broadway veteran, Douglas Sills plays Gomez in the national tour of The Addams Family musical. Read what this Tony nominated actor has to say about the changing role of Broadway in a musical’s life, the special effects in the musical and more in our latest Feature Q & A.
Were you familiar with The Addams Family before you joined the show?
I grew up in Detroit and suburban Detroit, and the New Yorker Magazine was lying around the house. I saw those cartoons. Then, I saw episodes of the TV Show. I never saw the movies though. I did see the show in its early incarnation on Broadway. I had seen Nathan do this part early on not having any thought or idea that this would come into my life.
What do you like best about performing in the musical?
What I like best is that it is first and foremost a comedy. I think the greatest pleasure in sort of a metaphoric hand clap is one hand is the success of the comedy when I hear the audience laughing and enjoying something on such a gut level, and on the other hand is the cast. It is working with a very, very talented group of people for whom the work is very important and who are eager to support each other in creating something larger than the sum of our parts. That is what I like best. Getting to make people laugh with a group of people I admire and enjoy.
The Addams Family musical has changed quite a bit from its premiere. Do you think the changes have made the show better?
I think the changes have been great for the show. They have decided that this is the version of the show that will be published. It’s the version that is playing in Brazil, Australia, perhaps the West End.
Do you think it is a good thing that shows continue to be tweaked even after they reach Broadway?
I think this is more the trend now. Even Disney is rethinking some of its shows like The Little Mermaid and Tarzan that didn’t reach their potential on Broadway. The entertainment industry is much of a global industry now that everyone understands Broadway is not the end, that it is just a stage in a show’s career. Everyone thinks that Broadway is important, but not necessarily the terminus, or the end, of the creative bracket.
The show features several special effects. Can you spill any secrets about how they are performed?
It is a major part of our show. The special effects are actually low tech, but they are incredibly effective. Uncle Fester has an amazing song called “The Modern Day.” He flies through the air, and he does amazing things with his body, which is actually puppetry. We have Thing, Cousin It, and there’s a new character.
You were in The Scarlet Pimpernel in a very acclaimed role. Has anything from that experience helped you prepare for the role of Gomez in The Addams Family musical?
It was life changing. All of the dreams you have as a boy coming true essentially. I made my Broadway debut as in the title role in a new musical. It was every guy’s dream, and it was bigger than life. It was the Fourth of July and Passover all at the same time. I worked harder than I have ever worked, for a longer duration than I have worked in my life.And, it matured me, aged me, made me wiser and made me a better artist. It changed my life completely. Taking on the burden of the publicity that came with that show and the sudden notoriety, it is a heavy experience. Thankfully, I was not 21. I was in my thirties, and it was ok.
I think from that experience I bring a certain validity to the pressure of being the lead in this show. Not that it scared me. I wasn’t worried about the responsibility, and I took it happily. I feel pleased and ready to be head of this cast.I think that is what it did for me in addition to the many opportunities that it gave me. Once you are nominated for a Tony Award® a lot of things come your way that didn’t come your before. Like this show. This show I didn’t have to audition for. That’s a wonderful luxury for a performer.
It also taught me how to sing difficult material eight times a week for a year. That’s a very underestimated, difficult thing. It’s one thing to run a hundred yard dash in an Olympic event, but to do it eight times a week. It’s something few people understand. It’s also another thing to do one song a show or two songs a show, but to carry the lead and do five songs a show eight times a week. It’s Olympian; it really is.
Contributing Editor and Administrator Kenny Norton also interviewed Sills for Encore Atlanta. To read his article “The Addams Family Evolution” please click here.