If the national touring production of “The Addams Family” coming to Proctors next week has any detractors, it won’t be because of a lack of chemistry between the two leading characters.
“I can honestly say that I’ve never been more madly in love with my leading man,” said Sara Gettelfinger, who plays Morticia opposite Douglas Sills as Gomez. “He’s an incredibly generous actor, and just a wonderful spirit to be around.”
According to Sills, the feeling is mutual.
“The sexual chemistry between Morticia and Gomez is the primary kernel of the whole play,” he said. “The whole thing doesn’t work unless they’re madly in love with each other, and with Sara that’s easy. She’s professional, elegant and incredibly talented. To play opposite her is a dream.”
‘The Addams Family’
WHERE: Proctors, 432 State St., Schenectady
WHEN: 8 p.m. Tuesday and Wednesday, 2 and 8 p.m. Thursday, 8 p.m. Friday, 2 and 8 p.m. Saturday and 2 p.m. Sunday
HOW MUCH: $70-$20
MORE INFO: 346-6204 or www.proctors.org
Gomez and Morticia are the blissfully happy married couple who live with their family in a big gloomy house in either Central Park or on Cemetery Lane, depending on which rendition of the story you most enjoy. The quirky characters — who include Uncle Fester; Lurch; Grandmamma; and the Addams’ two children, Wednesday and Pugsley — were originally created by the New Yorker magazine’s Charles Addams in a series of single-panel cartoons between 1938 and 1988, when he died.
Familiar TV series
Most people will remember the characters from the ABC series that aired (in spooky black-and-white) from 1964-66 with John Astin playing Gomez and Carolyn Jones as Morticia. There were various remakes and sequels to that show, including three movies. Then in 2007, Broadway veterans Marshall Brickman, Rick Elice and Andrew Lippa developed the story into a staged musical.
For Gazette theater writer Matthew G. Moross’ review of this show, click here.
With Brickman and Elice writing the book and Lippa the score, the show opened on Broadway in March of 2010 with Nathan Lane playing Gomez and Bebe Neuwirth portraying Morticia. It earned Tony nominations for Best Score (Lippa) and Best Featured Actor (Kevin Chamberlain as Uncle Fester), and continues to run on Broadway with Roger Rees and Brooke Shields playing the two marquee parts.
Gettelfinger, who has six Broadway credits on her resume, said her first experience with “The Addams Family” was watching syndicated reruns of the show on the Nickelodeon Channel.
“I thought Carolyn Jones was the most beautiful woman I had ever seen,” said Gettelfinger, whose Broadway debut came in “Seussical” in 2001.
“Then, I was very fortunate to see it on Broadway with Bebe Neuwirth and Roger Rees. I was definitely attracted to the role, but I also knew I had to work at being Morticia, and uphold those elements of her character that are so recognizable and so clearly associated with her. She’s an iconic character, and her carriage, her darkness, and her being angular were things I thought I was well-suited for.”
Like Gettelfinger, Sills grew up watching the television sitcom in reruns.
“John Astin was a great actor who really gave a lot of dimension to the piece,” said Sills, who played the lead in “The Scarlet Pimpernel” on Broadway for almost three years from 1997-2000. “He had this wonderful man-of-the-household and strong intellect thing going on, but at the same time he had this childlike wonder about anything that wasn’t Addams-esque. And he felt like he was the luckiest guy in the world to be married to Morticia.”
In the musical, the plot centers on the family’s concern about Wednesday, who has invited a new boyfriend and his parents to the Addams’ house for dinner. The national touring version, which opened in September, has been tweaked just a bit from the Broadway stage production.
“I was very interested in working with the creative team on this project,” said Gettelfinger, rattling off the names of Lippa, consultant Jerry Zaks and choreographer Sergio Trujillo. “All of them worked with “The Jersey Boys,” so there are wonderful writers and wonderfully creative people working as a team that I wanted to be a part of.”
While Gettelfinger says she came to musical theater as an actor first, for Sills it was the other way around.
“I was always singing when I was younger,” he said. “When I was a kid, I never missed an opportunity to sing. But pretty quickly in college I also realized I wanted to be a classical actor. All those classy British guys that my mother made me watch growing up; they were my heroes. Guys like [Laurence] Olivier and [John] Gielgud. They were great on film, but they always kept alive the theater tradition. Then I realized that the theater tended to give me much more pleasure, and I think a lot of actors feel that way. TV or film may provide much better remuneration and notoriety on a larger scale, but it is ultimately less satisfying.”
Sills is a native of Detroit and went to school at the University of Michigan and the American Conservatory Theatre in California. Gettelfinger got her BFA in 1999 at the University of Cincinnati-Conservatory of Music and headed immediately to New York City, where three weeks later she had an acting job.
“I wouldn’t say it was easy, because it was a lot of hard work,” she said. “But, I was very fortunate in that I had many opportunities to work one right after the other. My very first year out of school I was kept pretty busy.“
Sills found plenty of television work for himself in the early 1990s, but halfway through the decade he seriously thought about going to law school.
“I’m always looking for the next challenge around the bend, and I felt like an academic setting would be a fun way to spend a couple of years,” explained Sills, who in 1998 earned a Tony nomination for his performance in “The Scarlet Pimpernel.”
“I was making a career for myself on the West Coast, but when the opportunity to do ‘Pimpernel’ came up I said, ‘OK.’ I remember watching the film with Leslie Howard as a young boy. He had a lovely screen presence. I couldn’t say no, and the experience was definitely career-altering. It was my Broadway debut, I got a great response and I felt incredibly lucky. But it was also exhausting. I felt like it was a decade in my life, not just two years.”
Gettelfinger doesn’t have her Tony nomination yet, but along with her debut in “Seussical,” her Broadway resume includes “Dirty Rotten Scoundrels,” “The Boys From Syracuse,” “Nine,” and most recently, “A Free Man of Color,” which is set in New Orleans prior to the Louisiana Purchase.
“Getting ‘Seussical’ was just an amazing experience, but I felt like getting to work on “A Free Man of Color” was the most incredible experience of my life,” she said. “It’s a new play by John Guare, and working with [director] George C. Wolfe was wonderful. It was my first Broadway play as opposed to a musical, and I was a part of the whole process that was great to watch.”
Gettelfinger, who also guest-starred on Showtime’s “The Big C” with Laura Linney this season, is signed on with the national tour of “The Addams Family” until August of 2012. While she very likely will return to New York when her current gig is up, Sills isn’t so sure what he’ll do.
“I live in L.A. and New York, and I go back and forth a lot,” said Sills, who co-starred with Hoosick Falls native Kevin McGuire in a national tour of “The Secret Garden” back in the 1990s. “About five years ago, I took some time off after my father died to help with the family business. It was a commercial real estate business in Michigan, and it gave me a new and wonderful perspective on the theater. I’m very grateful for everything the theater has given me. I’m very appreciative.”
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