As Gomez Addams in the national tour of The Addams Family, Douglas Sills is creepy and kooky but in a weirdly dashing, oddball Latin lover way. In the revamped version of the Broadway production, Sills doesn't go after the laughs; he earns them by portraying Gomez with great sincerity and debonair, leading-man appeal.
"I'm not surprising anyone when I say that most people wouldn't think of me and Nathan Lane in the same way," says Sills. "I admire Nathan tremendously, but I was kind of curious as to why the creatives would come to me. The fact that they went from Nathan to Roger Rees indicated that they were thinking smart and outside the box. They were thinking about actors and skill, as opposed to type. So it was flattering when they approached me. I wasn't looking to go on tour, but when they told me they wanted to work on the show, I was excited to have the chance to create something fundamentally original."
The touring show, which plays Chicago (its tryout birthplace) in late December, has received far better reviews than the Broadway production. Andrew Lippa wrote three new songs, and three original songs were scrapped. (Read the earlier Playbill.com feature about the revamp.) Marshall Brickman and Rick Elice made a major revision to the book. And Jerry Zaks, who came in as director between the show's Chicago tryout and Broadway, had a chance to start over and make the changes he didn't have time to make before the show opened in New York.
Although the plot is still driven by Wednesday's engagement to a "normal" guy — and the question of normalcy is one of the big themes of the show — a new story line was added to create tension between Gomez and Morticia, played by Sara Gettelfinger.
|photo by Jeremy Daniel|
"Gomez and Morticia have made a promise never to have any secrets from each other," says Sills, "but Gomez breaks that promise when his daughter asks him not to tell Morticia of her engagement. He doesn't think it's a big deal, but it is. Once you have that ball rolling down the hill, you give the actor and the character something to go after. The laughs become more situational. You're not breaking the fourth wall for laughs, or winking or commenting or being gimmicky. In fact, we took some sure-fire laughs out of the show, because they broke the rhythm of the situation."
Zaks gave Sills great latitude in creating the character, even leaving it up to him whether to use an accent. "I looked at videos online for ideas for dialect," he says. "I wasn't sure that I was going to use an accent, and Jerry didn't have a preference. He's such a secure director. He just told me, 'Do what you want.' I did some research of Spaniards trying to learn English, and began rehearsing with the accent.... Jerry liked it, so I kept it. I also thought about what the character does when he's offstage, all the standard questions that make the work onstage more detailed and specific."
Stuart Oken, the show's lead producer, told the St. Petersburg Times that Sills "is now the prototype" for Gomez. Sills wasn't aware of it until this interview. "I've been very careful not to read anything about the show," he says. "But that's really nice to hear. I feel very lucky. I give props to the two gentlemen who did this before me. Those guys made what I do possible. I just wish they had the opportunity to work on this script. I think they would have had even more fun with it."