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Over-the-Top Icon

Ba-da-da-dum, snap, snap.  Ba-da-da-dum, snap, snap.  Ba-da-da-dum, Ba-da-da-dum, Ba-da-da-dum, snap, snap!
The above theme sound was as iconic in the 60s as the Law and Order “clang, clang” is now.  But this time it’s coming to town not as a TV show or as a popular film-it’s coming to the Segerstrom Center for the Performing Arts as a musical this holiday season from December 18 through 30.
Douglas Sills, who will take on the lead role of Gomez Addams, talked to Orange County Jewish Life about the upcoming run of the show.
Sills has received both Tony and Drama Desk nominations as well as the Los Angeles Ovation Award for his performance as The Scarlet Pimpernel on Broadway and on tour.  He’s also had numerous guest starring roles on TV and has been in the movies.  Besides studying at the University of Michigan and the American Conservatory Theater in San Francisco, he is a founding member of The Antaeus Company.
Beginning his professional career at the tender age of 17, Sills loves performing both musicals and straight plays.  “As long as I am lucky enough to do what I love, I’m more than happy.  Tackling all different types of characters is what I prefer.  I don’t like sticking to just one thing.”
How did he become involved with the touring company of The Addams Family?
“I’ve worked with both the director and the producer on other projects.  Recently I went back to Michigan, after the death of my father, to run the family business.  I wasn’t really interested in touring.  It’s a hard life to go from one city to another.   I actually turned them down.  I also didn’t really have an interest in following Nathan Lane’s Broadway version of Gomez.  But, they both kept talking and telling me about the changes they were going to make.  The more they told me, the more intrigued I became!  I signed a contract for 9 months and at the end I was so happy with the audience’s reaction, my fellow performers and how much I was enjoying doing the show that I signed an extension,” said Sills.
Gomez Addams is a very over-the-top character, and it has been played by such popular actors as John Astin (on television), Raul Julia (in film) and Nathan Lane (as mentioned earlier, on Broadway).  Was it intimidating to take over a role like this?
“No, most of the characters I’ve played are larger than life.  When I starred in The Scarlet Pimpernel, when I played the dentist in The Little Shop of Horrors and many more, they were all big on personality.  This one wasn’t really any different.  Our director, Jerry Zaks, didn’t tell me how to play Gomez.  So I approached him the way I would any role:  First I strip down the character to his volume and size — in other words, down to the basics of who he is fundamentally.  Then I add the various known traits that make him who he is.  In this case, outside of what I absorbed watching John Astin do on television, I had no preconceptions other than his two sides, both dark and macabre and the other which is that he feels he is the luckiest guy in the world.  He wakes up next to a woman he adores, and she challenges him intellectually and sexually.  He loves his family, especially his daughter, who is in love for the first time.  He loves his life,” said Sills.
Sills went on to say that this is first and foremost a musical comedy in the very sense of those words.  “I hope that when people go out of the theater with two thoughts, that they have forgotten all the less than perfect parts of their day and had a good amount of giggles and that they can also think a bit, go back and look at their lives, their families and work and see them all a little differently and how lucky they are to have all of it, the good and the bad.”
While Sills loves all of the musical numbers that he does, he also has a great appreciation and enjoyment for all those performed by his cast mates.  One of the ones that are a standout for him is one that “Morticia” does with the chorus called “Just Around the Corner.”  He feels that it shows the joys and the miseries of life all the while it revels in pointing out the dark side.
According to Sills, “What’s really neat about this show is that while the characters are written and created from those in Chas Addams macabre cartoons, it has been created by, produced by, written by and starring those who are Jewish!  We have some of the same beliefs as Gomez.  We believe our women should be cherished, our families loved and cared for and that we hold to our beliefs that our values should remain strong.  Jews have been seen as being a bit different than the rest of the population.  We are lucky to be American Jews where we’ve been able to achieve a level of success through our uniqueness, rather like the Addams Family.”
For those interested in purchasing tickets for the performances and learning more information, visit Segerstrom Center for the Arts 600 Town Center Drive, Costa Mesa, or  www.scfta.org or call  (714) 556-2787.

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