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to Section One | to Arts & Entertainment
posted Friday, October 19, 2012 - Volume 40 Issue 42
Dying to meet you
Arts & Entertainment
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Dying to meet you

Douglas Sills brings ghoulish Gomez to life in The Addams Family

by Eric Andrews-Katz - SGN A&E Writer

THE ADDAMS FAMILY
5TH AVENUE THEATRE
October 24 - November 11


Douglas Sills is a man of many talents. Aside from scoring 99% recently on the Law School Admission Test, he is an accomplished actor, having appeared in several Broadway casts and touring companies. As the newly revised musical The Addams Family creeps into Seattle just in time for Halloween, SGN caught up with the versatile actor.

Andrews-Katz: Who were your earliest influences in becoming a performer?

Sills: They were probably Robert Preston (in The Music Man), Rex Harrison (in My Fair Lady), and Bette Midler. I remember my sisters listening to Bette Midler's 'Bugle Boy.' They all had this tremendous stash of panache.

Andrews-Katz: After doing several national touring companies you were going to give up the stage to become a lawyer. Do you still have any desire to go into law?

Sills: I think many actors are curious people by nature, and I'm curious, and so I'm always interested in new things. In that way, yes, I think law is a fascinating thing. But I had the experience of sort of having to take over the family business, which I now run, and so I'm less curious about it. Going to school and learning anything is fascinating to me.

Andrews-Katz: How did you come up for the audition of the lead role in The Scarlet Pimpernel?

Sills: The traditional path - my agent called and said, 'I know you aren't doing auditions right now, but I think you should look at this one.' So I did. The first time, I walked in and sang a Frank Wildhorn song that my partner had suggested, called 'Someone Like You.' I didn't know it was a song for a woman, and I sang it for Frank. He said, 'I never heard a man sing that before,' and I felt kind of stupid, but Frank said he liked it and that was sort of how it went. The next song I sang for them was from the show and it was 'Into the Fire.' Other songs were written for me once we started rehearsals.

Andrews-Katz: On the touring company of The Scarlet Pimpernel here in Seattle, you stopped the show to ad-lib with the sign-language interpreter. Do you naturally ad-lib in your performances and have you ever gotten in trouble for it?

Sills: I certainly don't do it without permission. Sometimes the permission is not unspoken, but they know it and have said it is OK to do. Auditioning in L.A. for TV, sometimes I have paraphrased, and they didn't like it. I've had a performer say that it made him nervous, and I appreciate that. So, I was careful around him to do it exactly the way we rehearsed it. In general now, I think as long as you're courteous, and everyone knows that it's OK, or that it's not. It's been cool. It's not supposed to grandiose the actor - it's supposed to highlight the piece.

Andrews-Katz: What is your best memory as Dr. Orin Scrivello in Little Shop of Horrors?

Sills: I think my favorite memory is probably working with the other cast members and hearing the audience laugh. That's usually the greatest fun for any performer at least it is for me. I don't have strong specific memories of a night or an event that happened, I just remember everyone enjoying each other. There is no experience like being an authorized member of the Broadway community. You feel like a Senator on the Senate floor.

Andrews-Katz: People don't realize that you were to play Sir Galahad in the pre-Broadway bound musical, Spamalot. What were your reasons for leaving that show?

Sills: It just wasn't a good fit. Because of, perhaps, my own insecurity and not having a good connection with Mr. [Eric] Idle. I felt invisible in the rehearsals and it just felt like it wasn't a good fit for me. I didn't feel appreciated. I tried to find my place in the cast, and it just didn't seem to gel. While there was still ample time to replace me, I asked to be released and the wonderful Chris Sieber stepped in. Were I to do it again or encounter a young actor dealing with the same things, I'd tell him to follow his heart. I'd tell him to do the show once or twice in front of a large audience before leaving the company. That would have been a good piece of advice to follow.

Andrews-Katz: How did you come up for the role of Gomez Addams in The Addams Family musical?

Sills: The producer called me. I had a good friend who is one of the producers and she asked me if I'd take a call from the lead producer. I was doing a show called White Noise in Chicago at the time, and working with Addams Family choreographer Sergio Trujillo on his directorial debut play. I took the call from Stuart Oken. We discussed it and that's how it happened.

Andrews-Katz: The musical has gone under several revisions since its original debut. What are some of the major changes that have happened?

Sills: The biggest change made is that the production has re-centered its main plot on Gomez and Morticia. The Broadway version still had its center of Wednesday and [her engagement to] Lucas. It left Gomez and Morticia without a strong storyline to play. They realized that Gomez and Morticia are the sun that the entire family orbits around. So the biggest change is a new plot point for them. That has resulted in several song deletions and song additions. It's been refined. It's a big rewrite, not a little one.

Andrews-Katz: How did you further shape the character of Gomez past those of John Astin or Nathan Lane?

Sills: I really didn't think of them. The job for me boils down to treating it like any play, which was what I was taught at the source of my theater education. What does the character want? How badly do they want it? What's the way they'll achieve it, and what is he afraid of? When you put those givens in front of you, then add things like the period of the play, age of the character, what are his loves/likes, and the aesthetics of the character, then he starts to flesh himself out. I wasn't thinking of past actors other than remembering John Astin had this wonderful joie de vivre when he portrayed this character. I felt comfortable in summoning that part. One of the requirements for doing the characters was not using anything from either the TV or the movies - they used only the single-cell drawings from the original. While I have great respect for the prior incarnations of Gomez, I didn't feel hamstrung [by] them. We were so busy doing our own thing and it was important to the creators. It was clear to me they wanted something fresh and new that had its own voice.

Andrews-Katz: What is the relevance of The Addams Family today?

Sills: I think that the readers [of SGN] might find a different relationship with the Addams Family. They are 'other' than the norm. To some degree they know they are different, and in some degrees they don't. More importantly, they don't care. I think they can be read as an interesting metaphor for the GLBT movement and change in these interesting times.

Andrews-Katz: Regardless of gender, what role would you love to play on stage?

Sills: Mama Rose (in Gypsy) - the reasons are obvious. I think Rose and Lady Macbeth, and maybe Mary Tyrone (in Long Day's Journey Into Night). I think Hedda Gabler would be good, and I'd love to play Effie White (Dreamgirls). That would be fun!

Douglas Sills made his Broadway premiere in the title role of The Scarlet Pimpernel in 1997, winning a Tony nomination the following year. After successfully touring the country in the role, he returned triumphantly to Broadway in the hit musical Little Shop of Horrors. The Addams Family opened on Broadway in 2010 and ran for 725 performances, garnering two Tony nominations including Best Score (by Andrew Lippa). Receiving mixed reviews, it underwent a reconstruction and has been touring the country since September 2011.

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