May 19--Gomez, Morticia, Pugsley, Wednesday, Uncle Fester, Lurch and all the other members of that creepy, crawly Addams clan are, first and foremost, a family.
An odd one, but a family all the same, which is one of the points of "The Addams Family." The touring musical will close the Plaza Theatre's 2012-2013 Broadway series on Friday and Saturday.
"We underscored the word 'family' in Addams Family. And this family is multi-generational," Andrew Lippa, who wrote the music and lyrics for musical, told Playbill magazine a few years ago.
Texas native KeLeen Snowgren, who plays Morticia in the musical has taken that to heart.
"It's do or die with this family. She only cares for their best interests," Snowgren said from
a tour stop in San Antonio.
"The Addams Family" musical is based primarily on the morbidly funny cartoon characters created by Charles Addams for The New Yorker magazine between 1938 and 1988, the year he died.
The musical isn't a remake of the TV show, which aired from 1964 to '66 on ABC, or the two hit movies that came out in the 1991 and '93, though it offers nods to each. It was created by Lippa, with a book by the team that created the Broadway sensation "Jersey Boys": Rick Elice and former Woody Allen collaborator Marshall Brickman (who co-wrote "Annie Hall").
It debuted in Chicago in 2009, then moved to Broadway the following year, with Nathan Lane and Bebe Neuwirth as the deliciously ghoulish Gomez and Morticia.
It was performed 765 times and earned two Tony Award nominations before closing at the end of 2011, a commercial success that had received mixed reviews from critics.
"The Addams Family" was retooled on and off the stage between Chicago and Broadway, and was revamped again for its first tour in 2011. Songs were cut, others reworked and new ones written. The storyline was tweaked to create a schism between Gomez and Morticia -- the better, its creators have said, to show the strength of their relationship and, ultimately, their family.
In the musical, the Addams' scary daughter Wednesday falls for a normal boy named Lucas and intends to marry him. She confides this to her father but asks him not to reveal it to her mother for fear she'll ruin it. The Addamses invite Lucas and his parents, Mal and Alice, over for dinner. Both families try to act normal in front of one another.
Snowgren's interest in the "Addams Family" began in middle school in Houston, where the Minnesota-born "Yank Texan" grew up. She used to watch reruns of the TV show, starring John Astin and Carolyn Jones, and the two '90s movies, with the late Raul Julia and Anjelica Huston.
"It always was very interesting to me. They were such an odd family that got along so well," Snowgren said. "They did the weirdest things. They were so strange to me as a kid, but I was enthralled by them and I loved Morticia, especially when the movies came out in the '90s. I went to see them. I hardly watch movies more than once, but I saw them multiple times."
Snowgren studied theater at the University of Oklahoma and earned her bachelor's in 2004. She moved to New York, landing a succession of smaller or ensemble roles in touring versions of "Hairspray," "Monty Python's Spamalot," "The Producers" and "Will Rogers Follies."
"This is my fifth tour and first leading role, which is amazing," she said of the "Addams" tour, which began Feb. 1. "It's been a total of about four and a half years on the road. ... This one is an eighteen-month contract from beginning to end."
Director Jerry Zaks, who took over the show during its trial run in Chicago, helped engineer its transition to "a story that made them human and a situation that they had to work through," as he told Playbill.
Even though former "Cheers" star Neuwirth and former child star Brooke Shields had played Morticia on Broadway -- Sara Gettelfinger played her on the first tour -- Zaks encouraged Snowgren to "find my own Morticia" instead of aping their work. "He said, 'You are Morticia e react to what people are telling you, react to how a mother reacts,' " said the actress, who observed how her older sister dealt with a young son and daughter.
Of course, she's also playing a sexy character with a dress slit down to there, a look NPR has described as "the pale dagger in the spidery black dress" -- and 4-inch heels. It takes Snowgren 90 minutes to slip into that dress, put on her pallid makeup and attach that black wig (she's a blonde), but only 20 to take it off after each performance.
"The makeup covers from my fingers to my elbows, from my head down to my belly button," she said. "I have to do my back, my chest, everything. It's a lot of makeup."
With an unusual lead role comes a lot of extra attention.
"What I'm not used to are people approaching me afterwards, asking, 'How do you stay in the dress,' " she said. "I tell them I'm locked and loaded." How she stays in it is something "we will not reveal," she said, laughing.
"The Addams Family" is a family show of sorts, though some of Gomez's off-color jokes might sail over most kids' heads.
There's another family of which she's proud to be a part.
"It's an honor to play the role that Carolyn Jones, Bebe Neuwirth and Anjelica Huston played," she said. "To be able to extend this character for more people to see, and see me, kind of blows my mind a little bit. It's my job to do that. So many people love her."
Doug Pullen may be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org; 546-6397. Read Pullen My Blog at elpasotimes.com/blogs. Follow him on Twitter @dougpullen and on Facebook at facebook.com/dougpulleneptimes.
-- What: "The Addams Family."
-- When: 8 p.m. Friday and Saturday.
-- Where:"Plaza Theatre.
-- How much: $35 and $60 ($31.50 and $54 for military, seniors and educators), plus service charges. Tickets are sold at the box office and through Ticketmaster, ticketmaster.com and 800-745-3000.
-- Information: 231-1100, elpasolive.com.
(c)2013 the El Paso Times (El Paso, Texas)
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