News Column

They're all together ooky

May 2, 2013

YellowBrix

May 02--Most Broadway productions would shy away from embracing the "creepy," "kooky," "mysterious" and "spooky" descriptions.

Not "The Addams Family."

Da-da-da-da. Snap. Snap.

"What you see in Charles Addams' cartoons and in the television show is what you will get with the musical," said Jesse Sharp, who portrays the moustached Gomez. "The characters and classic elements that made the family so popular are the same. It's macabre at it's best."

The touring production of "The Addams Family" will come to the Von Braun Center this weekend for a five-show run, starting Friday at 8 p.m. Additional performances will take place Saturday at 2 and 8 p.m. and Sunday at 2 and 7:30 p.m.

Expect a night of fun, fiendishness and fright.

"When you're an Addams, you need to feel a little chill. You have to see the world in shades of gray. You have to put some poison in your day," said Sharp, reciting lyrics from "When You're an Addams."

In the eccentric family members of Gomez, Morticia, Wednesday, Pugsley, Lurch and Uncle Fester created by cartoonist Charles Addams, Broadway producers saw a potential song and dance hit.

While producers found success transforming movies into musicals, think "The Lion King" and "Beauty and the Beast," fewer financiers dared to transition illustrations to the stage. Stuart Oken and Roy Furman decided to take the risk, hoping "The Addams Family" would find the same audience appeal as "Lil Abner" and "You're a Good Man, Charlie Brown."

The musical with music and lyrics by Andrew Lippa and a book by Marshall Brickman and Rick Elice debuted on Broadway in 2010 and ran for 725 shows. Since closing, "The Addams Family" took to the road, performing in Brazil, Sweden and across the United States. This year, the show will entertain audiences in Sydney, Brazil, Argentina, Peru, Finland and Singapore.

Sharp attributed the show's success to the seamless incorporation of music into the script and the eccentrically enchanting characters.

"The message is about the importance of family, accepting others and challenging your definition of normal," Sharp said.

As a child, Sharp heard the message watching John Astin as Gomez on the television series. As a teenager, Sharp watched Raul Julia take on the role in the movies. And as an adult, Sharp witnessed Nathan Lane's portrayal on Broadway.

To prepare for the leading role of Gomez, an over-the-top, dedicated husband and internal optimist, Sharp returned to his childhood, watching reruns of the television shows and movies.

"All of the actors who played Gomez are amazing. I didn't try to base my character on any one of them. I watched the television show and the movies and looked at the cartoons to find the essence of Gomez," Sharp said. "No doubt, this has been the best part I have played to date. It is so much fun."

While based on Addams' cartoons, the musical brings a new dynamic to the characters.

"The big difference is Wednesday is about 16 and she is falling in love, which brings a whole new set of problems to the family," Sharp said. "The audience gets to meet Wednesday's love interest and his family."

Along with "When You're an Addams," the musical includes the original songs "Trapped," "Pulled," "One Normal Night," "What If?," "Full Disclosure," "The Moon and Me," "Crazier than You" and "Tango de Amour."

For Sharp, who grew up in a dirt road town with no theater, touring the country represents a dream.

"It wasn't until I was 11 and an older woman from Hollywood moved to town that I learned about theater. The first play I did was in junior high. I played Long John Silver and couldn't memorize my lines, so I convinced the teacher to let me hold the script in my pirate map," Sharp said. "From that moment, I was hooked."

Sharp no longer struggles to learn his lines. Now, his challenges come in keeping the lines and songs he sings night after night fresh.

"It's about being present in the moment and being aware of the audience to hear what they are responding to," Sharp said. "The audience, especially for Gomez, is a huge part of the experience."

Catherine Godbey can be reached at 256-340-2441 or cgodbey@decaturdaily.com.

If you go

What: "The Addams Family"

When: Friday at 8 p.m., Saturday at 2 and 8 p.m., Sunday at 2 and 7:30 p.m.

Where: Von Braun Center, Huntsville

Cost: Tickets start at $37. To order, visit www.ticketmaster.com or call 800-745-3000. For more information, visit www.broadwaytheatreleague.org.

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(c)2013 The Decatur Daily (Decatur, Ala.)

Visit The Decatur Daily (Decatur, Ala.) at www.decaturdaily.com

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