"The Addams Family": Festering "Normal" Love
The national tour of the new musical "The Addams Family," based on the bizarre and beloved family of characters created by legendary cartoonist Charles Addams, will make its Orange County premiere on Tuesday, December 18 at Segerstrom Center for the Arts as part of their Broadway Series. "The Addams Family" features an original story that is every father’s nightmare.
Wednesday Addams, the ultimate princess of darkness, has grown up and fallen in love with a sweet, smart young man from a respectable family. A man her parents have never met. And if that weren’t upsetting enough, she confides in her father and begs him not to tell her mother. Now, Gomez must do something he’s never done before-keep a secret from his beloved wife, Morticia.
Everything changes for the whole family on the fateful night they host a dinner for Wednesday’s "normal" boyfriend and his parents. Blake Hammond who plays Uncle Fester sat down with The Rage Monthly to discuss his role in this unique love story.
What’s it like to play such a classic character as the bald member of the "The Addams Family"?
It’s kind of got a built-in reward, because you go to work and people are all ready to like you. So you’ve automatically have a leg up because everyone already knows you before the show. At the same time everyone knows this character and loves him, at the same time it comes with some high expectations you must meet.
Are there any challenges you face with that?
I think the biggest challenge so far has been to keep my head shaved. I shave it every day. It’s in my contract: "Must shave head!"(Laughs).
Honestly though, they’ve written such a wonderful piece and the role just takes care of itself. I just kind of try to stay true to that and use the Charles Addams drawings for inspiration for the character’s personality. That, coupled with what the writers have going on, has been a pretty winning combination for me all year and it’s simply been a ball to have this role.
Did you watch some of the old clips in preparation for the role?
I didn’t actually. I sort of grew up with these characters and watched them on television after school in reruns when I was a kid. Then of course, I saw the movies in the theater when they came out. So I think I knew enough about him so that I knew where to jump off from, but I also wanted to make it my own, so I steered clear of trying to do an imitation of anyone else as Uncle Fester. I just sort of left it to my imagination and we rehearsed for six weeks-gave me a lot of time for discovery to make him my own.
How does the show translate to stage?
It’s a new and original story with Wednesday being all grown up. She has fallen in love and wants us to meet her young man’s family, which is where the plot sort of takes off. What’s great about it is that they’ve kept these great characters that you’ve known from television and we’ve stayed true to them in a situation and environment in which you’ve never seen them before. I think people have come to the theater expecting to have a good time, but they’ve left with sense of being surprised at just how funny this play is and how much fun they’ve had just watching it unfold.
How would you describe the character of Uncle Fester?
He can be described in a couple of ways. One, he is in my mind a 14-year-old boy trapped in a 50-year-old man’s body. He likes to have a good time, but doesn’t take anything terribly seriously. That being said, one of my roles in this show is that of being a catalyst for love, so Uncle Fester is all about love. He wants that to win out. He wants to bring everyone together and to be happy, which is great because that is one of my own philosophies in life: no matter who you are or who you end up loving, if you’re in love with one another then you should be able to be together.
Has Uncle Fester lost his sense of creepiness and become more charming in this storyline?
I think that there’s a sense of both. However, I definitely bring the charm because it’s important, as Uncle Fester acts as the narrator with the audience throughout the play. I actually step forward to talk to the audience directly and I think in order to do that, you have to make sure that you have a sense of charm, so that the audience is coming along the journey with you. Still, when I have a moment where I’m allowed to be a bit creepier, I take those because I think that it makes a good balance of the better of the two. I think one of the lessons we need to learn, is that creepy is not always necessarily scary. They are two different things. You can be creepy and still be likeable.
Why should readers come out to watch "The Addams Family"?
I touched on this a little bit before but I just cannot extend how hilariously funny this show is; people walk away telling us that they laughed for two-and-a half hours. Additionally, I think people should come out to the show because one of the great themes is about what is normal. Especially right now in our society, we are sort of pressing the question of what is normal and what isn’t normal and what should and shouldn’t be allowed. What is really beautiful about this show is it makes you realize that everybody is sort of normal to themselves, to the point that [LGBT] families could be normal to each other. Ultimately we’re all in this together and we should all have the same opportunities as one another. The show ultimately teaches us there should be a little less judging going on in the world.
Is there a particular scene or number in the show that you look forward to in your performance?
Absolutely! I have a number in Act Two called "The Moon and Me," which is Fester’s rendition of his love song to the moon. What I love about it, is that it’s a truly beautiful song with a beautiful melody and sweet lyrics. Number two is the phrasing -it is absolutely magical. It’s one of those things you have to sort of see to believe. I don’t want to give too much of it away, but audiences seem to delight in it every night so I love doing that number.
What is "festering" for Blake Hammond after "The Addams Family"?
I’m taking time off since I’ve been working solid for the past four years without really having any time off. Since I’ve been going from project to project, I’m going to take a little break, work on my television and film resume a little more and really push for pilot season this year. So that’s the plan!
Single tickets, which start at $20, are available at the Segerstrom Box Office at 600 Town Center Drive in Costa Mesa, or by calling 714.556.2787. Also visit scfta.org.