The Addams Family is a musical based on the characters created by cartoonist Charles Addams. While many television and film adaptations have been made, the musical is the first stage production based on Addams’ concept and takes all inspiration from the original cartoons with a completely original plot, separate from the characters’ on-screen story lines.
Work began on The Addams Family in 2007, when producers first gained rights to write a musical about these beloved characters from the Tee and Charles Addams Foundation. Producers then tapped Marshall Brickman and Rick Elice to write the book for the musical; the two had previously collaborated on Jersey Boys. Andrew Lippa was brought in to write music and lyrics. Julian Crouch and Phelim McDermott, founders of the London-based company Improbable Theatre, were hired to direct and design. According to them, the design of the show is largely based around the character of Uncle Fester. They wondered what a Broadway show would look like if Fester were the designer, and then followed the inspiration from there, creating what they would describe as “an off-beat take on 19th Century Gothic.” The production team was completed with the additions of Sergio Trujillo (choreography), Natasha Katz (lighting design), Basil Twist (puppet design), Gregory Meeh (special effects), and Larry Hochman (orchestration).
The show had a brief tryout run in Chicago, then opened on Broadway at the Lunt-Fontanne Theatre on March 8, 2010. The cast included Nathan Lane (Gomez), Bebe Neuwirth (Morticia), Kevin Chamberlin (Uncle Fester), Jackie Hoffman (Grandma), Krysta Rodriguez (Wednesday), Adam Riegler (Pugsley), Zachary James (Lurch), Wesley Taylor (Lucas), Terrence Mann (Mal), and Carolee Carmello (Alice).
The Addams Family was nominated for two Tony Awards, for Best Original Score (Andrew Lippa) and Best Performance of a Featured Actor in a Musical (Kevin Chamberlin). It won the Drama Desk Award for Outstanding Set Design. At the Drama League Awards, Nathan Lane won for Distinguished Achievement in Musical Theatre and Bebe Neuwirth won the award for Distinguished Performance.
The show closed on Broadway on December 31, 2011, after 35 previews and 722 performances and grossing over $62 million. A United States tour was launched in September 2011 featuring some changes to the original script. A new conflict was devised for the plot, some new or revised songs replaced old ones, the song list was reordered, and fresh orchestrations and dance were added to some scenes.
A new production was mounted in Chicago, where the musical had originated, on February 5, 2015 at the Mercury Theater Chicago with the revised touring script and enjoyed renewed success. According to the Chicago Tribune, the new script was “much more relaxed and infinitely funnier.”
The Addams Family was presented at the Ogunquit Playhouse in October 2014. Another US Tour began in 2013, after which the cast toured Asia. It has also been mounted in Brazil, Sweden, England, Australia, Argentina, Finland, Peru, the Philippines, Germany, Italy, and Mexico.
When staging The Addams Family, a few moments will require some creative staging. The most popular method for displaying the multiple settings in the house has been to have a set backdrop — usually the main hall of the mansion — with movable set pieces to denote different rooms. A puppet has been most often used to portray the Addams’ pet giant squid, Bernice. It must have tentacles long enough to reach out of the grate in Gomez’s room to grab Mal. The script has no specific way to do so though, and is up to a production’s discretion how to accomplish this. During “The Moon and Me,” the original Broadway cast chose to have Fester rise by wires to dance in the sky with the moon. It is up to each production how to create this effect.