'Addams Family' musical brings a familiar household to the city stage

Mike Dunham

In a deceptively brief show business career, Jesse Sharp may be said to have done it all -- from "Macbeth" to "General Hospital." His film credits include a part in "The Devil Wears Prada." His voice-overs push products all over television-land. Among his stage credentials, which he estimates at more than 100 plays, musicals or other live shows, is one that he conceived himself, "The Hamlet Project," which the New York Times tagged as "a must see."

He'll make his first trip to Anchorage this week at Gomez Addams in the musical "Addams Family."

"I pretty much don't stop singing the whole time," the self-described bari-tenor said in a phone call from Bakersfield, Calif., where he was visiting his parents last week. "This is the most singing I think I've ever had to do. Fortunately, the music is really well-written."

Sharp grew up in the mountains outside Los Angeles, "in the shadow of the movie industry," and started in theater as a teenager. For the past 13 months, he's been on the road with the national Broadway tour of the show. "We've been everywhere," he said. "Forty or 42 states. We've been to Asia. After Anchorage, we'll come back to California. The tour goes until May, then we'll see."

The musical traces its roots to a long series of satirico-macabre cartoons by Charles Addams, who used a bizarre family to poke fun at upper-crust society beginning in 1938. About half of the 150 so panels featuring the associated characters ran in the refined pages of the New Yorker magazine. Family members looked like sketches for old B horror movies. The pinstripe-clad father, for instance, resembled Peter Lorre, best known for as the twisted villain in pyscho-dramas. But the cartoon parody wore a smile and sunny disposition. He was oblivious to the shocked reaction of "normal" citizens and behaved as if there was nothing more natural than taking your pet octopus out for walk.

For the 1960s television show, the family got names. Addams, the cartoonist, is said to have personally suggested the names with his own snarky sense of humor; the daughter Wednesday, for instance, is so-named because she's "full of woe." It also picked up whole new nationwide demographic for Gomez's and Morticia's "creepy and kooky" family as the television incarnation quickly became better known than the original cartoons. The 30-minute sitcom eventually transferred to a movie franchise and, in 2010, the musical with Nathan Lane in the part of the patriarch of the tight-knit -- if odd -- family.

The touring edition now on the road was described by a Canadian critic as, "A visually satisfying, rib-tickling, lunatic musical."

Sharp said he became aware of Addams' creations in the 1991 movie in which Raul Julia played Gomez. "I loved Raul's take," he said. "Gomez is so funny and so over-the-top. He's a guy who is very sincere and optimistic. He doesn't know that he's funny. He's so overly passionate that he's not aware that he's a buffoon in a lot of ways. On one hand he's this passionate Latin lover. On the other hand he's childlike.

"I'm lucky because I really have the best lines -- and the show has a lot of funny things."

Sharp said he's excited to be making his first trip to Alaska. In fact, he said, "Most of the cast is over the moon. When we saw this on our schedule, we were delighted. For traveling actors, it's a big deal. For a lot of people, this will be their 50th state. For me it will be my 48th that I can check off the list."

And though they hit town the day before the start of the Iditarod Trail Sled Dog Race, which kick off a block from where they're performing, the cast and crew are also looking forward to what is, for them, balmy weather.

"We were caught in the polar vortex in Michigan and Wisconsin," Sharp said. "We kept looking at the weather to see what was happening in Anchorage. It was like 20 there and 20 below where we were."

Reach Mike Dunham at mdunham@adn.com or 257-4332.