With the world’s kookiest family preparing to visit our theatre in a few months, we look at their origins.
The Addams Family first saw the light of day (probably reluctantly, given their penchant for darkness) in 1938, on the pages of New Yorker magazine. They were the creation of Charles Addams, a suitably odd character in his own right. He’d previously worked for True Detective magazine, touching up pictures of corpses which were too bloody for inclusion in the magazine. He reportedly said of this job: “A lot of those corpses were more interesting the way they were.” With perhaps a certain level of understatement, a friend of Addams’ said of him: “His sense of humour was a little different from everybody else’s.”
A slightly kooky sense of humour isn’t the only thing he had in common thing with his creations – his first two (out of three) wives are both described as bearing a striking resemblance to Morticia Addams, while his third marriage took place in a pet cemetery. As if that wasn’t enough, he decorated his apartment with genuine, working, medieval crossbows, telling a worried visitor: “Don’t worry, they’ve only fallen down once.” He also owned a coffee table which had begun life as a nineteenth century embalming table, and was known to reply to fan mail on paper headed ‘The Gotham Rest Home for Mental Defectives’.
The family came to a mass audience in 1964, when the ABC TV network created a television series based on Addams’ cartoon characters. It was only a result of this that the characters gained their now familiar names, having been nameless in the original cartoons. Fleshing out his characters for the TV series, Addams wrote: “Gomez and Pugsley are enthusiastic. Morticia is even in disposition, muted, witty, sometimes deadly. Grandma Frump is foolishly good-natured. Wednesday is her mother’s daughter. A closely knit family, the real head being Morticia—although each of the others is a definite character—except for Grandma, who is easily led. The house is a wreck, of course, but this is a house-proud family just the same and every trap door is in good repair. Money is no problem.”
The Addams Family TV series only ran for two series, ending in 1966, but they never entirely went away. As well as frequent repeats of the series, there have also been animated versions, and a TV movie special. In 1991, an Addams Family feature film was released, starring Raul Julia as Gomez and Angelica Hudson as Morticia. A sequel, Addams Family Values, was released two years later.
The latest incarnation of the family, which arrives in our theatre in May, is a full-blown original musical, which began life with a hugely successful run on Broadway. In this latest take on the weird family, Wednesday Addams, the original princess of darkness, is all grown up, and has – shock, horror! – fallen in love with a boy from a ‘normal’ family. When she decides to invite her potential in-laws to dinners at the family mansion… well, what could possibly go right?
This new production stars Carrie Hope Fletcher (who was hugely popular with our audiences as Truly Scrumptious in Chitty Chitty Bang Bang last summer) as Wednesday, alongside Samantha Womack (another Marlowe favourite when she appeared in Jack And The Beanstalk) as Morticia and Les Dennis as Uncle Fester.
This latest incarnation shows the staying power of Charles Addams weird and wonderful creations… this family is unlikely to be leaving the neighbourhood any time soon!
The Addams Family: Tuesday 23 – Saturday 27 May. Book here.