Sills was initially contracted for a nine-month run with The Addams Family tour, and when his contract was nearly up, he was faced with the question of whether or not he wanted to renegotiate. “My thought was basically, was I enjoying myself? Was it fun? Was I tired? Was there a sense of routine?” He learned that there would be two extended breaks in the performance schedule in future months, which would allow for more rest. He also relished the thought of continuing to work with the people associated with the production. “I had felt very cherished,” he said. “The producers and director were very good to me.” He realized he wanted to stay on through the end of the tour, for a total of 15 months.
More than a decade before, Sills had a similar experience revamping an existing Broadway show, but in that instance it was a show he was already starring in. In 1998, when The Scarlet Pimpernel was struggling financially, new producers took over the production and decided to reshape the show. “It was exciting,” Sills said. “I was pleased that another producer came along that believed in it and wanted to invest in it. I was pleased they saw potential in a show critically received in such a mixed fashion.”
He said he was grateful to be asked to continue with the production, but it was difficult performing the first version with the original cast at night while rehearsing the new version with the replacement cast during the day. “I’m not sure that Mr. Mann and Ms. Andreas would have wanted to stay on,” he said, “but there was a little bit of polygamy if you will. I was married to both casts at the same time.”
In addition to major changes in the plot, there were more nuanced differences, such as lyric changes, that Sills had to keep straight between the two versions in performance and rehearsal. Although the experience was challenging and even exhausting, he had performed Shakespeare in repertory in the past, so the concept wasn’t entirely foreign to him. He found the process exciting and enjoyable, even though he wasn’t given as much room to explore as he had in the first iteration. “Setting something from scratch is different because you don’t have a template,” he said. “I had more freedom to play in the first edition.”
When asked which version he liked better, he said he didn’t have a preference. “I was told the narrative was easier to follow in the second edition,” he said. “I had things I loved about both. You have to be a cheerleader and be behind your current project 100%. I never watched the show—certainly not with me in it.”
After Sills had played Percy for a year on Broadway, the new version of The Scarlet Pimpernel opened and ran for another seven months. He toured with the show the following year.
Sills said that when he hears about the great success the show has had in regional and community theatres, especially in Utah, he feels incredibly lucky to have been a part of it. “It was a random intersection of readiness and opportunity,” he said. “I’m always pleased when so many people find something to love in it. So many musicals—like Spamalot, The Book of Mormon, and even Wicked—are cynical and satirical. Pimpernel asks you to believe in this love story that’s told earnestly. I’m very proud of it.”
Since The Scarlet Pimpernel, Sills has had limited opportunities to perform on Broadway due to a variety of professional and personal concerns. Leading roles in Kiss Me Kate, Spamalot, and Assassins, among others, have fallen through for reasons as varied as personal differences and the September 11 terrorist attacks. “I do try to stay open to experiences that come my way, “ he said. “I think it’s no secret to suspect that someone who had the turn I had would have a bigger presence on Broadway. I never would have thought that Pimpernel could have happened for me. After it did, I would have thought I’d have more abundant, interesting roles. That’s why I can be so dynamically grateful for the gift that Gomez and my friends at The Addams Family have given me.”
Douglas Sills stars in The Addams Family, playing the Capitol Theatre for a limited engagement through Sunday, November 18, 2012. For tickets, call ArtTix at 801-355-ARTS (2787) or visit www.arttix.org.