Edge, Q & A + Profiles, Theater

Addams Family’s Lurch shares memorable stage moments

Get ready for a spooky, kooky trip down memory lane.

The Addams Family is playing at the Broward Center for the Performing Arts from April 15 to 21. The musical brings to life the delightfully ghoulish characters from Charles Addam’s cartoons, including Morticia, Gomez, Pugsley, Wednesday, and Uncle Fester. Since the cartoons debuted in the late 1930s, the Addams family has been featured in many TV series, movies, and books.

The Miami Hurricane got a chance to chat over email with Dan Olson who plays the lumbering, undead manservant Lurch. 

The Miami Hurricane: The Addams Family is a classic cartoon from many of our childhoods. What was it like being part of such an iconic production?

Dan Olson: I grew up watching the reruns of the original series. I’m still amazed that I’m a part of this creative team and cast. There’s a lot of responsibility in playing an icon, and I don’t take it on lightly. Getting the stamp of approval from Carel Struycken (Lurch in the films) after the performance he saw in Lexington, Ky., was the icing on a very large cake. I’m still amazed at the response I get after every performance. The ladies seem to like their men tall, dark and silent.

TMH: Why and how did you get involved with the production?

DO: The audition notice came out in late March after my wife and I began auditioning seriously in New York. We’d each had some early success, with support from our management team, and the breakdown for this show was too appealing. I was the Mad Hatter in a production of Alice in Wonderland a while ago, and the director, Craig McNair Wilson, told me to keep my eyes peeled for those “Lurch-like roles.” At 6’6″, what better way to honor that note than by being Lurch? I went to the open call at 7:30 a.m., waited as the casting team sorted through the 500 people who’d arrived before me, got to them by 6:30 p.m. that night and belted a song completely incompatible with the character in the show. They asked if I could also sing low notes, so I grunted an affirmative and left. Each of the four weeks following saw me at a callback singing and acting show material for a few more people each time until, finally, Jerry Zaks, flanked by the creative team, signed off on me. This was in mid-May. Rehearsals wouldn’t start until January. I kept busy in the meanwhile, but that’s the nature of the profession. That’s the how. The why is simple. I love performing, whether on stage or screen. To offer me money to perform seems redundant, but I’m extremely grateful for it nonetheless.

TMH: Why did you want to play Lurch?

DO: It’s a case of the role choosing me rather than, necessarily, me it. The show is made up of many distinct archetypes, and Lurch is the one I fit best. I’d definitely love to play other characters in our show, but casting is best based on the audience’s ability to believe the events of the story without distraction. If, as Pugsley, I was taller than Lurch, the story would suffer. My personal axioms are that performing is better than not performing and that there are no small roles, just short actors. As for specifically playing Lurch, I love pretending that he’s a silent sage, only breaking his silence when absolutely necessary for someone’s benefit.

TMH: What is the funniest thing that has happened on the tour so far?

DO: The funniest thing from my time on the stage happened during previews in New Haven, Conn., for the second live audience we encountered. My wig is placed on my head before the show, and it stays in place due to the Velcro-like nature of my buzzed hair. However, during the opening number, I jolted my head too quickly, and the wig popped off into the fog at my feet. While everyone danced around me, I felt around the stage for the thin hairpiece. When I found it, I tossed it behind our tree set piece and rejoined the dance number. Halfway through, I remembered that I’d be at the edge of the stage at the completion of the song. During a brief lull, I scrambled behind the tree, used my fingers to replace the wig as well as I could, and then I lumbered out to rejoin the line on our way to the edge of the stage. I’d find out after I left the stage that I didn’t do a horrible job reapplying the wig, but it was a reminder to take it a little easier in my neck.

April 14, 2013

Reporters

Alysha Khan

Online Editor


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The Miami Hurricane is the student newspaper of the University of Miami in Coral Gables, Fla. The newspaper is edited and produced by undergraduate students at UM and is published weekly in print on Tuesdays during the regular academic year.