Cartoonist Charles Addams enjoyed a successful career that spanned nearly 60 years. Over his lifetime he maintained his position as one of the most celebrated cartoonists of all time, having created several thousand cartoons and drawings, the most popular being his Addams Family characters.

Addams was born in Westfield, New Jersey, in 1912, a town known for its ornate Victorian homes and ancient cemeteries, where he enjoyed playing as a child. His genius for drawing was evident early in his childhood, and, with his father’s encouragement, he began submitting his cartoons to his high school literary magazine. He attended Colgate University and studied at the Grand Central School of Art in New York before joining the layout department of True Detective magazine in 1933, where he was tasked with retouching photos of corpses that appeared in with the articles. That same year, at the age of 21, his first cartoon was published in The New Yorker, beginning an association with the venerable magazine that lasted until his death in 1988.

Despite his reputation as a ghoul himself, Addams was a consummate professional who took his art very seriously. Much of Addams's work was funny without being dark; however, it was the sinister stuff that made him famous. According to biographer Linda Davis, “Like movie stars, as the popularity of his Addams Family cartoons began to grow they attracted a devoted and eager following. Even the children of New Yorker readers, who would not otherwise have picked up the magazine, had come to watch for the cartoons that made scary things funny and celebrated breaking the rules...the children who loved Addams’ cartoons understood that there was nothing really scary going on in them.” While these New Yorker cartoons were immensely popular, it was the creation of the Addams Family characters for the 1964 TV series that earned him wide recognition.

When ABC television executives came to Addams and requested that he contribute to a series about his Addams Family characters, he was driven to develop the clan into individual and distinct personalities – and give them names. He decided that they were an eccentric, wealthy family who delighted in the macabre and were unaware that people found them bizarre and sometimes frightening. The now famous characters Morticia, Fester, Gomez, Wednesday, Pugsley, Grandma, Lurch and Thing appeared in only about 50 of his original works in various forms prior to the sitcom. Though peculiar, they represented a close-knit extended family with Morticia and Gomez as devoted parents who were happily married and still very much romantic towards each other. The Addams Family premiered on Friday, September 18, 1964, and ran for 64 regular season episodes. The series theme song, written by Vic Mizzy, featured the memorable four-note bass line and finger-snapping. John Astin, an Ogunquit Playhouse alum, starred as Gomez opposite Carolyn Jones as Morticia. 

In 1991, Paramount Pictures released the film The Addams Family directed by Barry Sonnenfeld and starring Anjelica Huston as Morticia, Raul Julia as Gomez, Christopher Lloyd as Uncle Fester, and Christina Ricci as Wednesday. The film pays homage to and recreates many of the iconic images from the cartoon family’s early appearances in The New Yorker, the most notable of which is seen in the film’s opening sequence where the Addams family pours a cauldron of oil on some Christmas carolers. A sequel, Addams Family Values, was made in 1993. It retained the same lead cast and director, and received greater critical acclaim than the first film with more focus on the macabre humor that made the cartoons distinctive.

In 2007, the Tee and Charles Addams Foundation granted Broadway producers the right to create a musical adaptation of The Addams Family for Broadway for the first time. The Addams Foundation reportedly retained control over the show's content and insisted that instead of drawing the plot from The Addams Family television series or films the production team must devise an original musical based solely on Addams' cartoons. Jersey Boys creators Marshall Brickman and Rick Elice were engaged to write the book, and Andrew Lippa was hired to compose the show's score. Julian Crouch and Phelim McDermott were the original director and designer, with choreography by Sergio Trujillo. The show had a trial run in Chicago starring Nathan Lane and Bebe Neuwirth and later transferred to Broadway with the original cast intact. The Addams Family opened on Broadway at the Lunt-Fontanne Theatre on April 8, 2010 and ran for 722 performances. National and International tours were subsequently launched with great success.

The Ogunquit Playhouse was among the first regional theatres in the U.S. to be granted the rights to produce the musical for its stage. The touring and Broadway set and costumes designed by Julian Crouch and Phelim McDermott appear on our stage, along with a top-notch cast playing the first family of comedy.