“Finding my character has been a journey for me, because I’m so polar opposite to dead pan. My face!”, Ben Husdon gestures to his ever-expressive, heavily bearded noggin.
I am sitting in a Sydney cafe with Australia’s Lurch from the musical The Addams Family, and he is as far from the serious, dead pan, ‘you-rang’ character traits associated with Morticia and Gomez’s butler Lurch as you can get.
With bright red facial hair, and a mohawk to boot (a momentary panic before he shaved his locks for the Addams Family wig design has left him with a slither of hair in the middle), Hudson is effervescent, passionate and eager to tell me about the rehearsal process which has just finished in Sydney.
“The director sat me down on the first day – the first day – and he said:
“You know there’s not much in the script for you, so it’s going to be quite challenging to build a back story for Lurch and to make him engaged the whole entire time.”
We talked through a lot of important things like his age, and finding the physical nature of him. Finding that physicality has been my journey – and then when I get to put on all the make up, it’s incredible!”
Today, the cast and crew of The Addams Family perform to an audience in Australia for the very first time ahead of an official opening night on March 23. With such an exceptional cast, and such an iconic set of characters, there is little doubt this show will be a R.I.P roaring success at the Capitol Theatre in Sydney, but Hudson explains that it has been an interesting experience bringing such well known characters to life.
“I think that most of our characters are so ingrained in the public’s eye. I think everyone sees them and knows who they are instantly. We have to bring in the back story – but they way they look is so iconic. Now for us it’s how they move and how they breathe,” he explained.
“The challenging thing for me is Lurch has to be such a slow mover, but on occasion I will need to haul ass across the stage for the sake of a scene. My challenge is figuring out how I make it look like I’m still moving slowly and laboured when I have to get somewhere fast.”
The Addams Family has been described as a funny musical with a whole lot of heart, and Hudson agrees that the underlying themes in the piece are universal. For him, however, the hardest part is keeping a straight face in the comedic moments.
“The humour is very tight and as soon as I look people in the eye and they lose it – I don’t know what I’d do! I’m terrible at keeping a straight face. I have to practice really hard!”, he laughed.
The Australian premiere production of The Addams Family is not the version which opened in Chicago in 2009. Significant tweaking and reworking has taken place and Hudson says the show is tighter and more focused.
“The production we have now is completely different from the original Chicago production, and even from the Broadway version. It’s been tightened a lot and it’s really interesting. They’ve just made it more focused – it’s all honed in”, he said.
Husdon speaks with passion and enthusiasm about his fellow cast mates praising them as incredibly hard working and “fabulous”.
“They’re lovely people”, he enthuses. “I love them all!”
While the musical is filled with kooky Addams humour and tight comedic sequences, Hudson explains that there is pathos and sentimentality found in the piece also.
“There are some beautiful songs, and some sentimental moments. The second act is full of beautiful, normal, simple love that the characters in the show try to achieve.”
So, with all the iconic characters, the topsy turvy world and the weird and whacky costumes, what will Sydney audiences take away from this family musical?
“I guess the message is that even though the family are so strange, they love – just like everyone else.”
The Addams Family begins previews today and will open on Saturday March 23 at the Captiol Theatre Sydney.
For more information visit addamsfamilythemusical.com.au