Openly gay actor Kevin Chamberlin has many show-stealing moments as Uncle Fester in The Addams Family: A New Musical, currently at Ford Center for the Performing Arts, Oriental Theatre, 24 W. Randolph. Windy City Times turned the light bulb on this rising family member.
Windy City Times: Hi, Kevin. I just saw you in the Addams Family musical. You look like you are having a lot of fun up there on stage.
Kevin Chamberlin: Yeah, it's a great role. It's quite a gift. You rarely get these kinds of roles. At first when they talked originally about the Moon song, when they were developing it in workshop, I always pictured it in my head as something very fifth-grade pageant. It has that quality to it but I never expected it to get the reaction that it's getting. It's really very fun.
WCT: What was your journey to becoming Uncle Fester?
Kevin Chamberlin: Well, I was called to do a reading. I live in Los Angeles but was in town doing the musical Chicago. Every now and then I go in for a couple of weeks to help them out. I play Amos on Broadway. So I happened to be in town for the table read of the script. There was very little music written. I have been connected with it since then.
WCT: You have done a lot of Broadway work and been nominated twice for Tony Awards.
Kevin Chamberlin: Yes, I moved to L.A. in 2002 after 9/11. I didn't want to be at the center of the world anymore.
WCT: You can do more movies when you live in California that way.
Kevin Chamberlin: Los Angeles is not a big theater town per se. My partner is a television writer so he is doing really well out there. We have switched gears; I was the breadwinner in New York and now he is the breadwinner out there. [ Laughs ]
WCT: You were on the TV show Better Off Ted. I interviewed Jonathan Slavin before. He is a great guy.
Kevin Chamberlin: Yes, he is. We have worked together a couple of times before.
WCT: Hollywood has given you the opportunity to be on Heroes as well.
Kevin Chamberlin: It can be a tough town. Basically Broadway is 10 blocks and everyone knows each other. It is a tight inner circle and your work proceeds you. You reputation is there when you walk into a room for an audition. In L.A. you are only as good as the last thing you did, and maybe not even that.
WCT: I talked to you at Grandma's Jackie Hoffman show and it seems like The Addams Family supports each other in whatever side projects that they do, with Zachary James show, also…
Kevin Chamberlin: A lot of us have known each other for a while.
WCT: Did you meet Bebe Neuwirth on the set of Frasier?
Kevin Chamberlin: Yes, Bebe and I had done two episodes of Frasier together. I also knew her through the musical Chicago. We did the 10th anniversary together. Nathan Lane and I had worked together on Wise Guys. It was an early version of a musical by Sondheim that turned into this thing called Road Show. It was the last show Stephen Sondheim did. Nathan and I have been social friends for a long time. We both hit New York at the same time.
WCT: You and Jackie had Queer Duck: The Movie in common.
Kevin Chamberlin: Yeah, I didn't even know that. I had met her when she was doing Hairspray the Musical. The Broadway community is very tight because we all do these fundraisers for Broadway Cares. Every three months there is a huge event. I can't imagine Broadway without it. It is the glue that brings all the Broadway people together.
WCT: Speaking of the group together, when The Addams Family is standing in the graveyard and the theme song played, I swear I got goosebumps! The old saying where casting is so important to the show was very true.
Kevin Chamberlin: Ninety percent.
WCT: Were you allowed to improv very much? Because I noticed Jackie [ who plays Grandma ] did…
Kevin Chamberlin: That's Jackie's thing. They have given her sections where she is free to put in different stuff every night. For the rest of us, we have been very instrumental in rewrites. They take many of our suggestions. But there is not very much improvisation for our parts.
WCT: When does the Addams Family Musical Broadway cast album come out?
Kevin Chamberlin: We are working on it two weeks after we open in New York. We won't know what the final score is until a week before we open there, because songs get cut, rearranged and new songs come in.
WCT: When I spoke with Chita Rivera she said that Broadway cast albums get rushed sometimes but this one you really get to know your role beforehand.
Kevin Chamberlin: We have been working on this for a year and half. This is the longest development period I have ever worked on for sure. I am contracted to April of 2011.
WCT: You were in Taking Woodstock and Die Hard with a Vengeance. Do you want to do more movies?
Kevin Chamberlin: I have been very fortunate in my career to bounce back and forth. I never thought I would hear myself say it but I am truly bicoastal now. I will have a home in both cities. We have a home in Los Angeles and now I am setting up shop in New York. The grass is always greener, you get tired of city living then just go back out to LA and live the suburban life.
WCT: It sounds like everything is going great for you right now.
Kevin Chamberlin: It is. I am trying to get my show legs. I am sore from the dancing. I am sure that will pass soon.
WCT: Well, if you need some good food for fuel, eat at Andies restaurant where I work again.
Kevin Chamberlin: I loved that Mediterranean food. That was such a lovely night. Colinour swing, who understudies all the chorus peoplelives around there.
WCT: If you ever want to go out to the bear bars let me know.
Kevin Chamberlin: I heard there is "Fur" on Saturday nights at Cellblock. I have been to Touche and Jackhammer, too.
WCT: So you have been able to get out and not just stuck inside rehearsing then.
Kevin Chamberlin: Oh, yeah. I need to have my blow out nights. It has been a stressful month of previews. I have three really great numbers. We are still doing a lot of development and work on the show. You will have to come back and see it in New York. The lines for the box office are apparently very long.
Get your tickets to this hilarious show by Jan. 10; after that, it heads to Broadway. For more information visit www.TheAddamsFamilyMusical.com or www.BroadwayInChicago.com .
Also, read an interview with one of Chamberlin's co-stars, Zachary James, online at www.windycitymediagroup.com/gay/lesbian/news/ARTICLE.php?AID=23987