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Cara Joy David

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With Shields, The Addams Family Lives Before It Dies

Posted: 09/07/11 12:32 PM ET

The Addams Family will end its Broadway run at the end of 2011. It will give up the ghost (and will give its theater to Ghost) in December. However its closing notice should not overshadow the impact of Brooke Shields.

In a story last week, The New York Times' Patrick Healy wrote about Addams: "The show's lead producers, Stuart Oken and Roy Furman, said that while ticket sales had been difficult this summer, they would have been worse without Ms. Shields, and they were counting on her to draw holiday tourists in November and December before the show closes." That is not giving Shields enough credit. I'm not sure what was "difficult" about The Addams Family summer after Shields' June 28 debut -- in a world crowded with family fare, The Addams Family, well over a year old, made a good amount of money in both July and August.

I honestly have been shocked by the impact Shield has had. Star casting is a tricky business -- if you are booking anyone other than Julia Roberts or Hugh Jackman, it's often hard to tell what the appeal will be. Look at this season's The House of Blue Leaves mounting: Ben Stiller, Edie Falco and Jennifer Jason Leigh together did not attract enough ticket buyers to keep the show running for its 16-week limited engagement. (It closed two weeks early.) Additionally, neither Robin Williams nor Chris Rock led to huge advance sales. Of course, those were all plays. But the same holds true of musicals -- does anyone think all Chicago star casting has been equally successful?

However there is something about Shields. She had a similar impact on Wonderful Town, though there I always thought she was partially bolstered by good reviews. Here there have been no reviews. Yet Addams has been consistently grossing higher than newer shows such as Sister Act and Priscilla Queen of the Dessert. Perhaps in this case it is simply the combination of two iconic names: Shields and Addams. I did some informal surveying at the TKTS line and it seems like that may be it. Parents who always had Addams on their list of possibilities -- the same people who have kept the critically reviled tuner alive even this long -- put it on the top of that list because of Shields. "I grew up with her," one woman explained, "and I want to see how she is doing."

By all reports, Shields is doing just fine. She is well liked backstage and is thought to be good on stage as well. While I have not yet seen her, I actually do look forward to it. Addams is a misguided mess of a show, but it also seems like a show that would be very cast driven. (Some shows are more cast driven than others -- new Phantoms don't tend to entirely transform Phantom, but a different J. Pierrepont Finch can equal a much changed How to Succeed.) I imagine Addams plays much differently now than it did on opening night.

Maybe I will go this month during the inevitable box office slump. After all, Shields cannot turn The Addams Family into The Book of Mormon -- I suspect the show will lose money in September and October. But Shields will help drive tourists in during November and December, so the producers are banking on making up the early fall shortfall with holiday bounty. Without Shields, the show would have gone out with Baby It's You and Catch Me If You Can, so any net gain from September through December is a net gain attributable to her. She deserves the credit for making this a much less "difficult" time for the Addams team than it otherwise would have been.