It's all about the dress - stylistically speaking. Not in the reality show or princess bride context, but in the Goth fashionista Addams Family sense. To wit, the frock in question is a raven-hued, floor-length, skin-tight affair custom-made to transform Brooke Shields' statuesque frame into grim-glam matriarch Morticia Addams. Naturally, the essential Morticia-esque coif - long, dark and straight -completes the look, inspired (along with all the sartorial statements strutting Broadway's Lunt-Fontanne stage) by Charles Addams' iconic New Yorker cartoons.
When I spoke with Shields prior to the start of rehearsals, she had not yet been fitted for her costumes, but she had seen her Morticia predecessor, Bebe Neuwirth, slither effortlessly to and fro in almost sadistically snug (how fittingly Addams!) gowns. As a result, Shields was mildly apprehensive about how she would deal with the challenge of replacing an actress whose deft movements, deadpan delivery and translucent skin personify all things Morticia.
"Forget filling Bebe's shoes, what about filling the costume?," says Shields, whose broad shoulders and six-foot stature (she has at least six inches on the petite Neuwirth) - make a powerfully different visual statement.
Also of concern was the prospect of pulling off the show's elaborate tango - not only a key showstopping number, but the dance known for physically articulating the passion between Gomez and his beloved "Cara Mia." As Shields points out, despite her solid musical comedy background in four major Broadway revivals - beginning in 1994 when she replaced Rosie O'Donnell as Betty Rizzo in Grease - the sultry moves associated with the tango had never popped up on her past choreographic radar.
"It's such an intricate a dance, and you have to be quite adept to carry it off," observes Shields who, shortly after committing to the Broadway production, began studying the tango's complexly dramatic moves in earnest.
"And besides just executing the dance," she continues, "I have to take into account the length and weight of the dress as well as the height difference between me and Gomez [Roger Rees]." Shields estimates Rees is somewhere between 5'7" and 5'9" tall. And, of course, Morticia's wardrobe ante is upped at least an inch or two by wearing heels.
Dress and tango aside, Shields makes it clear that she relishes being a part of the macabre family unit she spent her childhood with. "My mom and I would watch the TV show [with John Astin and Carolyn Jones] together," she says, adding "It's so much fun to be involved in something I grew up watching when I was five and six years old."
Shields' love of the characters grew even more pronounced after seeing the two film versions that came out in the early 1990s. "That's when I became totally enamored of the relationship between Gomez and Morticia," she recalls. "The coupling of Raul [Julia] and Angelica [Huston] was absolutely amazing."
In 1996, Shields began to redefine her own career - which had pretty much been defined by the fashion modeling, commercials and film projects that dominated her professional landscape during her teens and 20s - by taking on the pivotal leading role in the workplace sitcom Suddenly Susan at the age of 31. Playing a columnist for a hip San Francisco magazine whose journalistic turf was the singles scene (and her personal experiences navigating its myriad pitfalls), she netted a solid four-season run (ending June 2000) and received two Golden Globe nominations for Best Actress in a Television Series - Musical or Comedy.
A year after she bid adieu to Susan, Shields headed back to Broadway to star as Sally Bowles in the revival of Cabaret - which just happened to be the same year she married television writer/producer Chris Henchy; in 2003, she became a first-time mom (with daughter Rowan).
And then life in the Shields lane was pretty much pedal to metal, a blur of motherhood and musicals: her second daughter, Grier, was born in 2006 and in the interim she starred as Roxie Hart in Chicago in London and on Broadway, while making waves as a critically acclaimed replacement for Tony winner Donna Murphy in Wonderful Town.
Now, joining the cast of The Addams Family is a full-circle moment in time for Shields, one she views as both fortuitous and unexpected. "The timing worked out perfectly," she says, citing an open-ended delay in moving the new musical she was working on last fall in L.A. - Leap of Faith, with four-time Tony nominee Raúl Esparza - to Broadway.
"After seeing Addams Family - with all the beautiful sets and makeup, and watching the audience love and go nuts over it - I started looking forward to the whole experience - the whole package: the singing, dancing, comedy, pathos - all of it. And, for myself, being back and part of the Broadway community in such a positive way."
A Most Selective Brooke Shields Timeline
5/31/65 Brooke Christa Shields is born in New York City
1966 Begins her career as an Ivory soap baby at 11 months
1976 Becomes the youngest star to appear on The Muppet Show
1980 Becomes Cosmopolitan's youngest cover model at age 15
1980-1985 Appears on over 300 magazine covers throughout the world
1983 Begins undergraduate studies at Princeton University
1985 Publishes the autobiographical On Your Own
1987 Graduates Princeton
1996 Debuts sitcom Suddenly Susan, that lasted four successful seasons
4/19/1997 Marries Andre Agassi
4/9/1999 Marriage to Agassi annulled
4/4/2001 Marries Chris Henchy
5/15/2003 Birth of first daughter: Rowan Francis Henchy (NYC)
2005 Publishes Down Came the Rain: My Journey Through Postpartum Depression (it reached #6 on the New York Times Best Seller list)
4/18/2006 Birth of second daughter, Grier Hammond Henchy (LA)
2008 Publishes children's book, Welcome to Your World, Baby, with Cori Doerrfeld
2009 Publishes second children's book with Cori Doerrfeld: It's the Best Day Ever, Dad!
2/2011 Appears in her own show, In My Life, at Feinstein's at the Loews Regency in NYC, singing and sharing stories from her life and career
The Official "Bet-You-Didn't Know" Guide To Brooke
Her great-grandmother was the sister of Glenn Close's grandfather
Her lineage is filled with royal connections, with direct links to King Henry IV and Louis XIV; and in more recent generations, her grandmother was the Italian princess Donna Marina Torlonia. She went to her high school prom with a guy seven years her senior: actor Ted McGinley (Married with Children)
Her college sweetheart at Princeton was Dean Cain (Lois & Clark)
Michael Bolton, Liam Neeson, and John Kennedy, Jr. top the list of the high-profile guys she dated over the years
While cinematically Brooke's best known for the films Pretty Baby and Blue Lagoon, from 1983 to 1992 she turned down the following:
o Diane Lane's role in Frances Ford Coppola's The Outsiders ('83)
o Ally Sheedy's role in The Breakfast Club ('85)
o Kelly McGillis's role in The Accused ('88)
o Melanie Griffith's role in Working Girl ('88)
o Andie MacDowell's role in sex, lies and videotape ('89)
o Geena Davis's role in A League of Their Own ('92)
o Michelle Pfeiffer's role (Catwoman) in Batman Returns ('92)