BY SUSAN SCAFFIDI Contributing writer
If you catch the Bakersfield performance of the touring musical "The Addams Family," you may notice the guy playing Gomez looks familiar, and not just because of the iconic character's slick-backed hair, debonaire mustache and dapper suit.
Actor Jesse Easley, who studied theater at Bakersfield High, grew up in Frazier Park. Now working under the professional surname of Sharp, he landed the role of the Addams patriarch in the Broadway take on the television series and feature film that were themselves based on a cartoon drawn by humorist Charles Addams as a satire of the "typical" American family.
'The Addams Family'
When: 7:30 p.m. Monday
Where: Rabobank Theater, 1001 Truxtun Ave.
Information: rabobankarena.com or 852-7308.
"It's such a funny show and the audience reaction gives you a lot of energy," said Sharp, who has been touring with the production for a year. "There are a lot of opportunities to play off the audience."
Sharp's knack for thinking on his feet first emerged while a student in BHS' legendary theater department and was further developed in Los Angeles while working with improvisation groups like The Groundlings after he finished college, ultimately earning a master of fine arts from UC Irvine. He's done commercials and guest spots on TV series, work he credits to the skills he honed during his first acting experiences at El Tejon School in Lebec.
"They had a really strong theater community up there. My first role, I got to play Peter Pan. I loved it."
Sharp's latest role is no less iconic. "The Addams Family" is a generations-old franchise, first as a series of cartoons, then, in the 1960s, as a loopy TV series starring John Astin and Carolyn Jones. A film version starring Raul Julia and Angelica Huston hit the screens in 1991, and in 2010, a hit musical, starring Nathan Lane and Bebe Neuwirth, premiered. Though Sharp was well-acquainted with the work of Astin and Julia, he has assiduously avoided seeing Lane's rendition, afraid the actor's scene-stealing performance might be tempting to mimic.
"From Raul Julia's performance, I got the accent and the Latin lover. From John Astin, I got Gomez's goofiness."
Though the actor said he visits often and keeps in touch with his Bakersfield roots, he felt his career needed the nudge a name change might provide, so he dropped his family moniker and took on the name Sharp three years ago.
"My dad's biological father's name was Sharp," he said. "He found that out when he was a teenager.
"Sharp is a good name for an actor."
His ultimate ambition is to be a film actor, but he has six months left on his "Addams Family" tour. He said he's had a great time and, more than that, the tour has changed his life.
"I met my girlfriend, Lexie Dorsett, who is also in the show. We got engaged."
Sharp said he and Dorsett will be back in New York in June to pursue careers in musical theater.
"It's going to be great," Sharp said.