Community Players Get Creepy and Kooky with [Snap, Snap] The Addams Family

Join Community Players as Robinhood Lane welcomes its newest residents: the peculiar, macabre, and, yes, hilarious title characters of The Addams Family

Gomez, Morticia, Wednesday, Pugsley, Uncle Fester, Cousin Itt, and the rest of the gang are the offspring of the, um, unusual imagination of Charles Addams, longtime cartoonist for the New Yorker. The characters first appeared in a cartoon in 1937 and thereafter found an unlikely home in the pages of the nation’s most sophisticated magazine until Addams’s death in 1988.  The Addamses are a loving family, in many ways a typical American family, except their values are reversed from those of their neighbors. In Addams’s cartoons we see them on their mansion’s roof preparing to pour boiling oil on Christmas carolers or we see Wednesday and Pugsley playing with dolls—and a tiny guillotine!  Who are we to judge how they get their pleasure?

Addams’s creations have had a long life outside the pages of the New Yorker.  In 1964 ABC premiered a sit-com adaptation starring John Astin as Gomez, Carolyn Jones as Morticia, and silent-film star Jackie Coogan as Uncle Fester.  The show itself was guillotined after two seasons, and a couple of attempts to reboot it proved unsuccessful.  In 1991 a big-screen adaptation, The Addams Family, achieved popularity.  It starred Raul Julia as Gomez, Angelica Huston as Morticia, Christopher Lloyd as Uncle Fester, and, in a star-making performance, Christina Ricci as Wednesday. A sequel, Addams Family Values, followed two years later.

Inevitably, a musical version, with music and lyrics by Andrew Lippa and book by Marshall Brickman and Rick Elice, was brought to Broadway, opening on April 8, 2010, and running for 722 performances.  Starring Nathan Lane as Gomez, Bebe Neuwirth as Morticia, Kevin Chamberlin as Uncle Fester, Krysta Rodriguez as Wednesday, and Jackie Hoffman as Grandma, the musical finds grown-up Wednesday engaged to a nice, normal young man from a rather stuffy family.  When the couple brings their families together, both sets of parents begin questioning their relationships.  Can macabre and Main Street learn to live with each other?

The Addams Family has had a tumultuous production history.  When it was received coolly in its pre-Broadway Chicago engagement, directors Phelim McDermott and Julian Crouch, known for their special effects and puppetry, were eased aside for Broadway veteran Jerry Zaks, who reshaped the plot and asked for several new songs, including a new opening number.  After the Broadway engagement, more revisions were made for the national tour, including several more new songs.  Since then, the show has been produced around the country and around the world, and now it comes to Community Players.

The character of Gomez, as the head of the Addams household and main protagonist, commands the stage for a good portion of show. In fact, the song list in the program indicates eight solos for Gomez along with other duets and production numbers. Fortunately, in our production, Gomez is in the hands of Players’ veteran Nick Benson. Benson is smooth and confident in his songs and dance numbers and seems to be having lots of fun being Gomez. He certainly is fun to watch and his rendition of the musical number “Happy/Sad” is tender and loving.

He is joined by another Players veteran, Kallie Bundy, as the alluring matriarch of the Addams family, Morticia.  Bundy and Benson are wonderfully paired and really get to strut their stuff  in the musical number “Tango da Amor.”

Peyton Tongate portrays daughter Wednesday.  Her younger brother, Pugsley, is played by young Rowan Loseke.  Both are delightful and share a charming yet strange sibling rapport.  Rowan doubles as Cousin Itt. Other members of the Addams household are Bruce Parrish as Uncle Fester, Trisha Bagby as Grandma Addams, and Nick Seaman as Lurch. All three are wonderfully macabre and wacky.

Visiting the Addamses are the three members of the “normal” Beineke family. Their varying reactions to the weirdness around them is fun stuff.  Zach Hendricks plays Wednesday’s boyfriend Lucas Beineke. Lucas’s parents are played by Robert Collier as Mal and Lauren Hickle as Alice. All three have splendid voices.

A big musical has to have an ensemble, and this one is provided by the conjured up Addams’s ancestors.  It seems weird to say that the dead folks liven up the production, but in this case it is certainly true: the ensemble members bring a ton of energy to the stage. The ensemble includes Kendra Baca, Lauren Duquette, Kathryn Edwards, Humberto ‘Gio’ Giles-Sanchez, Jay Hartzler, Jessa Hendricker, Danye Hennenfent,and McKenzie Landers.  Jessa Hendricker also serves as dance captain.

Samantha Smith directs all this wackiness.  Rusty Russell is music director and Michelle Leoffler is choreographer.  Erica O’Neill and Darlene Lloyd are the producers, and Lloyd also serves as assistant director. The set has been designed by Chris Terven with help from Bruce Parrish.  Opal Virtue is in charge of costumes with help from A R (Alex) Flurer. Sound design is by Rich Plotkin and Samuel James Willis with technical assistance from Emily Ohmart, who has also done the program design. The properties team is headed by Jennifer Bethman with assistance from Sally Baugh and Hanna Sett. The lighting design is by Ashleigh Feger with help from Mike Mallon. Judy Stroh is stage manager with assistance from Sage Brown and Ian Guthrie. In addition to the lighting, Ashleigh Feger also worked with Jeff Ready to design the makeup.  Jasmine Thrasher serves on the makeup crew.  Wendi Ayers is house manager with assistance from Kayla Blue, who also serves as music assistant.

The pay-what-you-can Preview performance is Thursday, July 11, with regular performances July 12-14, 18-21, and 25-28.  Please note that Thursday performances have been included on the second and third weekends. This musical is rated PG-13. Parental guidance is suggested due to adult innuendo, profanity, and scenes containing torture.

by Bob McLaughlin and John Lieder