If you’re ever worried that your family has issues, the Hale Centre Theatre in Sandy is quick to remind you this fall that you’re not alone.
Especially if your home decor leans toward the macabre, sibling affection for your clan includes a taser and rack, you have a live-in grandma who may or may not actually be a part of the family, your butler has yet to decide if he’s living or undead or your uncle has an extreme penchant for lunar love. And don’t even get me started on your parents.
Just in time for the season of spooks, the creepy, kooky, mysterious, spooky and all together ooky Addams Family is coming live to the Jewel Box stage of the Hale, bringing with it musical mayhem, romance, plenty of drama and, of course, a little dash of poison.
“The Addams Family,” which is set to run through Nov. 16, just kicked off, and with two talented casts, is already bringing in some packed houses and belly laughs with its reintroduction to the uniquely eerie Addams Family.
For those unfamiliar with the show, it’s based largely off of the single panel cartoons by “Addams Family” creator Charles Addams; the same cartoons which led to the creation of the highly popular television and film adaptations of the family’s unique relationships and inherent mayhem. The difference this time, of course, is the fact that the made-for-Broadway show, which opened for previews in March 2010, is 100% pure, unadulterated musical, complete with all the synchronized dance one could ever wish or hope for.
To lay a strong foundation for the show, director Dave Tinney took time in the Director’s Notes of the program to describe his own experiences with a far from normal family that he encountered frequently in his youth and childhood.
“To say they were different would be an understatement,” Tinney said of the Meyers clan, describing the family’s unique dynamic and the menagerie of animals (and people) that made up their messy homestead.
“My parents were quick to remind us that their lifestyle and way of maintaining a home was not normal,” Tinney wrote. “In fact, our endless list of Saturday cleaning chores was probably my mother’s preemptive way of assuring her kids would never default into such depraved abnormality.”
That, of course, didn’t stop Tinney and his sister from making frequent jaunts to the neighbor’s home, which he shared was “a place with no rules, no bedtime and no restrictions on junk food.”
At the neighbor’s house, television was unrestricted, laughter was always in the air and love was central.
“Even though my sister and I knew they must be ‘bad’ people because of the way they lived (at least that’s what we were told) we always felt safe, cared for and completely accepted,” Tinney said. “ And, we always knew it was a place where people were truly happy.”
Despite the chaos and … less than conventional means of handling various situations, it was that happiness at the root of it all that drew Tinney in.
“The older I get, and the more I see the world fighting to define what ‘normal’ should be, the more I realize that the Meyerses had it more right than most,” Tinney said. “Love your family ... in whatever form they come in. Love your neighbors. Love and respect all living things. Find joy in every moment of living. What could be more normal than that?”
To set the scene and unique tone for the show from before the curtain even raised, the Hale’s production of “The Addams Family” included a “hands-on” introduction of sorts, with a plethora of very active hands protruding from beneath the velvety drapes, interacting and causing mischief while the announcer’s voice-over carried on. It was fun to view the reactions as other audience members began to notice the low-key action, and, as soon as the lights dropped and the family’s iconic music came on, it didn’t take long for the characteristic Addams Family finger-snapping to begin from beneath the bottoms of the curtains.
The evening was filled with plenty of such thoughtful interjections, from commentary on how I-15 is clearly created for torture to an audience-involved, beach ball-smacking love song to the moon courtesy of Jeff Thompson’s charismatic take on Uncle Fester (each Monday, Wednesday, Friday), who also served as narrator throughout the action.
In the play, dark and dutiful sister Wednesday Addams (portrayed by Makenna Tinney, MWF) has literally met her match, in the form of extraordinarily normal Lucas Beineke (Nathanael Abbott, MWF). The young lovers want to be married, but knowing the, ah, differences in their respective families, don’t want to break the news until after a dual family get-together in the form of dinner at the Addams residence.
However, Wednesday offers up the truth in confidence to her father, Gomez (Josh Richardson, MWF), which causes some marital issues with his wife, Morticia (Erin Royall Carlson, MWF), who can tell he’s keeping something from her.
Throw in little brother Pugsley (Blake Walker, MWF) and his growing jealousy over his sister’s new affections, as well as a wacky Grandma (Jayne Luke, MWF), Lucas’ not-so-normal “normal” parents Mal (Shawn Lynn, MWF) and Alice (Carol Hartvigsen, MWF), the stoic butler Lurch (Michael Von Forell) and the family’s pet hand, Thing (Eden Tinney, MWF), not to mention a bunch of dearly departed relatives Fester trapped on Earth to help the lovers, and things quickly spiral.
From the opening introduction to the Addams family in the graveyard at a dead and undead get-together (to the tune of “When You’re an Addams”) to Wednesday’s professions of love in “Pulled” and her pleading for “One Normal Night” from her quirky family, the stage is set for mayhem.
Richardson provides a dashing and impressively accented take on Gomez that offers a good level to a show where one tiny misstep can lead to the feeling of an overly contrived plot, and Carlson’s Morticia is truly a vision, an excellent fit for the darkly lovely leading lady.
Walker’s skills belied his young age as Pugsley, not only driving the plot with his dastardly attempts to destroy his sister’s relationship (which in turn accidentally saves the marriage of the Beinekes), but also with his perfectly pitched voice and a characterization that lifted the entire production.
His interactions with Grandma, played by Luke, are genuinely delightful, and both characters offered an all-out win in casting.
Though in some ways, the script carried the characters away from the personalities fans have grown to love so much on television and in the movies, there’s much to be said about the fresh look at the family, and the glimpse it offers of what normalcy and love really mean.
Despite the Addams’ penchant for torture, darkness, monsters, death and disaster, it’s actually surprisingly easy to level with the concepts of growing up, moving on and finding ways to make relationships last. It also shows, in the most delightful ways, courtesy of Mal and Alice Beineke (Lynn and Harvigsen), that even the seemingly normal isn’t necessarily all that normal after all.
Audiences were treated to an inside glimpse of the happiness and sadness of growth, the power of love, the importance of a little dose of crazy and just how powerful truth can be, all marvelously orchestrated with just enough dancing to make it the best kind of family musical for the Halloween season and any time of year, really.
Though the script included plenty of innuendos that weren’t necessarily vital to the plot, with the help of the Addams ancestors and the guiding hand of Uncle Fester, the evening was a true delight, wrapped up with a perfect bow when, after an evening of mere grunts and impressive facial expressions, Forell’s Lurch burst out into pitch-perfect song to end the show: “ Move toward the darkness, welcome the unknown. Face your blackest demons, find your weakest bone. Lost your inhibitions, love what once was vile. Move toward the darkness and smile.”
It’s safe to say that as the post-show darkness engulfed the crowd, there were certainly plenty of smiles to be had.