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The Addams Family
Book by Marshall Brickman and Rick Elice
Music and Lyrics by Andrew Lippa
Directed by Marcia Milgrom Dodge
Choreographed by Vince Pesce
The Muny
September 14, 2014

Cast of The Addams Family Photo by Philip Hamer The Muny

Cast of The Addams Family
Photo by Philip Hamer
The Muny

One of the things I always loved about The Addams Family in all its incarnations is how much fun the characters always seemed to have as a family. From Charles Addams’s classic comic panels to the 1960’s TV series, to the feature films in the 1990’s, this was a family that, while noticeably unconventional,  offbeat and decidedly macabre, sincerely loved one another and made the most out of life.  I used to look forward to watching reruns of the show after school when I was younger, and I enjoyed the movies as well, but I have to admit I was skeptical about the musical. I had heard of the mixed reviews on Broadway, and the adjustments to the show that were made for the tour, and I just didn’t know what to expect. The cast, led by Muny veterans Rob McClure, Jenny Powers and Jennifer Cody, looked extremely promising, and I sat in my seat on opening night with high hopes.  I was not disappointed. In true Addams tradition, this is a show about love, lunacy and a great deal of laughs.  It’s a very fun show that blends elements of the cartoons, the TV show and the movies along with a new twist to make for a thoroughly enjoyable evening of theatre works surprisingly well on the giant Muny stage.

This version of the story, which seems to take some inspiration from theatrical classics like You Can’t Take It With You and La Cage aux Folles, takes the familiar characters and introduces new ones to tell a story of unlikely love, culture clashes, and parents’ dealing with their children’s growing up. The book by Marshall Brickman and Rick Elice is full of witty jokes, plot twists and revelations, and there are some memorable songs by Andrew Lippa as well as an echo of the iconic TV theme song in the overture (with the audience enthusiastically clapping and snapping along). After we are re-introduced to the famous family including Gomez (McClure), Morticia (Powers), Pugsley(Michael Harp), Grandma (Cody) and Lurch the butler (William Ryall) in an energetic, colorful production number called “When You’re an Addams”, the storytelling duties are then taken over by Uncle Fester (Steve Rosen), who serves as something of a Master of Ceremonies and tour guide through the ensuing story, which Fester reminds us is ultimately about love. Gomez and Morticia have to deal with the fact that their daughter Wednesday (Sara Kapner) is growing up. In fact, she’s met a nice, respectable young man, Lucas Beineke (Dan DeLuca), and they want to get married, which is part of the problem. Lucas’s parents, Mal (John Scherer) and Alice (Hollis Resnick) have been invited to dinner at the Addams mansion, and both Wednesday and Lucas are afraid of being embarrassed by their parents.  Meanwhile, Wednesday has confided a secret to Gomez, which she has made him promise not to tell Morticia, from whom Gomez never keeps secrets.  Gomez’s dilemma, along with the various culture conflicts and what happens when even more secrets threaten to be revealed, becomes the basis for a hilarious and heartwarming tale of love and unconventionality told only as an Addams could tell it.

While the darker, more overtly spooky atmosphere of the cartoons and the films is present as well, the general tone of the musical seems to be more in the vein of the TV show (albeit a little more risqué at times), with its broad comedy, sight gags and joke-a-minute humor.  The comedy is in excellent hands, as well, with Rosen as a Vaudevillian-styled Fester and Cody as the outspoken Grandma delivering many of the best jokes in scene-stealing performances. The “Full Disclosure” number that ends Act 1 is one of the funniest scenes I’ve ever seen at the Muny, with so much raucous humor that it’s difficult to pause and take a breath. Just when I thought I was laughing as much as I could, another joke would come along to make me laugh even more.  There are also some great moments for Kapner and Harp with the delightfully unhinged song “Pulled”, and for Resnick as the outwardly happy, frequently rhyming Alice, who gets to reveal her own dark secrets in a cathartic moment at the end of Act 1. She and Scherer as the bewildered Mal, along with a well-matched Kapner and DeLuca, also have an excellent moment in Act 2 with “Crazier Than You”. In fact, all the principals here are ideally cast, and everyone gets a moment to shine, including Fester with his sweet ode to his secret crush “The Moon and Me” (along with some excellent visuals on the scenery wall), and Ryall as Lurch, whose confusion about how to act when he meets the Beinekes is endearingly hilarious.  There are some great “breaking the fourth wall” moments as well, with Rosen’s little stand-up routine at the beginning of Act 2–featuring some Muny-specific jokes–being a real highlight.

As great as the supporting cast is, however, this being The Addams Family means the stars of the show have to be Gomez and Morticia, and the Muny has cast these celebrated characters very well indeed. Both McClure and Powers are at their best here, and that’s saying something, considering the excellent performances I’ve seen from them in past Muny shows. Something about these characters just seems to energize these two, and they work together with crackling chemistry and a great deal of charm. Powers is in great voice on songs like “Secrets” and her big production number “Just Around the Corner”. She displays just the right balance between elegance and enthusiasm, as well. McClure is a joy as Gomez, as well, bringing charisma, wit, emotion, comic timing and boundless energy.  He’s able to command the stage in a dynamic fencing routine, express his dilemma humorously in “Trapped”, and also share a poignant moment with Kapner’s Wednesday on the wonderful “Happy/Sad” in Act 2.  He and Powers are well-matched in their electric, expertly choreographed “Tango de Amor” as well. These two consummate professionals fill their roles with humor and style, leading a strong principal cast and equally excellent ensemble of undead ancestors, skeletons and such.

Visually, the set by Michael Schweikart fills the vast stage with just he right air of whimsical creepiness, with a detailed graveyard set and the house,which revolves to show different rooms such as the main hall and the dungeon. The costumes, designed by Andrea Lauer, are influenced by the earlier incarnations of the characters but are appropriately updated for this setting. I especially liked the individual styling of the various Addams ancestors.  There were some obvious issues with the sound on opening night, with a few lines being lost due to microphone problems, although I’m sure those will be sorted out as the show continues its run. Overall, this production a strong technical achievement, with elements fitting the overall darkly madcap atmosphere very well.

The Addams Family is, as Fester says, ultimately a story about love. It’s about trust, acceptance, and unconventionality, but its all tied together by love. While I think the original TV show will always be my favorite version of these characters, the musical is a surprising delight as well, especially in this larger-than-life production at the Muny.  It’s creepy, it’s kooky and it’s contagiously fun. This is a family that’s well worth getting to know, and the Muny provides an excellent–and outrageously funny–introduction.

Rob McClure, Jenny Powers Photo by Philip Hamer The Muny

Rob McClure, Jenny Powers
Photo by Philip Hamer
The Muny

 

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Dan DeLuca Photo by Matthew Murphy

Dan DeLuca
Photo by Matthew Murphy

 

Dan DeLuca is a New York-based actor who has been cast as Lucas Beineke in the Muny’s production of The Addams Family, which opens tonight. A Pittsburgh native, DeLuca was originally inspired to pursue a career in musical theatre as a child, upon seeing Cathy Rigby’s touring production of Peter Pan.  He grew up staging plays and making movies in his neighborhood and his family’s basement, and he trained with the Pittsburgh Musical Theater as a teenager before attending the Cap21 Conservatory in New York.  Since graduating in 2012, he has appeared in various regional productions at companies such as the Goodspeed Opera House in Connecticut and the West End Playhouse in Vermont.

Fittingly enough (and entirely by coincidence), since DeLuca’s character is the fiancé of  Addams Family daughter Wednesday, he met with me last Wednesday evening to speak about his role in the show and his experience at the Muny, as well as his thoughts about St. Louis and his future career goals. Here’s some of our conversation (including some minor plot spoilers for The Addams Family):

Michelle–What was the audition process for the Muny like?

Dan–I just got a submission from my agent–they were like “Hey, can you put yourself on tape for this?” And I was sent a song and two scenes, and I filmed it. There was no call back. They were just like “OK, you have the job!”

M–Wow!

D–I didn’t meet the director until I got here. I knew no one else in the cast until I got here.

M–You didn’t have a callback? It’s was just like “we watched your video, we like you, here you go?”

D–Yeah. It was like “OK. I’m going to the Muny”, which I’ve heard many amazing things about. It’s one of the most respected summer stocks of all time. The quality of the productions and the accommodations, and the way you’re treated, it’s amazing. It’s a wonderful experience. But yeah, it was just a video submission. I just put myself on tape in my living room.

M—What’s the rehearsal process like? I’ve heard it’s kind of crazy.

D–I think we have 10 days, which is I think the max you will get here at the Muny. We finished blocking yesterday [Tuesday], and that was our sixth day. We’ll call from 10 to 6 every day. The hours may vary based on which scenes you’re in, of course. You rehearse outside. The first few days are like, just music, with really intense blocking. You have to go home and look at it, and really review our stuff, because you normally have at least two weeks in a normal contract. I’ve never put up a show this quick before. They send you your scripts at least a month in advance, so you come in and you kind of have to know your stuff, or else it’s very difficult.

M–So, you basically have to be off-book [have your lines memorized] by the time you get here?

D–Pretty much. You’ll get your blocking, and you’re expected to be off-book the next day. So, I tried to learn as much [as I could] before I got here.

M–What’s different about the Muny rehearsal process vs. the rehearsal process for other shows you’ve been in?

D–Like I said, it’s definitely the fastest one. I think one of the most special things about the Muny rehearsal process that I don’t think any other theatre ever does, is that tech [rehearsal] starts at midnight on Saturday, and we tech from midnight until 5am the next morning. We get out at 4:00 the day before, so we have from 4 until midnight to take a nap or take care of ourselves, and then we start. I’m not even sure what time we start the next day. I’m so looking forward to that, because tech can be such an excruciating process.

M–So after that marathon overnight tech rehearsal, do you get some time to rest?

D–Yes, we have the morning and I believe the beginning part of the afternoon, just to, obviously, have a sleep. And we then have the Sitz, where we do the singing of the show with the orchestra, and the next day we run the show during the day, with what’s called a “sweat tech” because we’re out in the sun. We’re out in the sun with our costumes with the sun beaming down on us. Then we open that night.

M–You’re very lucky to have gotten good weather.

D–Yes.

M–I feel for the actors up there. I’ve been there on nights when it’s been 100 degrees outside, and I wonder, how do they do it?

D–(laughing) Yeah, and some of the costumes in this show… there are a lot of dead ancestors who are just covered in ghost makeup and all this stuff, where I’m one of the “normal” people in the show. I’m engaged to Wednesday. I get to wear normal clothes. I just have like this nice dinner jacket and jeans, so I fortunately have it easy costume-wise.

M–Have you worked in outdoor theatre before?

D–I have not, no. This is my first time doing outdoor theatre, and rehearsing outside as well.

M–What about on a stage this big?

D–Yeah, it’s humongous. You’re running a marathon across the stage.

M–What do you like most about your Muny experience so far?

D– Honestly, the people. Mike Isaacson, he’s the Executive Producer. He pops in at least once a day to see how everybody’s doing. They take such amazing care of us. I think we just have a legacy and it’s such an honor to be a part of that legacy. So many people have worked in the Muny. The Muny Hall of Fame, it’s just so amazing to see the people that have been here.

M–And then some people are here and they make it big later, and you get to say “I saw them when they were at the Muny”.

D–Yeah, exactly! It’s so cool. So I guess just being part of the legacy, and finally joining the Muny family. I love the people.

M–If you had the opportunity, would you do a show at the Muny again?

D—Absolutely! I would love to come back here. It’s just so privileged. It’s not too long of a contract, so we’re not out of the city [New York] too long, but they pay us very well for summer stock. It’s just so fun. It’s like summer musical theatre boot camp, is what a lot of people are saying, because it’s so quick but it’s so fun. It’s an amazing contract. There are so many actors who would kill to be on a contract at the Muny.

M–So what is it about the show and the role that most appeal to you? You play Wednesday’s fiancé. Conveniently we’re meeting on a Wednesday.

D—(laughs) Yes we are! I didn’t think about that. Well, I used to love the TV show and the movies that came out in the 90’s. I also loved the dark Gothic, sort of dark humor. It was also family friendly.

M–But you get to play one of the “normal” ones.

D–(Laughing) I do!  No, that’s the thing. There’s not a role for me in the actual family. I saw the show in New York and found it so charming, and Andrew Lippa’s music is so catchy and so fun. We’re actually the regional premiere of the show. They did pre-Broadway in Chicago, had a Broadway run, and then they did the tour, and the tour, I guess was ending. So it will be exciting to be part of the regional premiere of the show. Like I said, this is the only role I could play in the show. He’s the normal one, but it’s also kind of fun just to… me and the two people who play my parents, we kind of get to sit and watch the show as we’re onstage because the craziness around us is so fun. And we have some of Broadway’s best character people–we have Steve Rosen [Uncle Fester], Jen Cody [Grandma]. We have Rob McClure [Gomez] and Jenny Powers [Morticia]–just some of the greatest character actors of all time running around the stage, and you just literally have to stand there and not laugh a lot of the time.

M–You get to be sort of an audience on stage.

D–Yeah. It’s like, of course, active listening and staying in character, but a lot of the times it’s very difficult not to crack up, because of the things that are happening on stage. It’s The Addams Family. Hilarity will ensue.

M–Now, what’s different about this show compared to the TV show and the movies?

D–We take a step, because Wednesday is growing up. Wednesday’s always been a little girl, and now she’s a young adult. So, in the show we take a step forward in time, of what happens after all of that craziness. Everyone’s growing up.  And it’s mainly how Gomez and Morticia deal with their baby girl growing up. There’s this amazing song called “Happy/Sad”, where Gomez says, I’m happy that you’re happy and, I’m so happy that you found love, but so sad that you’re growing up. So she’s maturing. It’s really what happens when… because the family’s actually being torn apart.  I’m pulling Wednesday away from her family, and they’re freaking out because they just love each other so much. There’s so much passion and love in the family, and what happens when that all starts to fall apart?

M–There’s also the culture clash issue…

D–Yes. The Ohioans and the Addamses.

M–It reminds of something like You Can’t Take It With You or La Cage aux Folles, where the child of an unconventional family falls in love with the child of a more conventional family, and then the families meet.

D–Forbidden love. It’s star-crossed lovers.

M–(Laughs) It’s not quite Romeo and Juliet because it’s a comedy.

D—(Laughs) Not quite that, but they have a hard time getting along at times. You have the very strict, normal Ohio family, and then you have the Addams family, who live in the middle of Central Park. Their house is in the middle of Central Park.

M–Oh, is that new for this show?

D–Yes. They added that for the musical. That was not always the case.

M–Does the show say how Wednesday meets Lucas?

D–Yes. Actually, I was lost in the woods, and then a pigeon drops at my feet with an arrow in it, and I look up and there she is–Wednesday, with a crossbow. And I just immediately fall in love with her. This boy from Ohio, he just sees something that he’s never seen before, and it’s so interesting. And he says that he wants to be a writer. I imagine him watching many Tim Burton films growing up, Nightmare Before Christmas and stuff like that, but his parents would never allow him to do that. And so when they come to that house in the middle of Central Park, they’re taken aback because I don’t think they’re expecting that from me whatsoever. But yeah, for me it’s love at first sight.

M–So what do you think of St. Louis? Is this your first time here?

D–Yeah. I love the Central West End, where I’ve been spending a lot of my time. It’s beautiful. I can’t even compare it to anything. It’s just this charming little street with all these amazing shops and stuff. I love it.  I’m mad because I only have two weeks left, and I wish I could stay longer.

M–Have you gotten to see a lot of the city yet?

D–No. I went to the Cardinals game, so I’ve seen it but… Rob McClure, he’s been here last summer and, I think, 2010. He’s an amazing tour guide because he knows all the ins and outs of things like the museums, the City Museum, with the big slide that I have to go down.

M–Yeah. I’ve been there a few times, and it’s better for somebody like you who’s younger and more physically fit (laughs), because there’s a lot of climbing and sliding, and tiny little places to climb through.

D–See, that’s my favorite thing in the world. I see the world as a jungle gym and a playground, so stuff like that is amazing. I’m looking forward to it.

M–So, what can you tell me about your future career plans beyond the Muny?

D–I’m going to do a brief reading at the Barrington Stage [in Pittsfield, MA], just for a few days.  And then I actually have something coming up that I’m not allowed to talk about, but it’s something big and very exciting. It’s a bit of a dream thing for me that I’m super excited about.

M–Can I mention that, in a vague way? That there’s something coming up?

D–Yeah, you can mention something vague. There’s something coming up but I can’t say what it is. Something exciting is coming. I feel very lucky.

The Addams Family runs July 14-21 at the Muny. For ticket information, see the Muny’s website. 

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