“We’ve had a little time to revisit and update the choreography and staging of the show in a few ways we’re really pleased to see,” said producer Douglas Merk. “We’re thrilled to be reunited with all the students again. There’s such momentum now, (a) building energy to the dances and humor. It’s a joyful place to be.”
Based on characters created by Charles Addams and featuring a score by Andrew Lippa and a book by Marshall Brickman and Rick Elice (“Jersey Boys,” “Peter and the Starcatcher”), the charming musical finds the titular kooky clan at an emotional crossroads. In particular, the budding romance between dark, moody Wednesday Addams and well-mannered Ohioan Lucas Beineke fuels parental distress, prompts change and challenges perceptions of what is considered normal.
“This is a funny, beautiful and joyful show with a lot of heart and wonderful characters,” said director Joe Deer, artistic director of Wright State University’s Department of Theatre, Dance and Motion Pictures who previously staged the Muse’s 2018 production of “Hello, Dolly!” “This show is about family. There have been many movie-to-stage musical adaptations recently but this one happens to work exceptionally well. The characters are likable and the (story) is about a family that doesn’t realize they’re broken. They aren’t broken in terms of being ghoulish, but they’ve stopped communicating with each other and trusting each other. Ultimately, they figure each other out and come into balance with each other, especially embracing the fact that Wednesday is growing up and she’s not a kid anymore, which is a family experience everyone can understand.”
In spite of the pandemic climate, organizers were determined to produce a full-scale musical this year per tradition, particularly since last year’s pandemic pause eliminated significant performance opportunities.
“We had a great cast of students who were seniors last year that we had trained for three or four years,” said longtime New Orleans-based Muse choreographer Lula Elzy. “So, this year was about what we could do for the students. But in some respects, we’re not managing the arts, we’re managing COVID. So, the first thing on the list is to manage COVID and the arts will follow.”
“Student actors love this show,” Deer added. “Every character is great fun to grab onto. We’ve laughed so hard in rehearsal.”
Inside the family
The company of “Addams Family” has over 70 young people in the cast, orchestra and as production assistants.
The principal cast includes Ben Anticoli as Gomez Addams, Isabel Rawlins as Morticia Addams, Griffin Greear as Uncle Fester, Via Mongelli as Grandma, Maggie Weckesser as Wednesday Addams, Elias Stienecker as Pugsley Addams, Luke Buell as Lurch, Jobe Vogelsong as Mal Beineke, Haley Hemmelgarn as Alice Beineke, Nick Abouzeid as Lucas Beineke and Casen Kidd as Grim Reaper and the Moon.
“It’s been fun getting to put my own twist on Gomez,” said Anticoli, who will be a senior at Tippecanoe High School and is making his Muse debut. “Love is a big theme in the show and Gomez is driven by love for his wife, children and the world around him. This is the biggest role I’ve ever had but I’ve been having so much fun.”
“The overarching themes of love and family are really strong,” echoed Stienecker, who will be a freshman at Tippecanoe High School. “I hope people are able to take away a better (appreciation) and understanding for their families.”
“Wednesday’s whole world is turning upside down, which is something all of us can relate to these past couple of years,” added Weckesser, who will be a junior at Chaminade-Julienne High School and has been a part of Muse since first grade. “My favorite part about being in Muse is the fact that we’re like a family. We love and support each other. Muse is a safe space, providing a unique atmosphere for high schoolers.”
Tuneful music, timely message
Lippa’s clever, humorous and touching Tony-nominated score includes “When You’re an Addams,” “One Normal Night,” “Crazier than You,” “Full Disclosure,” “The Moon and Me” and “Tango de Amor.”
“Latin, vaudeville and Broadway’s Golden Age are among the styles heard,” said musical director Jeffrey Powell, Stivers School for the Arts piano director and Dayton Opera chorus master. “The tunes are great and instantly memorable.”
In addition, Elzy noted her choreography has been fashioned by the “earworm melodies” she feels are reminiscent of other musicals.
“I’m also drawing on choreographers I’m influenced by including Michael Peters, Christopher Scott and Bob Fosse,” she said.
The production also received guest instruction from accomplished jazz trumpeter Ashlin Parker of New Orleans.
Due to its recognizable characters, “The Addams Family” has been performed often across the Miami Valley in recent years. However, Muse organizers are eager and excited to uniquely embrace the material in a warm, personal fashion.
“There are elements to the show in which we are able to delve into and emphasize in a way that feels true to Muse,” Merk explained. “This show is not about death but about life. We are delving into the love the family has which is already written into the show, but we feel in a deeper, richer way. And to do that at this moment in time, to turn around in the face of death and embrace life on the other side, feels so beautiful right now.”
HOW TO GO
What: “The Addams Family”
When: 8 p.m. Friday, June 17; 3 and 8 p.m. Saturday, June 18; 2 p.m. Sunday, June 19
Where: Victoria Theatre, 138 N. Main St., Dayton
Tickets: Call 937-228-3630 or visit daytonlive.org. Also, due to the postponement, if you already have tickets your current tickets are valid for the new performance dates.
More info: Visit musemachine.com