“They’re creepy and they’re kooky… mysterious and spooky… they’re altogether ooky – The Addams Family.”
Vic Mizzy’s ’60s TV theme – familiar to generations of fans, whether they encountered it the first time around or during the course of countless reruns – is the inevitable opening of the musical The Addams Family, which comes to the stage of Earl Marriott Secondary’s Wheelhouse Theatre April 13-16 and 20-23.
The 2010 Broadway show by Marshall Brickman and Rick Elice, with score by Andrew Lippa, has chosen to establish a strong hook from the past right from the get-go.
And audiences everywhere have responded instantly, by snapping along with with the signature finger-pop percussion of the piece.
As Candace Radcliffe, head of Marriott’s drama department and director of the musical – the school’s 40th anniversary production – notes, “so many people know and love The Addams Family – I think there are a lot of people, like me, who love the Halloween-y, haunted house feel of it.”
Cartoonist Charles Addams’ deliciously creepy denizens of a line and wash Gothic mansion have long transcended their origins as single New Yorker panels of 1930s and ’40s, morphing into fully-fleshed characters in the long-running ’60s series, as well as numerous cartoon spin-offs, two big hit movies of the early 1990s and a successful small screen reboot in the late-’90s starring South Surrey’s own Ellie Harvie.
Among the delights of Marriott’s typically deluxe production will be a full student orchestra directed by Rodger Owens, vocal direction by Bev and Emma Schellenberg, choregraphy by Carol Seitz and costumes capturing the iconic Addams look by Linda Weston and Gale Smith.
And even though, as Radcliffe acknowledges, the student players “don’t have the same history with the characters,” they’re connecting with them nonetheless – and having a great deal of fun in the process.
The musical’s solid book and witty, tuneful score provide gift roles (and entertaining numbers) for the familiar inhabitants of the Addams mansion – Morticia and Gomez, Wednesday and Pugsley, Uncle Fester, Grandma, Lurch the butler, even Cousin Itt – and a whole graveyard’s worth of undead ancestors from many eras.
“It’s a really contemporary musical, very much written for modern audiences and performers,” Radcliffe said.
“It’s not as long as the ‘grand old musicals’ written in the 1950s, and it’s written to flow from scene to scene to scene – and even with some big musical numbers, there’s a lot of flow and overlap to make a fast-paced exciting story.”
Emotional lynchpin of the musical is the romance between rapidly-maturing daughter Wednesday (Delacey Tate) and a ‘normal’ young man, Lucas Beineke (Austin Linder).
This creates expected tensions as supportive dad Gomez (Karn Cheema) finds himself caught between his daughter and an unyieldingly opposed Morticia (Maria Lesyk), but the situation also upsets the whole odd but strangely loving family dynamic, including Wednesday’s relationship with usually inseparable sibling Pugsley (Gareth Owen).
Conflicts and emotions reach their height when Lucas’ parents Alice (Sierra Ellis) and Mal (Myles Venn) come to dinner at the Addams mansion and are unnerved by the creepy ambience – including butler Lurch (Chang Ru Chen).
Two guaranteed scene-stealers, Uncle Fester (Luke Ballam) and Grandma (Jane Weaver) are well woven into the plot, Radcliffe adds.
“Grandma is one of the highlights of the show – some of the cheekiest lines come from her, and Jane is an incredible character actor,” she said.
“Luke has a great voice, which he demonstrates in the fantasy number The Moon and Me, and he has the natural charm, and stage presence necessary for Fester, who is a narrator at many points and tries to oversee the ancestors to make everything work out.”
Chima and Lesyk capture all the humour and energy of Gomez and Morticia, Radcliffe said.
“Karn manages this fantastic fatherly quality, but he also has terrific comedy timing and makes a great romantic partner for Morticia; Maria has a truly extraordinary voice – she’ll be going into the professional world and training as a singer.
“It’s a little spooky what a believable married couple they make.”
Radcliffe says Tate and Linder also have great chemistry as Wednesday and Lucas.
“Delacey has been singing in choir for many years and she’s a great little actress, and Austin is a fabulous singer as well, and absolutely perfect as the average preppy American guy.”
Venn also makes the most of Lucas’ uptight, business-oriented dad Mal, Radcliffe said.
“And Sierra, as Alice, has a really huge challenge – she seems to be the most constrained character, but there’s a scene where she drinks a magical potion – and there’s this massive transformation.”
Curtain is at 7:30 p.m. and tickets ($17, $15 seniors and students) can be reserved by emailing emstheatreco@gmail or calling 604-542-2181.