'Addams Family' production revives classic characters

Wednesday, September 9, 2015 - 5:37pm

The Ann Arbor Civic Theatre, an organization dripping in history and opportunity since 1929, will open its next feature: The Addam's Family, the musical comedy based on the well-known Charles Addams cartoons. 

The Addams Family

September 10th-13th, Lydia Mendelssohn Theatre

Thursday: 7:30 p.m.

Friday-Saturday: 8:00 p.m.

Sunday: 2:00 p.m.

Tickets: $19-$25 (Adult)/ $13 (Student)

Written by Marshall Brickman and Rick Elice, with music and lyrics by Andrew Lippa, “The Addams Family” depicts the story created from Addams’s original cartoons, rather than from the numerous adaptations of TV series and film. The simplicity of his work leaves room for creativity while adapting these iconic figures to the stage.

“We stay true to the original cartoon characters, but I really think people will forget halfway through the show that these characters are supposed to be weird.,” director Trish Fountain said.

Fountain described the story as relatable and she stressed that the characters should “come off as accessible, while also being fun.”

The original directors and designers of the Broadway musical, Phelim McDermott and Julian Crouch, described Addams’s reality as different and inverted. While bringing these cartoons to the stage, they hoped to properly represent the macabre world of the Addams cartoons, while bringing new elements to the Addams’s work.

There is a challenge with a work so well known to stay loyal to an audience’s expectations, but designers must also focus on taking risks in how the humor of the piece is represented, as well as the characters within it. This production should honor the simplicity of the Addams cartoons, without falling into the clichéd versions of these familiar characters.

“Because this is a modern version of cartoons that were created decades ago, we wanted to freshen up the look a bit,” Fountain said, while explaining the approach to designing the show. These modern elements are incorporated into the stage design, as well as the costume, hair and make-up design.

The original Broadway production of “The Addams Family” opened in April 2010 at the Lunt-Fontanne Theatre in New York City, and closed in December of 2011 after 35 previews and 722 performances. The production won a Drama Desk Award for Outstanding Set Design and won multiple audiences awards including Broadway.com’s Favorite New Broadway Musical.

The musical tells the story of Wednesday Addams, who has fallen in love with Lucas Beinek. Lucas and his “normal” family are invited to a dinner at the Addams’s mansion in Central Park. Wednesday’s father, Gomez, is put into further turmoil towards this visit when his daughter chooses to share the news of her recent love with him, begging him not to tell her mother. Gomez finds himself in a conflict between honoring his daughter’s request and keeping secrets from his wife Morticia, which is something he’s never done. The ensuing chaos is comical and wild, calling for actors that can portray distinct personalities and sell an audience on the story of a family of misfits as they attempt to interact with those considered “normal.”

“When casting a musical, vocal range and the color of the voice are just as important as the look and characterization of an actor,” Fountain said. “We were incredibly lucky to find people that fit each character really well, and complimented the other actors in the show.”

University of Michigan students and recent alumni are involved in both the cast and production of this show, as A2CT aims to include as much of the Ann Arbor community as possible in their productions. And the humor and enjoyment of Addams’s original cartoons has no doubt rubbed off on A2CT’s team.

“I want audiences to know how much fun we've had creating this production, and I think that will show in each performance,” Fountain said.