Feeling Trapped? Move Towards the Darkness and go out to see The Addams Family at West Potomac High School.
Entering the theater, the audience is greeted by the gate to the Addams Family estate – a gruesome spectacle adorned with a large skull, gargoyles, and ADDAMS across the top of the great barrier. My chemical romance whispers through the speakers, bringing a sense of rock excitement to hype the audience into preparation for the new musical comedy, which opened on Broadway in 2010 with music and lyrics by Andrew Lippa, and book by Marshall Brickman and Rick Elice.
The opening song “When You’re An Addams” brings all of the Addams family clan “living, dead, and undecided” to the stage. The large cast adopted the audience into their extensive family with song, dance and humor in a matter of minutes.
Black and White, just like the original TV series from 1964, everything from the costumes to the make-up (which for some was nearly full body) was fit for an era before Technicolor television. Tiny hints of colors explode as they come on stage, showing change and bringing a visual aspect to helping to define “normal” and then break all the rules.
Featuring a cast of Cappie Award nominees and Winners (essentially the High School Oscars), the talent permeates the cast with both seasoned actors and new. Junior David Jarzen plays Gomez Addams, the passionate husband and doting father depicted perfectly in his moving “Happy/Sad.”
Senior Nikki Amico shows her dark side as Wednesday Addams, bringing color to her deep dark soul with “Pulled.”
Junior Emily Carbone brings her dance expertise and cool, aloof flair to Morticia showing off her many talents with “Just Around The Corner.”
Senior Emma Norville is a blunt yet supportive crazy Grandma, and gives the audience a hint of what her life has been like for the past 102 years in “What If.”
Stoic Senior Sam Rainey keeps Lurch alive with his grunts and groans, if you watch closely you’ll be in for surprises from the tall zombie.
Freshman Jonathan Barger keeps the audience in the loop as Fester, keeping the focus of the show on love, prefaced by “Fester” and his own soft side comes out in “The Moon and Me.”
Aubrey Blount, also a freshman who was featured in Philip Lee Clark’s first musical at West Potomac, Suessical, brings color to Wednesday’s life and shows her that even the brightest people have a little inner darkness in “Crazier Than You.”
Yet another freshman, John McFarlane, is a brilliant scheming Pugsley, bringing despair to the stage with his giddy approach to torture and all things evil showcased in “Pulled” and “What If.”
With a live orchestra, featuring Musical Direction by C conducted by Steve Rice, the actors are supported musically by 14 music students as they play their way through underscoring, songs, and overtures.
Senior Rebecca Lehner graduated from Assistant Costume Ddesigner to lead after Spamalot last year. Assisted this year by Nina Shute, the costumes spanned a wide range of needs, but all kept to the original vision of the play. All of the ancestors were cloaked in white, and had outfits that changed from dance to dance eventually returning to their depicted ancestor – a few specifics include Marie Antoinette, Elvis, a nurse, a cave man, a bride, and even Abraham Lincoln himself. Each member of the cast had their own stylized piece that helped enhance the acting choices they made. Morticia, cloaked in a styled version of her iconic black floor length dress, made more practical for dancing by adding a tango skirt flair and slit. Each character from the Addams’ to the Beineke’s had their own style and each costume fit each character as if they themselves had chosen it.
Utilizing moving head lights, stage lighting, spotlights, and even strobes, Lighting Designers Sarah Bowman and Hannah Lau, assistant Jessica Steadman, designed a wonderfully lit show. Scenes set out doors utilized moving head gobos to emphasize their location, and the interior lighting highlighted each scenic element from large bird cage seat on the landing at the top of the stairs, to each particularly placed wall hanging, the lighting allowed the other elements of the performance to shine.
In a musical that has as many different locations as The Addams Family, one would think that it would be difficult to weave the way through place after place, but Set Designers Natalie Jurkowski, Ella Moore, and Elaina Phalen achieved this with ease. The Addams’ house and its grandeur is showcased in the sweeping staircases and many entrances and exits. The large gates are accompanied by a beautiful backdrop of the exterior of the house, located in the depths of Central Park of course. Different rooms within the mansion are defined with intricately set flats for Gomez’s study – full of throwbacks to the original Television show, a torture room complete with stretching machine, and most of the bedrooms are simply detailed beds with the space defined with the aid of lighting. Morticia’s room is the most grand, with an ornate and spider-webbed dressing table with mirror and large bed, dressed with things in her favorite colors – black and grey, and enough room for a large dance break. The small details are what really complete this design; from the stenciled wall papered walls to the spider webs on each sconce, wall hanging and corner, the scenery, along with set dressings and props, add a gloom even Lurch would smile at.
The team of Props Designer Senior Margaret Gorguissian, Props Mistress Helen Kitrosser, and Props Crew Jane Sullivan create a show lacking nothing. Each scene, thanks to some help from the Ancestors, is full of transitions that happen mysteriously and so quickly, only a ghost could have done it. Featuring black and white upholstered furniture, creepy cherubs, a giant black chalice and the Thing in a bird cage it calls home, each nick knack adorning the stage is exactly what one would expect when walking into the Addams family home.
Sound Designer Grace Denton and Assistant Lily Vita set the mood for the show from the first moment the audience enters the auditorium. Making sure each sound cue not only fits, but is the appropriate level to create the reaction they want, and keeping track of more microphones than they have fingers is quite an undertaking, but these ladies put on a superb show. Each actor was heard clearly whether singing or speaking, allowing harmonies to fill the air and wash over your soul. Listening to the different songs was a joy and a pleasure and without such a competent duo, I would not still be humming “Pulled” as I dance around my kitchen.
Stage Manager Sam Poole runs a tight ship, each cue executed with ease and efficiency. The stage crew camouflaged in black morph suits with costumed crew members hidden among the ancestors, doubling as cast and crew. Assistant Stage Manager Jacob Warren kept everything flowing smoothly back stage while Sam Poole made sure everything was right on stage. Elaina Phalen was not only a set designer, but also Head of the Stage Crew and an ancestor and dancer. She was assisted by three stage crew members as well as many others in order to make sure that when each cue was called for transition, every prop and scenic item was in its proper place in less time than you could say “Full Disclosure.”
Philip Lee Clark brings his directing and dance expertise to this stellar show, teaching his students important life lessons with each run. With songs that keep you bobbing along, and humming after you leave to dance numbers that make you want to take tango lessons, The Addams Family is a must see.
If you are a theatre lover and supporter of the arts and West Potomac’s never-ending adventures, see their shows this summer, Next to Normal and 25th Annual Putnam County Spelling Bee, and support them in their trip to Scotland’s Edinburgh Fringe Festival. More information is available here.