Addams Family Musical Delightfully Spooks at PCC’s Proscenium Theatre

By Steve Forrester

If you have a taste for bizarre, spooky humor and appreciate stunning performances from your fellow students, The Addams Family – A New Musical delivered. The musical was held at the West Campus’s own Proscenium Theatre from April 18th through April 28th.

The production was quite impressive, as the PCC drama department brought in a gifted director named Jose “Chach” Snook, who is a guest director of sorts, invited to helm this project by the PCC drama director. This guest director has quite an extensive background having worked in New York City on several plays in the Theatre District, as well as on several tours here in Tucson and other places of note. His credits also include a tour of Sweeney Todd in the 1990s, which appeared in a theatre in Park Mall. 

The cast is actually a dual cast. One group of performers is called the “Itt” cast; the other is called the “Thing” cast (the cast uses these names affectionately after the more bizarre line-up of Charles Addams’ fictional relatives). Just in case you didn’t know, Charles Addams created a series of single-panel comics for The New Yorker magazine in the 1940s, which became instantly popular with its readership and eventually launched a hit television show in 1964 with the main cast of John Astin and Carolyn Jones as Gomez and Morticia. Also included were Jackie Coogan as Uncle Fester, Lisa Loring as daughter Wednesday, Matthew Weatherwax as brother Pugsley, Ted Cassidy as Lurch the butler and Marie Blake as Grandmama.

The cast of this incarnation of the Addams Family consists of our fellow Pima College students; over 70 people tried out and were eventually reduced to ~20 individuals. Some of them serve as “dual roles”, supporting ancestors for the rotating cast. For week one, the “Itt” cast is on stage on Thursday nights and the “Thing” cast appears on Friday through Sunday for the first week. The casts rotate for the final week.

Directing the actors is a challenging task, so Snook is assisted by Choreography Director Simone Jolivet, with music direction by Matt Holter. Also working behind the scenes is the casting director Bobby Lopez (whose previous credits include The Book of Mormon and Avenue Q) and the musical director Kristin (who worked as a singer for Disney’s movie Frozen a few years ago.

Plot of the Play

Soon after the curtain opens, the audience is treated to the first song, “When You’re An Addams” which features all of the main characters. They are at the graveyard (which is located on their estate). While the song is playing, Gomez (Preston Campbell-Cueva) proclaims that on this day each year, they summon all of their ancestors in the usual Addams custom: namely, well, dancing on their graves. Suddenly, an eerie fog begins to billow from the swampy ground, and with ghastly lighting, we see the ancestors emerge from their graves. They join the family in the remaining verses, which include clever choreography of several dances of the past: the Bunny Hop and the Twist, before resetting to their original dance routine.

Just before the ancestors are released to return to the great beyond, Fester steps in and locks the gate, preventing their exit from this world. He announces they cannot go back until they help sort out a sudden quandary that has befallen the family: Wednesday Addams (Celeste Gligoriu) has found the love of her life. Fester is concerned about this “love” and is concerned about several ramifications. Is it real love? If so, will this lead to Wednesday’s happiness or her undoing? Since Uncle Fester is also the role of narrator for this play, he sets the tone for the next scenes throughout the play. Yes, this is a plot device, but it’s an ingenious plot device, as it seems to involve the audience as if they are part of this creepy and kooky family. 

Wednesday reveals to her father that she is in love with Lucas Beineke (Ivan Medina), a well-adjusted lad from a wealthy and prosperous family, and he loves her equally as much. There is only one problem: he’s well… normal. An average, everyday upper-middle-class American young adult which is causing deep-seated angst within Wednesday’s psyche. But she doesn’t want to let her mother know, because Wednesday suspects her mother would ruin her one shot at true love, or at least a promising relationship. But you can tell Wednesday has a special bond with her father, and then makes him promise he will not tell a word of this secret to Morticia (Renee Schmidt).

This leads to a growing problem for Gomez because he has never kept any secret from his beloved wife. This is where Campbell-Cueva first reveals his musical ability as he sings “I’m Trapped” with such captivating emotion, which grips the audience and urges them to become emotionally invested in the storyline.

The next song is delivered by Wednesday, while she is reminiscing with brother Pugsley (Maggie Nardo) in a special way: by strapping him to a medieval rack and torturing him to agony while singing “Pulled”. Ironically, the song is about her being the one feeling pulled, although just before she sings the title of the song, she yanks on the lever that tightens the chains Pugsley is fastened with. In a stereotypical goth-girl, expressionless gaze, Gligoriu sings the following lines:

I don’t have a sunny disposition/

I’m not known for being too amused.

My demeanor’s locked in one position…

See my face. I’m enthused.

So as you can see, both the humor is thoughtfully intertwined throughout the entire musical, creating an artful tapestry of humor and horror, much like the original comics by Charles Addams.

Wednesday has invited Lucas and his parents, Mal Beineke (James Burnett) and his wife Alice (Christina Evans), to dinner with her family at the Addams mansion. Gomez and Morticia argue about whether or not to proceed with the dinner, with Morticia strongly feeling that it should be canceled because she says she feels Wednesday’s life would be ruined by marrying into such an ill-fitted family. Wednesday then rushes into the room frantically, describing how she definitely is looking forward to the dinner, and Gomez finally relents. No small task after he realizes this would strain his relationship with Morticia.

When asked, Gligoriu shared that “One Normal Night” is one of her favorite moments of the entire play. In this number, Wednesday pleads with her parents not to ruin this moment and just give her one evening of behaving as normal as they possibly can. Gligoriu superbly delivers the song with each note articulated and emotionally pitch-perfect. You can certainly tell this young lady practices every day.

Dinnertime at last is here as the Beineke family arrives in an ominously amusing fashion. We are in the interior of the Addam’s residence, and we hear the loud, Big Ben-like chimes and then Lurch’s (Estevan Ramon-Silvias) voice bellows, “You rang?” The next scene is at an elaborate banquet-style, almost “Last Supper”-esque; with the kind of large table that you might find in a Victorian castle.

The Addams suggest playing a game called “Full Disclosure”, or as Gomez calls it “Divulgación Reve- lar”, where everyone must reveal their deepest secret after they drink from a shared goblet of wine that

is passed around. Gomez goes first but makes up a story about a fox and a box who had a secret that he promised not to tell anyone, and Morticia incredulously replies “We’ll get back to you later”.  Uncle Fester reveals he is in love…with the Moon! Wednesday passes her turn twice, but Morticia insists and calls for the goblet. Pugsley, in a sudden rise of devilish mischief, places some toxic acromonium into the goblet, intending for Wednesday to drink it and “lose her cool” in hopes her secrets will be so shocking that Lucas will leave. This way, Pugsley and Wednesday could return to their blissful childhood lives of playfulness. However, the goblet gets passed all the way to Mrs. Beineke, who ended up choking and needing a drink of water to clear her throat. She swallows the acromonium and reveals her inner secret of wanting her husband to become the wild and carefree man he once was in order to be happy again. Then the husband reveals his disgust with the Addams lifestyle and declares his intention to leave. Wednesday reveals her love for Lucas, which breaks Morticia’s heart when she learns this is the secret that Gomez had kept from her.

In the aftermath, Wednesday and Lucas argue over the havoc that ensued from the Full Disclosure dinner. Morticia and Gomez are trying to sort their feelings out too. She is understandably ill-at-ease with her husband not telling her the truth about her daughter’s lover, and she reveals her feelings in a song “Just Around the Corner”, about her concerns for losing everything that she has spent her life developing. The execution of this song and the choreography were nearly perfect, and the audience gave enthusiastic applause at the song’s finish.

Fester then sings a song, “The Moon and Me”, declaring his love for the glowing satellite. The practical effects of the larger-than-life moon were sensational. It reminded me of the movie “Moonstruck” or even the intro to The Honeymooners television show. If you squint, you can even see the face of Jackie Gleason (or perhaps Jackie Coogan?) in the gigantic lunar prop.

The next song by Preston, “Not Today”, is by far the most romantic and courageous song, and Campbell-Cueva admits this is his favorite moment of the play. In this song, he stops Morticia as she is leaving the Addams mansion, perhaps never to return. The song was clever and brave, restoring hope in the survival of their marriage. He pours his heart out to Morticia and convinces her to stay because she is more like her daughter than she realizes. Then they perform a make-up duet together, “Let’s Live Before We Die”.

Gomez then goes to smooth things over with Wednesday as they sing “Happy and Sad” while discussing the events of the evening and its ramifications, which helps them settle down and put things in perspective. Lucas slips onto the stage around the last verse, and when the song stops, Wednesday notices him.

“How long have you been lurking in the shadows?” 

“All my life,” Lucas replies.

The couple then transition into “I’m Crazier Than You”, where Lucas declares that he would die for Wednesday, and to prove it, he agrees to let her blindfold him and then shoot an apple on top of his head with her crossbow, ala William Tell. In a gesture of bravery, he takes off his blindfold and puts it on Wednesday. She then replies “This is getting interesting”. The ancestors help make sure the shot is successful, with a twist of light-hearted silliness. At the end, they reconcile and agree to proceed with their plans to wed.

Uncle Fester proves he has become wise in matters of love since the beginning of this musical, as Mr. Beineke shows he is feeling raw about his wife’s revelations during the Full Disclosure game. Fester simply suggests that he just talk to his wife again, and Mr. Beineke realizes he can become the “crazy rock-and-roller” that he once was before he became obsessed with monetary success. Mr. Beineke does a sweet rendition of a snippet of “Crazier Than You” to show that he is, in many ways, much like his young son.

Morticia has a final scene with Pugsley where he confesses his attempted poisoning of his sister. Mor- ticia comforts him with a few zingers: “Remember what I told you. Life is a tightrope, and at the end is a coffin.”

Such comforting motherly words, but such is the twisted humor of Charles Addams.