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May
29
2024
Performing Arts

Sydney Roberts, left, and Gini Meekin donned the classic black dress of Morticia Addams at a recent rehearsal of the YS High and McKinney Middle schools’ spring musical, “The Addams Family.” Both actors will portray Morticia on stage, as all main roles in the production have been double-cast. (Photo by Lauren "Chuck" Shows)

YS Schools present: Dark, lighthearted ‘Addams Family’ musical

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The young thespians of YS High and McKinney Middle schools are gearing up for their annual spring musical — a performance that promises to be creepy, kooky, mysterious and spooky.

The schools will present four performances of “The Addams Family” Thursday–Saturday, April 25–27, at the John Legend Theater in Springfield.

The musical, written by Marshall Brickman and Rick Elice, with music and lyrics by Andrew Lippa, premiered on Broadway in 2010, and is based on the characters created by cartoonist Charles Addams.

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Since their original 1938 debut via ink and paper in The New Yorker, the famously ghoulish Addamses have become firm mainstays of pop culture. “The Addams Family” has been adapted into live-action and animated TV series, films, video games and books — but the musical represents the franchise’s first stage portrayal.

“[‘The Addams Family’] fits the group of students we have this year,” director and performing arts teacher Lorrie Sparrow-Knapp told the News this week. “Last year, ‘Mamma Mia!’ was such a big celebration of harmony — this year, it’s more about playing these big characters.”

And considering their longevity, these big characters have essentially become their own set of tropes: Gomez and Morticia, the comically macabre lovers at the head of the family; deadpan Wednesday, who loves to, quite literally, torture her cheerfully milquetoast younger brother, Pugsley; mad-but-lovable Uncle Fester; Grandma, both wise and wicked; and monosyllabic butler Lurch.

The musical follows the Addamses as Wednesday, now 18, brings her seemingly normal boyfriend and his family to dinner. Chaos, naturally, ensues — but as with most “Addams” adaptations, the show is lighthearted in contrast to its dark comedy, with a story that ultimately explores what it means to be part of a family.

Sparrow-Knapp said that a very thorough audition process this year, which required show-specific preparation for students, resulted in more than one young actor who seemed fit for each of the show’s roles. For that reason, the show has been double-cast, with alternating casts to star in each of the four performances of the musical.

Sparrow-Knapp added that COVID and other illnesses, which have swept through the casts of, and sometimes delayed, spring musicals in recent years, have exposed the need for understudies and swings — actors prepared to step into one major role or multiple ensemble roles. Double-casting all the roles in “The Addams Family,” then, not only allows more actors to shine on stage, but also ensures that the show will, in fact, go on.

“I think that’s something, going forward, that all schools are having to address in some way — this idea that understudies are mission-critical,” she said. “Right now, we’re finding that swings are keeping Broadway open.”

Some of the show’s cast spoke with the News in the midst of a bustling after-school rehearsal, after crowding around a piano to warm up as local pianist Mary Fahrenbruck played. The young actors said they were excited to bring to life the beloved Addamses for Yellow Springs theater-lovers.

Carson Funderburg and Adrian Coe, both cast as Uncle Fester, had a similar take on playing the madcap, but beguiling character.

“It was kind of a fitting role for me,” Funderburg said. “He’s crazy and insane in the play, and I’m crazy and insane in real life — so I really don’t have to do much work.”

“Yeah,” Coe agreed. “It’s kind of like method acting — I’m already a lunatic.”

Gini Meekin and Sydney Roberts are taking on the role of empowered matriarch Morticia, and both said they’d watched large- and small-screen portrayals of the character by several actors, including Carolyn Jones, Anjelica Huston and Catherine Zeta-Jones, in preparation. At the same time, Meekin added, the actors are finding their own routes to the character.

“I’ve been figuring out how Morticia fits in my own body — how to keep my arms up, how to carry myself,” she said, noting Morticia’s composed and confident posture.

“And I’ve just tried to feel like I’m better than everyone else,” Roberts said with a laugh. “She’s pretty awesome — and I’m pretty awesome.”

But who is Morticia without her dearly, dementedly devoted Gomez? Nevi Smith, who plays Gomez to Roberts’ Morticia, noted the chemistry necessary between the two characters, known for their amorous overtures and tendency to tango.

“I’m really glad Sydney is my Morticia, because we’re really close, so it makes that chemistry a lot easier to work with,” Smith said.

Otto Cipollini, also cast as Gomez, said it’s a “dream role” for him, having fallen in love with the character after seeing a Wright State University production of “The Addams Family” a few years ago. He added that he’s glad he’s sharing his dream role.

“It’s super fun that we’re doing two casts, so I can play alongside another actor and we can help each other,” he said. “This show has some challenges, but it’s been a great experience.”

One of those challenges, Sparrow-Knapp said, came in how to portray the butler Lurch, who famously stands head-and-shoulders above the rest of the Addamses. With Cipollini’s seven-foot height, the cast and crew had to do what it does best: get creative.

“We couldn’t get anybody taller than Otto — so we just went with a giant, 10-foot tall puppet operated by Brodan Chaffee,” Sparrow-Knapp said. “I don’t know if it’s going to work or not, but by God, we’re going to try.”

In addition to a double cast and a large puppet, audiences can look forward to musical numbers accompanied by a live orchestra, under the direction of James Johnston, as well as choreography by Jaimie Wilkie and Valerie Blackwell-Truitt; costumes by Kate Mooneyham; and a large, elaborate set constructed by the dedicated middle and high school technical crew, overseen by Sarah Sinclair-Amend.

Much of what folks will see on stage is coordinated by the stage manager — a role that has no double or understudy. Helen Bales performs the role of stage manager for “The Addams Family,” and like Morticia or Gomez, Bales said, a stage manager is a kind of parent to the cast and crew, making sure everyone has what they need and knows where they should be at a given time.

“You’re keeping everybody on track, and what I really enjoy is just getting to support everyone and being relied upon,” Bales said. “It’s difficult sometimes, but I really love this group of people, and I’m glad I get to do this — especially since I have a lot of stage fright, so working backstage like this is the best way I can participate in the theater that I love so much.”

Sparrow-Knapp acknowledged that “The Addams Family,” with its morbid humor, may not be what many theaters would choose to usher in spring. Nevertheless, she said, she and the cast and crew have dived into the world of the Addamses with aplomb.

“Sure, it’s kind of a dark musical for spring — but really, it’s just a celebration of family,” she said.

The YS Theatre Arts Association will present “The Addams Family” Thursday and Friday, April 25 and 26, at 7 p.m., and Saturday, April 27, at 2 and 7 p.m., at the John Legend Theater. Tickets are $15 for general admission, $10 for seniors and $5 for students, and are available at bit.ly/YSAddams.

Cast A, Friday and Saturday 7 p.m. performances: Gini Meekin as Morticia, Otto Cipollini as Gomez, Tiger Collins as Wednesday, Emil Lazar as Pugsley, Carson Funderburg as Uncle Fester, Antoinette Siegel-Hall as Grandma,Jane Chambers as Alice, Kian Barker as Mal, Miles Gilchrist as Lucas.

Cast B, Thursday 7 p.m. and Saturday 2 p.m. performances: Sydney Roberts as Morticia, Nevi Smith as Gomez, Isabel Brown as Wednesday, Matteo Chaiten as Pugsley, Adrian Coe as Uncle Fester, Ashton Egea-Kaleda as Grandma, Kennedy Stroble as Alice, Kaiden McFarlane as Mal, Robyn Douglass as Lucas. 

Both casts: Brodan Chaffee as Lurch; Lila Crockett, Lucia Espinosa, Malorie Lininger, Katlyn Macduff, Izugo McGuire, Sylvie Peirson, Claire Schubel and Olivia Ward as The Ancestors.

Helen Bales, stage manager; Isabel Brown, student choreographer; Camila Dallas-Gonzalez, Miette Murphy and Pepper Naziri, costumes.

Technical crew: Maggie Bullock, Lila Crockett, Ram Dobson, Emmy Draper-Hanson, Ashton Egea-Kaleda, Hugo Grigorian, Wolf Lieff, Audry Millhoan, Abigail Moore, Natalia Ramirez, Ace Sadowski, Wren Schubel, Lucy Shows-Fife, Antoinette Siegel-Hall, Evelyn Smith, Mylo Swanson-Bishop and Zach Underwood.

Student pit orchestra musicians: Noah Diamond, percussion; Andorra Hernandez-Roberts, bass; Abigail Moore, cello; Evie Thomas, violin; Ryan Thomas, percussion. 

Production team: Caryn Diamond, producer/music assistant; Lorrie Sparrow-Knapp, director; Sarah Amend, technical director; Kate Mooneyham, costumes; James Johnston, music director; Valerie Blackwell-Truitt, choreographer; Jaimie Wilke, assistant choreographer; Mary Fahrenbruck, rehearsal accompanist.

 

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