Park City can pay a call on ‘The Addams Family’ at Egyptian Theatre
“The Addams Family Musical”
When: 7:30 p.m. on Friday, Nov. 16, Saturday, Nov. 17, Wednesday, Nov. 21, Friday, Nov. 23 and Saturday, Nov. 24. 6 p.m. on Sunday, Nov. 18.
Where: Egyptian Theatre, 328 Main St.
Cost: Wednesday: $19-$35; Fridays, Saturdays and Sunday:$24 to $45.
While it may look as if the Ziegfeld Theater Company wants to keep the Halloween season alive with a two-weekend run of “The Addams Family,” director Eb Madson has a different outlook: he thinks it’s ideal for Turkey Day.
“Yes, it’s a fantastic show for Halloween, but also great for Thanksgiving because it’s about family,” Madson said. “It shows how the bonds of a family can overcome anything.”
Madson prepared to direct the show, which will open Friday for its two-weekend run at the Egyptian Theatre, by reading and studying all the material he could find about the “altogether ooky” family.
“I looked up the comics that were in the New Yorker, the cartoon, the sitcom and watched the movies— ‘The Addams Family’ and ‘Addams Family Values’ — that I grew up with in the 1990s,” he said. “In fact, the two movies were big contributors in the direction we went with for the Ziegfeld production.”
Madson wanted “The Addams Family” musical to differ from the 2011 Tony-nominated Broadway production.“When I got to see the original production of the musical on Broadway, to be honest, I kind of didn’t care for it all that much,” he said. “It wasn’t dark enough for me.”
Madson felt that the producers tried to capture some of the “bright magic” that the Disney musicals capitalized on in their live Broadway shows.
“So when we began planning our production, I sat down with my team and emphasized my love of the Addams Family’s original darkness,” he said. “I told them while the show had some fluff in it, we weren’t going to make that fluff marshmallow or whipped cream; I wanted our show to be dark chocolate mousse fluff. I wanted it to be more decadent; sensual; rich.”
Much of that goal was accomplished through the casting of the eponymous clan – Gomez, Morticia, Wednesday, Pugsley and Uncle Fester – according to Madson.
“The two actors we have playing Gomez and Morticia — Jeremy R. Gross and Teanca Rossouw — are fantastic and masters of their crafts,” he said.
Audience members who have attended a Ziegfeld show at the Egyptian Theatre could recognize Gross from runs of “The Who’s Tommy” and the “The Full Monty,” Madson said.
“They might not, however, recognize him in his role of Gomez, because it is so much different than what he has done,” he said. “He really does a fantastic job.”
Madson said Rossouw has come up with his favorite rendition of Morticia, Madson said.
“I tried to give both Jeremy and Teanca some direction of where I wanted them to go with these characters, and then I let them play,” he said.
The director did take some liberties with the roles of Gomez and Morticia’s children, Wednesday and Pugsley, because he felt their characterizations were counter to what he wanted.
In the plot, the writers aged Wednesday from young teen to older teen because she has fallen in love with a boy and wants to marry him. Because of that, the script had softened her dry personality.
“So when I went through the audition process, I told the girls that I was looking for that deadpan humor, because in my eyes Wednesday puts the ‘dead’ in deadpan,” Madson said. “And Karaline Taylor, who plays Wednesday, does it fantastically.”
Madson also decided to add a couple of years to Pugsley’s age, making him a teenager.
“The thing the writers did with the Broadway show was age Wednesday because she needed to be of age to get married, and the problem was they didn’t age Pugsley,” he said. “That had bugged me, so we changed his age, too. He is now 14 instead of 10.”
Madson encouraged Isaac Allred, who portrays Pugsley, to play him as a stereotypically “emo” middle-school student.
“He’s very similar to Sid, the villain in the first ‘Toy Story,’” Madson said. “I’ve worked with Isaac for many years, and he has done such an amazing job with the part. He’s so able to hold his own in this amazing talented cast.”
One of Madson’s favorite characters is Uncle Fester, who is played by Daniel Akin, an actor Madson wanted in the role from the start.
“He’s fantastic, and the only direction I told him was that Uncle Fester is ‘a wise child in an adult’s body,’” Madson said. “Other than that, I let Danny do his thing.”
Utilizing the rest of the cast was another change in the production.
“Since the ensemble plays the ghosts of the Addams Family’s ancestors, my assistant director, Becky Jeanne Knowles, and I wanted to use the other actors in a more all encompassing way,” Madson said.
Instead of calling on the ancestors to perform a couple of numbers and a dance, as seen in the orginal production, Madson and Knowles “fleshed out” the characters, and have them comment on each scene as a Greek chorus.
A Greek chorus in theater terms refers to a group of actors who use song, spoken word or dance to give background or add insight to the action on stage.
“Since the current Addams Family is crazy, we felt the ancestors needed to be just as vibrant and crazy, too, so we made them thrill seekers throughout history,” Madson said. “We have executioners, bullfighters, ringmasters and pirates.”
The director looks forward to bringing the production to the Egyptian Theatre.
“It is a fun space to transfer works from the Ziegfeld Theater in Ogden to Park City,” he said. “The stages are similar, and while they do differ in dimension, we make a few adjustments, but not many.”
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