I was not expecting to be touched by the onstage musical antics of the Addams Family. But I was.
I did expect plenty of laughs — I got them! — and an outstanding musical performance by Hood River Valley High School’s theater department and music students — and I got that, too.
Tickets and times
Shows are Oct. 26-27, Nov. 2-3 and Nov. 9-10 at 7 p.m. and Oct. 28 and Nov. 4 at 2 p.m. in the Hood River Valley High School Bowe Theater.
Tickets are $10 for adults and $8 for students and seniors, available at the door or in advance at Waucoma Bookstore.
The musical is directed by Rachel Harry, with musical direction by Dan Kenealy, and is rated PG-13. Book by Marshall Brickman and Rick Elice; music and lyrics by Andrew Lippa.
What I didn’t see coming was just how poignant the storyline would be. But maybe I should have. The musical, after all, is an award-winning Broadway show, originally starring Nathan Lane and Bebe Neuwirth, and is a story of a family in flux.
“Be prepared to be moved by this show,” said Musical Director Dan Kenealy, now in his fourth year at HRVHS. “When we first started working on it, I found myself laughing all the time, as there is so much humor in the script and songs. However, there are definitely some poignant moments that sneak up on you. For me, the song ‘Happy Sad’ occasionally brings a tear to my eye when I am conducting it.”
Longtime HRVHS theater teacher and director Rachel Harry said the musical is “an interesting twist on the iconic ‘50s-style nuclear family.”
While the Addams look like a typical family on paper — the requisite two children, “the strange uncle and batty grandmother … wait, where am I going with this?” said Harry — they are anything but. They’ve got a zombie for a butler, the kids like to torture each other and their idea of a dream vacation is visiting the Parisian sewers.
But really, what IS normal?
“I love the underlying theme that every family has some quirks or idiosyncrasies that negate the ‘normal’ ideal,” said Harry. “Wednesday, early in the story, chastises her family to be normal for just one night, so that they fit in with her fiancé’s family, while at the same time, Lucas (the fiancé) is telling his family to act ‘normal’ while meeting Wednesday’s parents.
“I think this theme, that we are all a little bit kooky and its okay, is timely.”
“While on the surface, this show is a comedy, at the heart of it is this powerful message about what it means to be a part of a family and how relationships with our families grow stronger through times of struggle when we choose forgiveness over resentment,” said Kenealy.
Kenealy said he and Harry have perhaps unintentionally set up a pattern of presenting more “traditional” musicals followed by a more “contemporary” musical in the four years they’ve worked together — “Grease,” followed by “Catch Me If You Can,” followed by “Fiddler on the Roof,” and now “Addams Family.”
“I like how this gives the community and us the chance to examine musical theater through the lens of the beloved classics, but also see something new from time to time,” he said.
The musical has a large cast with many seasoned high school theater veterans. Cooper Case and Freya Chase, both seniors, play Gomez and Morticia Addams and have been in a number of both plays and musicals during their careers, as have Atari Gauthier (Wednesday Addams — she cut and dyed her hair specifically for the role), Sofie Larsen-Teskey (Grandma), Alex Bertadillo (Lucas Beineke), Liam Baker (Mal Beineke) and Kelsey Stewart (Alice Beineke).
Eli Happy plays the role of Pugsley Addams, and Ren Tappert that of Uncle Fester. These two characters have a surprising depth to them and are involved in many of the musical’s most touching moments — it turns out Uncle Fester is something of a romantic, while Pugsley has a close relationship with his sister that he doesn’t want to lose.
Rounding out the cast is Skyler Beard as Lurch, who, for all of his lumbering around and rumbling, has quite the tender heart.
Also on stage throughout are the Ancestors — the various Addams, in ghostly form, who assist and react to the action around them. (Makeup design by student Julia Ortiz gives the Ancestors a particularly haunting look.)
Work on the production officially started the week before the new school year began in September, although many students began long before. “We have eight hours every day to set as many songs and dances on the actors as we can. Spending that many hours every day together really helps the cast bond. No one feels left out by the end of the week,” said Harry.
“Many students spend the summer working out songs with private lessons teachers and listening to recordings to get a feel for the show,” said Kenealy. “Technically, rehearsal begins as soon as they get their scripts and librettos in June.”
One challenge this year was working alongside the construction crews handling school upgrades, said Harry.
“We have had construction going on for the past several months while classes and rehearsals are held,” she said. “I think some of the construction and tech guys are a little more appreciative of the art form. I also think some of them are now pretty familiar with the songs and can probably sing along with the cast at this point.”
Another challenge has been the choreography: Half of the cast are experienced dancers, while the other half are at a beginner’s level, Harry said, and the music for the piece has been demanding, with dramatic tempo changes.
Kenealy said that from his perspective as music director, the changes in style have also proven challenging on his end.
“At one minute, the orchestra is playing a Latin feel, then they are into swing, and then they might be playing a ballad,” he said. “One piece in particular, the ‘Tango de Amor,’ provided incredibly challenging for the band and the dancers. As some points, the time signature alternates between five beats per measure and six beats per measure at a faster speed. This type of rhythm structure requires a tremendous amount of focus on behalf of the musicians and the dancers.
“Our dancers were in great hands with Rachel being able to read music,” he added. “This number is incredibly complex and would pose a lot of obstacles for any choreographer, but she handled it beautifully.”
Harry recommends those not acquainted with The Addams Family television show watch a few episodes to familiarize themselves with the characters.
“I would also suggest you look for the allusions to old TV shows and musicals,” she added. “One of Jackie Gleason’s most famous lines in his TV series is heard … there, I gave you one clue.”
The group has been invited to present several of the musical’s numbers in Portland at the Oregon School Board Association meeting the morning after closing night, Harry said.
“Choral and band groups can apply from all over the state (to perform), so it is a huge honor to be accepted out of the hundreds who apply … We will need to revamp the numbers for the different dimensions of the Portland stage and work with their sound technicians. We are pretty excited.”
Cast and crew
Cooper Case — Gomez Addams
Freya Chase — Morticia Addams
Ren Tappert — Fester Addams
Atari Gauthier — Wednesday Addams
Eli Happy — Pugsley Addams
Sofie Larsen-Teskey — Grandma Addams
Skyler Beard — Lurch
Alex Bertadillo — Lucas Beineke
Liam Baker — Mal Beineke
Kelsey Stewart — Alice Beineke
Ancestors — Kendra Wilkins (dance captain), Sage Fetkenhour (dance captain), Sadie Fetkenhour (dance captain), Leah Deborde, Sierra Lavoie, Abby Rankin, Campbell Keller, Julia Ortiz, Aleeyah Enriquez, Erick Lizama, Mitchell Gray, Ethan Happy, Seth Kelly, Sullivan Cannon, Madelyn Trujillo, Mackenzie Levering, Ayva Levin, Katie Zeman and Max Spears
Director — Rachel Harry
Music Director — Daniel Kenealy
Choreography — Rachel Harry, Kendra Wilkins
Stage Manager — Austin Norton
Assistant Stage Manager — RaeAan Rhodes
Design — Jeff Lorenzen, Rachel Harry
Building Crew — Jeff Lorenzen, Paul Hargrave, Peter Tappert, Stu Fadness, Ren Tappert, Kelsey Stewart
Digital Design — Shawn Meyle, Rachel Harry
Costumes — Kathy Peldyak
Costume Design — Kathy Peldyak, Brooklyn Williams
Costume Crew — Kathy Peldyak, Brooklyn Williams, Pam Howard, Grace Ryhlick
Make Up Design — Julia Ortiz
Lighting Design — Rachel Harry
Light Board & Sound Effects — Aleyah Klapprich, Grace Skakel
Mics —Stella Waag
Grips — Maria Sandoval, Elijah Ikerd, Emily Bush, Tiffany Bertadillo, Andrea Hernandez, Tanner Brownback, Edgar Luna
Runner — Megan Lavery
Prop Manager — Maria Sandoval
Digital Set — Chris Robak
Light Board — Noah McCarthy
Book — Nicholas Spezia-Shwiff
Poster Concept — Tay Camille Lynne
Program Design — Jayce Tappert
House Manager — Peter and Jayce Tappert
Concession Procurement— Dawn and Matt Rankin
Properties — The theater tech aides and the Intro to Theater Tech class
Hugh Amick — trombone
Charlie Bickford — flute, piccolo, alto sax
Kate Dougherty — trumpet, flugelhorn
Jason Fellows — percussion
Chari Harrington — violin
Mary Iskra — bass
Nathan Parker — clarinet, bass clarinet, tenor sax, bari sax
Kathy Hannen Smith — keyboard
Bob Smith — trombone
Linda Taylor — keyboard
CJ Thorp — drums
Larry Wyatt — guitar