What is normal? It’s a question we all grapple with throughout life—going in and out of various societal roles, juggling jobs and family, and mainly just trying to get by the best we can. For the Addams family, normal is a macabre, twisted and strange world, where a nighttime frolic in a nearby swamp and moonbathing replace a normal beachside getaway among sun, sea and sand. It’s a place where playing with dynamite supersedes marbles, and an offering of an afternoon tea may very well come with a touch of cyanide instead of cream and sugar.
Created from Charles Addams’ New Yorker cartoons, “The Addams Family” TV show launched in the ‘60s and ran for only two seasons. Yet, a cult-like following arose from its ashes, and throughout decades thereafter, it was revived in many forms, from reunion shows, to Hollywood films, to even a Broadway musical. Making its debut in Wilmington this week, Thalian Association will bring “The Addams Family” (music and lyrics by Andrew Lippa and a book by Marshall Brickman and Rick Elice) to Thalian Hall’s main stage. Artistic director David Loudermilk chose it as a perfect fit into the association’s 2015-2016 theme, “#tbt.throwback.” More so, it makes for a fun introduction into the fall and Halloween season.
“I listened to the soundtrack numerous times and I was in love with the song ‘Pulled,’ which is kind of the set up for the rest of the show,” Loudermilk tells. “When the show left Broadway [in 2011] and went on tour, they made quite a few revisions to the script.”
“The national touring production includes a reworked libretto and some additonal plot points and songs that made me a huge fan,” says Mike Thompson, who saw the run on Broadway and will be directing Thalian Association’s version. “I was determined to work on this show in some form or fashion. My submission to direct to David Loudermilk included the headline: ‘I am the Addams family.’ I love the nostalgia of it, the characters, and the comedy.”
The show follows the young budding love of Wednesday Addams, who has fallen for a totally “normal” boy from a “normal” family, the Beinekes. Yet, she asks her father, Gomez, to keep it a secret from her mother, Morticia. This provides a quandary for Gomez, who has never lied to his beloved darling throughout their marriage.
“I have learned a lot about my own strengths in the last couple of months through developing the character of Gomez,” Dave Doumeng says.
“I’ve noticed he is an amalgam of many of the roles I’ve played in the past. He’s slick and debonair like Sky Masterson from ‘Guys and Dolls,’ yet mischievous and calculating like El Gallo from ‘The Fantasticks.’”
A dinner party becomes the occasion for the Beinekes and Addamses to meet. As one can predict, things go awry.
Playing the vixen with raven hair in a skin-tight dress is Maggie Miller, who was last seen as Annie in Thalian Association’s “The Real Thing.” Miller is enjoying maximizing the sensuality and magnetic presence of Morticia Addams.
“She can make her family, particularly Gomez, crumble with just the slightest change in facial expression,” Miller explains. “She is the heart and soul of the Addams family, and when she is betrayed, everything starts to crumble.”
Morticia’s commanding presence has been a welcoming challenge for Miller. Though she’s played strong and confident women before, the no-holds-barred attitude of Morticia has been enlightening, to say the least.
“[With] Annie, [I] was constantly working to rationalize and explain and justify her actions and desires,” Miller tells of her last role. “Whereas Morticia just exists. She knows what she wants. She knows she’s going to get it. She doesn’t have to try or explain or beg. That has been something that has been fun to explore: having confidence so deeply rooted in your core that any other answer than the one you want is just simply not an option.”
Hunter Wyatt will play the other lady of the family, Wednesday Addams. The sharp-tongued teen appears all grown up and ready to marry. Though her quick and dry wit paint her hard and tough, Wednesday Addams is sensitive at her core.
“In fact, she feels things at a much deeper level than other people,” Wyatt explains. “Though she reserves her expression of these emotions, she fights endlessly for her passions, and she loves more fiercely than any other character I’ve encountered.”
Much of Wyatt’s time onstage is spent flustered and conflicted, as Wednesday is not used to being smitten. She’s more used to appearing rather apathetic. “It’s a true testament to how love can be both elating and torturous,” Wyatt continues. “It can turn your life upside down, and be worth every minute.”
How the family pulls together deepens the show beyond mere fun. It showcases themes of compromise, love, infatuation, and betrayal in less than two hours. The black-and-white color palette of the set design and lighting, along with dark, brooding costuming, paint it hauntingly kooky, as the music moves from vaudeville-inspired tunes to Spanish overtures. The 12-piece orchestra will be led by Amanda Hunter.
“You watch this family go through the darkness together and come out stronger on the other side,” Miller adds. “They sing, ‘When you face your nightmares/then you know what’s real,’ and there is just so much truth in that.”
The Addams Family
Sept. 24-Oct. 4, Thurs.-Sat., 7:30 p.m.
Sun, 3 p.m.
Thalian Hall • 310 Chestnut St.
(910) 632-2285 • www.thalianhall.com