By Barbara B. Covell
For the TODAY
Photos by Chris Graamans
Define normal. In theater terms, achieving a normal production can be wickedly challenging. In the world of interpersonal family dynamics, normal is a place reserved for “other people.” In the iconic cartoon characters crafted by artist Charles Samuel Addams, normal was ghoulish, macabre and eerie; with a touch of charming, tender and adorable. The Addams Family came to life and captured the hearts of 1960s television audiences with their darkly twisted humor and bizarre, inverted lifestyle.
Now the devilishly delightful family returns to life in a musical comedy created by “Jersey Boys” authors Marshall Brickman and Rick Elice, with music and lyrics by Andrew Lippa. And what a monstrously popular show it is.
Three years ago, Newport director Kathy Heater saw “The Addams Family Musical” on the Broadway stage.
“I knew immediately it was something for Porthole Players,” she said. “Of course, I contacted Sara Coxen right away.”
Heater and Coxen are the powerhouse directors who brought “My Fair Lady,” “The Producers” and “Young Frankenstein” to the Newport stage. Coxen also choreographs all dance routines and movements of the 34-member cast.
“She makes it look effortless,” Heater said. “She moves people beautifully. These are complicated scenes and Sara makes them move along in perfect rhythm.”
Rights to “The Addams Family Musical” were made available to community theatre groups in 2017 and this is the first production on the Oregon Coast. Cast member ages range from 12 to their ’70s.
“This cast is very large and talented, with junior, senior high students, and accomplished seasoned adult actors in rehearsal since July,” Heater said.
The storyline follows the popular iconic characters as daughter Wednesday, now 18 and a college student, returns home with a surprise. She has fallen in love with young Lucas Beineke, a Midwestern boy who brings his family to the Addams mansion. It is a night of mayhem, filled with Addams family — dead and undead. All the young lovers want is one “normal,” night with their families together. That’s not exactly what they get.
Gomez and Morticia, Uncle Fester, Lurch, Grandma and Pugsley join Wednesday and Lucas in the bizarre events with Alice and Mal Beineke, Lucas’s parents, on the fateful evening where both families unite. At a special family dinner hosted by Gomez and Morticia, all the peculiar and outlandish traditions come to life, with the help of oddball ancestors and rampant human emotions.
Portraying the patriarchal Gomez Addams is Justin Atkins, the jewel of Newport’s performance art community. Stacy Fischer is the elegant Morticia; her performance as Sally Bowles knocked out audiences in “Cabaret.” Both Atkins and Fischer are strong vocalists and possess great stage chemistry. Cody Larsen is the quirky Uncle Fester who communicates with the dead. Larsen is a Porthole Player veteran with terrific command of his physical stage presence and vocally pleasing. Powerhouse vocalist Cassie Lihou plays Wednesday Addams, in love with the “normal” Lucas Beineke, portrayed by Cooper Theodore.
Linda Capshaw is hilarious as Grandma. Keenan Williams delivers a spot-on Pugsley, and the talented Pete Theodore is a commanding Lurch. Megan Walters is Alice Beineke and Brian
Haggerty is her husband, Mal Beineke. Walters and Haggerty are both gifted actors and a funny addition to the Addams Family unit.
Sara Coxen says this production presented some challenges in blocking, due to the large cast and frequent changes in set. The black and white motif, envisioned and designed by Performing Arts Center mainstay Stephan reference the illustrations and stained glass craftsmanship of Harry Clarke, a turn of the century Irish artist. Stephan’s visions of the Addams Family mansion and grounds are masterful, transforming the stage to a gothic, ghostly, macabre world of shadows and ghoulish light.
Special effects will delight audiences with stage illusions and magic tricks, courtesy of Ernie Brown, Ben Capshaw and Anthony Buchas.
It is the music which presented the greatest test for this production team.
“It is difficult music for the actors and the musicians,” Coxen said.
At times vaudevillian, melodramatic, or Broadway show style, the music was written to accommodate each unique character’s attributes. A 17-piece orchestra under the direction of Howard Lackey, with accompanist Milo Graamans and vocal director Brad Capshaw keep meticulous timing and flow throughout.
Lisa Kellenberger is producer, Barb Perkins is stage manager, Ron Miller designed lights and Jo Davey provided costume design.
“The Addams Family Musical” opens on Friday, Nov. 17 and runs through Sunday, Dec. 3, with performances at 7 pm every Friday and Saturday and 2 pm matinées each Sunday at 777 W Olive Street.
Tickets, $24 for adults, $22 for seniors and $16 for students, are available from the box office, online at www.CoastArts.org or by calling 541-265-5787.