San Diego,CA- Whether you are a youth, adult or senior citizen, you no doubt have fond memories of the spooky, kooky, “ooky” family that lived in that grand old house with the zombie butler and the foghorn doorbell – the Addams Family. Originally conceived as a one-panel comic in The New Yorker by cartoonist Charles Addams, the bizarre clan has made its way from the magazine to television, film and the Broadway stage. Now Young Actors’ Theatre (YAT), a top youth company based in East County, will bring the Addams clan to life with their production of the musical The Addams Family. The show hits the stage at the Encore Theatre in Spring Valley beginning on Thursday, October 15 and running through Sunday, October 25.
While the musical makes a few changes from the original – daughter Wednesday is now the elder of the two children – the basic family is intact. Parents Gomez and Morticia Addams lead their clan through what for them is a “normal” life (Morticia has a wonderful line about looking at normal from different perspectives). Pugsly is happy to be tortured by his older sister, and Grandmama and Uncle Fester are always there to add their touch of insanity to the mix. In their own weird way, they are a very recognizable family. Except, of course, for the spirits of their ancestors who emerge from the grave during the opening number, “When You’re an Addams.”
However, there is trouble on the horizon in the guise of a “normal” family from Ohio – the Beinekes. Little Wednesday has grown up and fallen in love with Lucas Beineke, and the two families are on a collision course of comedy. The Midwesterners arrive for an Addams Family dinner, which features a creepy dinner game called “Full Disclosure,” complete with revelations of people’s deepest, darkest secrets. The first act ends in complete chaos as an ancestors-induced storm rages outside. But this is the Addams Family, and soon enough the craziness returns and, being a musical, it all ends in a song.
For many of the cast members of The Addams Family this show has been a chance to stretch and take chances. With such iconic characters as the butler Lurch, Gomez and Morticia, and the rest of the family, it can be a daunting task to bring the show to life, but YAT has never shied away from a challenge. In 2013 the company presented an outstanding production of Les Miserables, which resulted in two National Youth Arts (NYA) Awards, and several members of that show are back.
Gerardo Flores, who played Jean Valjean in Les Mis, has taken on the challenge of directing the show, following two successful directing stints with YAT junior productions in the past year. Shannon Prendergast, who took home one of the two NYA Awards for her portrayal of Fantine, takes on the role of Morticia Addams, while Ryan Singer, who played Gavroche, is Pugsley. Also taking the stage as the title family are Josef Emmenegger (Gomez Addams), Bella Snyder (Wednesday Addams), David Limón (Uncle Fester), Astrid Pett (Grandma) and Harrison Shoaf (Lurch).
“This is my third show directing at YAT, and I’m really excited because I get to work with an older cast now,” said Flores during a break in rehearsal. “It’s been really fun, even now early in the rehearsal process, to see what they can do.”
“I love working at YAT,” Flores explained. “It’s such a fun environment, and it’s really become a family because everyone is so nice to be around. You have a good time, and everyone treats each other as a friend and with respect. Since I’ve been directing it’s been a really cool journey.”
The cast members are equally enthusiastic about the upcoming show.
“The Addams Family is a really fun show,” said Singer (Pugsley). “It’s an amazing cast and everyone is so nice. The director’s amazing – thank you Gerry – and Addams Family has been one of my favorite TV shows growing up, even though I’m 12 and it was made in the 60s. Pugsly is just a super funny role because he thinks he’s more of an adult than a kid, and he likes blowing up stuff.”
“Addams Family is kooky, crazy, macabre, everything that you would want to be but couldn’t be without people looking at you weird,” Shoaf (Lurch) explained. “Especially Lurch, because he’s this zombie, and I really get to get into that character, and that’s always fun. It’s a very interesting role – it’s certainly different from any of the other roles I’ve done, and I think it’s a good character to play because even though he doesn’t say a word of English I really think I can act well with him because he’s all movement. Also, let’s just say towards the end of the show it’s going to be a total shocker. Just watch out for that. Come see the show.”
“I was actually hoping to get Uncle Fester, and when I heard about it I was excited. I texted all my friends and I called people,” admitted Limón, who appeared in YAT’s summer production of Fiddler on the Roof. “He’s just a fun character to play. There’s just so much sarcasm, there’s so much to say. It’s amazing, no matter what happens, no matter what line it is, there’s always something funny associated with him.”
“I would have been happy just being in the show, with Gerry directing,” said Prendergast, who admitted that when she learned she had the part of Morticia she was so excited she “couldn’t breathe.”
Pett, who plays Grandma, had most recently played Grandma Tzeitel in YAT’s Fiddler on the Roof. “I thought it was really funny because I just played another grandma, so I’m a double grandma now,” she joked. “It’s a lot of fun. Everything I say is weird – I don’t think I have a single normal line, which is pretty awesome.”
“It’s really fun to play Gomez Addams,” said Emennegger, who also appeared in Fiddler. “We have a great cast here at the show, and we’re going to have a really good time. I enjoy all the aspects of the show – getting to work with everyone. The story is a wonderful story about family and coming together in the end.”
With the show running just before Halloween, several members of the cast and artistic team expressed their enthusiasm for the conjunction. “It’s a cool little Halloween thing you can come see,” Shoaf said. “Anyone who knows the Addams Family is probably going to love this show.”
“I love The Addams Family,” said choreographer Jonathan Hoagland. “It reminds me of Halloween all the time. I love the spookiness, of course, the comical way they’re flipped from what’s normal and what’s not normal. It’s great for Halloween; it puts me in the mood and I love it.”
“It’s a really fun show,” said Flores. “It’s a show about a family and it’s for the whole family. You’re going to have a blast, and it’s Halloween so what a perfect time to see this spooky and kooky and ooky family have fun and make you have fun and dance around with them for a while.”
Young Actors’ Theatre’s presentation of The Addams Family plays October 15-25 at 7:00 p.m. on Thursday through Saturday and at 2:00 p.m. on Saturday and Sunday at the Encore Theater at 9620 Campo Road, Spring Valley, CA 91977. For more information or to order tickets call 619-670-1427 or visit the website at http://www.yatsandiego.org/.
Full Disclosure: Shannon Prendergast is this writer’s daughter.