By Riley Dauber
As soon as the lights dim and the iconic Thing starts snapping “The Addams Family” theme song, theater goers know they are in for a treat.
The Garfield Center of the Arts, located at 210 High Street in downtown Chestertown, is currently putting on a production of the musical “The Addams Family.” The show opened Friday, Sept. 22 and will end its run on Sunday, Oct. 8.
According to the show’s program, the musical originally starred Nathan Lane as Gomez and Bebe Neuwirth as Morticia, but it was only on Broadway for eight months following its 2010 debut. The show was then rewritten to focus more on Wednesday’s romantic plotline, and now the musical is popular among actors and audience members alike. According to NPR, “The Addams Family” was the number one musical performed at high schools in 2023.
Auditions for the show were in late July, and rehearsals started soon after in August. Sophomore Stevie Lyles, who plays Wednesday in the show, was encouraged to audition because of her older brother’s involvement.
“My mom has always wanted to see us in a show together, and we’ve always said that we would do something together, but it just never really worked out,” Stevie Lyles said. “We’re huge horror and spooky nerds…so doing this show specifically is really kind of serendipitous.”
According to Stevie Lyles, she was not planning to audition for the show until she learned from her brother that no one had auditioned for Wednesday.
“It’s always been a dream role,” Stevie Lyles said.
Rounding out the cast is Stevie Lyles’ brother Dylan Lyles as Gomez, Natalie Hagan as Morticia, Russell Laing as Pugsley, JW Ruth as Uncle Fester, Melissa McGlynn as Grandma, and Todd Steffes as Lurch, the family’s butler.
The show begins with the Addams family in the graveyard as they plan to wake up their ancestors for a joyous celebration. Their plans are interrupted, however, when Fester learns that Wednesday has fallen in love with a “normal” boy. Fester enlists the help of the ancestors to host a dinner party for the future in-laws, while Wednesday asks her father to keep her love life a secret.
While Gomez worries about keeping secrets from his wife, Wednesday’s boyfriend Lucas arrives with his parents in tow. The very different family — with Dominic Delcoco as Lucas, Annie Sparks as Alice, and John Mann as Mal — creates plenty of humorous moments when interacting with the spooky Addams.
Ruth’s performance as Uncle Fester is also a stand-out in terms of comedic timing, as he prances around the stage, hamming it up every step of the way.
Each actor is perfectly cast in their role, with great familial and romantic chemistry.
“We’ve just really quickly become a family, and…being able to see all these people turn into their characters is amazing,” Stevie Lyles said. “The kid who plays my little brother…he and I have gotten super close as the show has gone on.”
Hagan embodies Morticia with her signature arm crosses and deep voice and cadence. Her musical numbers — “Secrets” and “Death Is Just Around the Corner” — are wonderful to watch, and the moment she realizes she is becoming her mother is relatable and grounded.
While the second act does drag at times, Hagan and Dylan Lyles shine during their final duet, “Live Before We Die.” Their homage to the pair’s iconic tango is a beautiful moment as the two reconcile.
Stevie Lyles is another highlight of the cast thanks to her impressive vocals. Her opening number “Pulled” is a memorable moment from the first act as Wednesday realizes she has fallen in love with Lucas and embraces the happier parts of life.
When it came to playing Wednesday, Stevie Lyles wanted to “give [her] a little more emotion.” She listened to Halloween music and watched scary movies to get into character.
While many moments in the show are enjoyable, the writing and overdone trope of a father fearing his daughter is growing up feels tired and an odd choice for a musical about “The Addams Family.” Wednesday’s storyline also reduces her to a romantic subplot instead of allowing her to grow as a character.
Some attempts at comedy are not always successful either. Some jokes fall flat, and the comedic gag of Cousin Itt popping up is tonally dissonant, especially during the serious scenes.
Despite these divisive choices, “The Addams Family” is still a spooky and fun time at the theater. Each of the actors bring their all, and the show provides plenty of laughs and clever innuendos for the adults in the audience.
“[The show] is a lot more grown up, but still family-oriented. There are a lot more jokes that may fly over younger people’s heads, but it’s also kind of a sense [that] everyone can see it and find something that they’re going to love,” Stevie Lyles said.
“The Addams Family” has three shows left: Friday, Oct. 6 at 8 p.m., Saturday, Oct. 7 at 8 p.m., and Sunday, Oct. 8 at 2 p.m. Tickets can be purchased in advance at the Garfield Center of the Arts website for $17, or $15 if you are a Washington College student.
“Everyone in this cast is so incredible. And I’m so incredibly lucky to have been able to work with them,” Stevie Lyles said.
The Garfield Center of the Arts’ 2023 season will end with a performance of the musical adaptation of “Little Women.” The show opens Dec. 1, and make sure to read a future edition of The Elm for a review.
Photo by Riley Dauber.
Photo Caption: The cast of “The Addams Family” sing “Move Towards the Darkness” at the show’s conclusion.