‘Addams Family’ is creepy, kooky, fun

Aug. 31, 2014 | 0 Comments In the Star-Advertiser Friday Print Edition
Actors stage a scene from "The Addams Family" during a dress rehearsal at Manoa Valley Theatre. The cast includes Dusty Behner (Wednesday), left, Kenji Shimata (Lucas), Jesie Rocetes (Pugsley), and Leiney Rigg (Morticia). (Jamm Aquino / jaquino@staradvertiser.com)

Actors stage a scene from “The Addams Family” during a dress rehearsal at Manoa Valley Theatre. The cast includes Dusty Behner (Wednesday), left, Kenji Shimata (Lucas), Jesie Rocetes (Pugsley), and Leiney Rigg (Morticia). (Jamm Aquino / jaquino@staradvertiser.com)

BY JACQUELYN CARBERRY / jcarberry@staradvertiser.com

A young woman wants to introduce her boyfriend to her family and invites him over to meet her relatives. Sounds like a perfectly normal, everyday occurrence. Right?

Not if your family happens to be the Addams family, and your off-beat though loving family is more at home in the dark than the light of day.

‘THE ADDAMS FAMILY’

Presented by Manoa Valley Theatre

» Where: Manoa Valley Theatre
» When: Opening night, 7:30 p.m. Thursday; continues at 7:30 p.m. Wednesdays-Thursdays; 8 p.m. Fridays- Saturdays; and 4 p.m. Sundays through Sept. 21;
» Cost: $20-$39
» Info: (808) 988-6131, manoavalleytheatre.com

Some characters need no introduction, but just in case you’ve never read the comics, seen the television show or watched the movies, the drolly amusing and slightly macabre Addams family is made up of father Gomez, mother Morticia, Uncle Fester, Grandmama, son Pugsley and daughter Wednesday — a princess of darkness who brings her well-mannered boyfriend and his family over for an Addams family-style dinner. The oddball, eccentric family has an appreciation for the supernatural and is comfortable with the occult, and just assumes all guests feel the same way.

“The Addams Family” kicks off the 46th season for Manoa Valley Theatre.

When guest director Hannah Schauer Galli was asked by Dwight Martin, producing director at the theater, to direct the musical, her response was an automatic yes. Schauer Galli had watched reruns of the TV version of “The Addams Family” as a youth.

“I don’t know a lot of musicals, especially current ones,” said Schauer Galli. “But I grew up on ‘The Addams Family.’ It wasn’t something I had to think about.”

Schauer Galli’s first foray into musical theater as a director locally was with “Young Frankenstein” in 2012. She also directed “Toxic Avenger” in 2013 at Manoa Valley Theatre, and she teamed up again with “Toxic Avenger” musical director James Mares and choreographer Katherine L. Jones for “The Addams Family.”

“We work well together and get along well, so that’s an added bonus,” said Schauer Galli.

Schauer Galli says the amusing part of “The Addams Family” musical is the characters’ interaction with “seemingly normal people” — just like their collisions with people not of their ilk on the TV show. “What is normal in one world is not normal in another,” said Schauer Galli. “It’s a juxtaposition.”

But she thinks the main allure for people coming to the show is their familiarity with the characters. “It’s the same basic format in the comics, TV show and movies,” she said. “There’s not that much that is different. We all know them and have the same expectations.”

Leiney Rigg (Morticia), left, and Garett Taketa (Gomez) follow advice given by guest director Hannah Schauer Galli. (Jamm Aquino / jaquino@staradvertiser.com)

Leiney Rigg (Morticia), left, and Garett Taketa (Gomez) follow advice given by guest director Hannah Schauer Galli. (Jamm Aquino / jaquino@staradvertiser.com)

THE NOTION that musicals are happy, uplifting affairs is at odds with the concept of “The Addams Family,” whose members are morose individuals who probably wouldn’t enjoy musicals in the first place. But the musical embraces the quirky, campy nature of the TV show and movies, said Dusty Behner, who stars in the lead role of Wednesday, portrayed as a young adult in the play.

“The musical is a love letter to ‘The Addams Family,’” Behner said.

The show is also peppered with “pop-culture references and modern humor,” says Leiney Rigg, who plays Morticia.

“The show is funny and honest,” chimed in Jesie Rocetes, who plays Pugsley. “We’re not just throwing out jokes.”

During a recent rehearsal, all three, along with cast mate Kenji Shimata, broke out into the TV show’s theme song (*snap* *snap*): “They’re creepy and they’re kooky. Mysterious and spooky. They’re all together ooky. The Addams Family.”

The story line and score for the musical were created especially for the Broadway show, which was nominated for two Tony Awards in 2010, including best original score.

To help get into character, cast members looked at YouTube videos of the musical, including the Broadway version.

The Manoa Valley Theatre production most closely resembles a touring adaptation, as heavy puppets used in the Broadway and Chicago versions of the show were too cumbersome to move around.

Schauer Galli didn’t want the cast to spend too much time investing in previous incarnations of their characters.

“We want to give the audience what they want without copying” other actors’ work, said Schauer Galli.

WITH A CAST of 19 — 10 leads, nine ensemble members and two actors playing ever-faithful, lumbering butler Lurch — comes a variety of experience.

In casting actors, Schauer Galli looked for people who were the triple threat of singer-actor-dancer, but understood that most people can’t do all three equally. She was also looking for people who took risks during auditions and were capable of pulling off the well-known looks of “The Addams Family.”

One character audiences will not be familiar with is Wednesday’s boyfriend, played by Shimata.

“He’s the wild card,” said Shimata. “He will have an effect on Wednesday’s family and will rock everyone’s world.”

“The script sells itself,” deadpanned Behner. “We just stand there.”