‘Addams Family’ tackles tough topics with humor

November 18, 2021 / by / 0 Comment
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Story by Ashlee Larrison
Photos by Ralph Freso
GCU News Bureau 

In “The Addams Family,” daughter Wednesday introduces her family, including mom Morticia (Lauren Robertson, standing, center), to her fiancé’s “normal” family. 

You rang?

Ethington Theatre answered.

It has become a line nearly as famous as Lurch, the character who uttered it all those years ago when “The Addams Family” first graced the television screen. Starting Friday at Grand Canyon University‘s Ethington TheatreNick Boisvert will take on the role of the family’s butler while dressed in a suit and platform shoes.

Boisvert said that bringing the character to life is especially exciting because he grew up watching the 1960s TV adaptation of the show.

“Lurch is a dream role for me,” he said. “He’s a fun character because he’s a big, hulking zombie.”

Nick Boisvert says Lurch is a dream role for him.

Lurch’s famous phrase is not part of the script — instead, Boisvert’s role is to speak primarily in grunts. But he was determined to attach meaning to every one of Lurch’s utterances.

“There’s a reason why he grunts,” he said. “Some grunts mean ‘thank you,’ some grunts mean ‘OK.’ It’s just so I’m not grunting for no reason.”

Boisvert’s Lurch is just one of the impressive performances in the College of Fine Arts and Production’s third play of the season.

The musical, scheduled for 7:30 p.m. Fridays and Saturdays and 2 p.m. Sundays the next two weekends, is the perfect conclusion to the spooky season before Christmas cheer takes the forefront.

Following the storyline of the book by Marshall Brickman and Rick Elice, and based on Charles Addams’ characters, with music and lyrics by Andrew Lippa, the musical comedy tells the story of Wednesday Addams and her “normal” fiancé, Lucas Beineke, as they struggle to introduce their two families.

For acting professor and production director Michael Kary, an avid fan of the 1960s TV series, putting together this show was an opportunity to not only pay homage to the iconic characters but to mix things up formulaically.

Mischievous Wednesday (Mia Dortenzio, left) and Pugsley (Sam Brown, in striped shirt) cause trouble, as always.

“This is a little different than the traditional ‘Addams Family’ formula in that it’s typically the visitors who have the biggest problems,” he said. “In this one, both the Addams and the visitors don’t think Wednesday’s engagement is a good idea.”

Kary said the story tackles issues such as suspicion, bitterness, jealousy and the parents coming to terms with their children growing up.

“It’s about how a young woman starts her own family with someone outside of what she’s grown up with.” Kary said. “It sounds really heavy, but I think it’s wise of them to use the kookiness of the Addams Family as a really smart, wickedly funny backdrop for these traditionally heavier themes.

“It’s a really sweet show.”

Addams’ beloved but macabre characters have been intriguing audiences for generations. “The Addams Family” has been in the media for more than 80 years, spanning comics, television, film, animation and a popular theatre production. 

Like Boisvert, Cameron Swindler was introduced to his character, Gomez Addams, through the 1960s television show. He later saw the 1991 film iteration but returned to the TV show while researching the role.

Cameron Swindler had to learn Spanish phrases for his role of Gomez Addams.

The hardest part of the research process? Having to learn the Spanish phrases Gomez uses. Swindler took German in high school.

“He has so many songs, and they’re so varied,” Swindler said when asked what he likes best about playing Gomez. “He’s just such a fun character — his accent. He’s just so high energy, which is right up my alley too.”

The priority for Lauren Robertson, who plays Morticia Addams, was to make the portrayal her own.

“I think it’s really important to find your own version of the character, especially because there’s so many different versions of ‘The Addams Family,’” she said. “Yes, you acknowledge the history of these characters, but you also kind of put a twist and make it your own as well.”

Lauren Robertson brought her own twist to the role of family matriarch Morticia Addams.

Robertson loves the arts, but the behavioral health major’s day-to-day schedule usually doesn’t include performing. After seeing this season’s lineup of plays, however, she couldn’t wait to get involved.

“As soon as I saw that we were doing ‘The Addams Family,’ I was like, ‘I have to audition’ because it’s one of my dream roles, dream shows,” she said. “This whole process is just totally a dream come true.”

The play is the first musical since before the pandemic, which means it’s an opportunity for students with the college’s new musical theatre minor, which debuted this semester, to exercise their skills on the stage. 

Christian Shepherd, who plays Lucas Beineke, is one of those students. Combining his love of singing and acting, auditioning for this production was a no-brainer.

“I just love musicals in general,” he said. “I think it’s awesome to be able to tell a story through song when a character is so emotionally driven that the only way they can express themselves is through song.

The production of ‘The Addams Family’ is the first musical at Ethington Theatre since before COVID.

“The fact that they added that musical theatre minor, I hopped on that right away because I knew that’s what I like doing, and I knew that with them (the Theatre Department) having these musicals, it would just help me out even more.”

It’s been a long wait for musicals to return to the Ethington Theatre stage, but Shepherd couldn’t be more thrilled that they are back.

“I think there is just so much joy that comes along with a musical, so I think it’s just really a great atmosphere to bring back to GCU,” he said.

From the spectacularly spooky set, spot-on costume design and immense talent emanating from the stage, it’s the perfect performance to close out the Theatre Department’s semester.

After all, who could have a bad time spending time with the strange, deranged Addams family?

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IF YOU GO

What: “The Addams Family” by Marshall Brickman and Rick Elice; music and lyrics by Andrew Lippa

When:  7:30 p.m. Fridays and Saturdays and 2 p.m. Sundays, Nov. 19-28

Where: Ethington Theatre

Tickets: $12 admission. Discounted tickets for senior citizens, military personnel, GCU and GCE employees, GCU alumni, children 12 years old and younger, and GCU students.

Information: 602-639-8979 or [email protected]

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