Warren Gerds/Critic at Large: Review: ‘The Addams Family’ Musical a Camp, Dark Delight in De Pere

St. Norbert College Knight Theatre The Addams Family photo_1548422148990.jpg.jpg

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Photo caption: The cast for the St. Norbert College Knight Theatre production of “The Addams Family” is led by, from left, Richard Dauphanais as Uncle Fester, Jack Zampino as Pugsley, Zac Dickhut as Gomez Addams, Kiera Matthews as Morticia Addams, Savanna Meo as Wednesday Addams and Emily Tomcek as Grandma Addams. (St. Norbert College photo)

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Satirical, dark, sassy, clever, camp – the musical “The Addams Family” is right in the wheelhouse for a collegiate production.

Spice in performers accustomed to performing with flair and an entourage eager to join in, and you have a blast.

That’s a snapshot of St. Norbert College Knight Theatre in what’s happening for seven more performances to Feb. 2 in Webb Theatre of Abbot Pennings Hall of Fine Arts on campus.

Side note: Knight Theatre is special. It is an idea that has lasted. The idea: Give students an outlet to put on a show in January between semesters – any interested student being eligible, no matter what his or her major. Aside from one faculty advisor, the students do all. College being college and students moving on, it would seem the idea would last a few years and fade away. But the idea is so good that this is the 25th year for Knight Theatre. A little irony is it is unlikely that any of this year’s participating students have seen his or her 25th birthday. And the productions are more that good year after year, with “The Addams Family” being one of the goodest. Leading roles are carried by students who perform regularly as members of the Knights on Broadway show troupe.

The fun of the storyline is the reversal nature of the Addamses: They revel in the grotesque, the morbid, the deadly.

Outwardly, the Addams family is normal: Father, mother and two children, with an uncle, a grandmother and a butler living with them. But normal to the Addams can be the daughter coming home with dinner, a goose she offed in a petting zoo, to be served up uncooked for supper. Eeeuuuwww? Gross? Yeah, now you are on to the humor of the show that comes from the master of such stuff, Charles Addams, whose quirky spin on life/death made its way to the TV airwaves for 64 episodes from 1964-1966.

Stop: More than half a century ago, and the weirdo Addamses are still around! This production celebrates the offbeat, and the cast clearly gets the show’s sardonic riches.

The story is about love being blind. A father is caught between a rock and a hard place – his wife and their daughter. The daughter has fallen in love and wants to marry a guy she met while crossbow hunting pigeons in a park. The daughter wants to unload her secret after a dinner with the two families. But mum’s the word for her Dad, lest her Mum put the kibosh on her marrying out of the faith, so to speak.

All around in this production are really, really good performances filled with confidence. Artistic director Annicka Rabida has the piece humming, with costuming juicing up a Halloweeny aura.

Zac Dickhut pours on suave as the father, Gomez.

Kiera Matthews unloads a colorful voice as Gomez’s siren-wife, Morticia.

Savanna Meo plays up intense in character and song as the daughter, Wednesday.

Nicholas Surprise is a sparkplug as Wednesday’s boyfriend, Lucas, who is as love-smitten conflicted as they get.

Jack Zampino playfully leaps into flip sides of humor as the son, Pugsley, who is tortured by Wednesday and loves it.

Emily Tomcek gleefully unloads Grandma’s grocery cart full of oddness.

Richard Dauphinais infuses a quaint sensibility to the love theme as moon-struck Uncle Fester, who smooths the way for the romance of Wednesday and Lucas.

Sarah Jensen turns on a switch of pent-up passion as Alice, Lucas’s frustrated mother.

Logan Groh does a switcheroo, too, as Mal, Alice’s ramrod stiff husband who is shown the light.

Michael Wagner, lumbering and grunting/growling as the butler, Lurch, gets to take the spotlight in a rewarding way at the end.

All around is an array fun-makers as ghostly, white-only costumed Ancestors who flesh out the liveliness.

The on-stage performers are supported by an unseen live orchestra.

This is a full production of full-on well-honed collegiate performance with spanking-good tongue-in-cheek humor.

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Creative: Based on characters created by Charles Addams: book – Marshall Brickman, Rick Elice; music and lyrics – Andrew Lippa; artistic director – Annicka Rabida; producer – John Dicks; vocal director – Elle Dannecker; pit orchestra director – Erin Hanke; technical director – Will Fischer; assistant technical director/scenic design and construction – James Viall; lead choreographer – Jordan Schuman; tango choreographer – Taylor Donoval; stage manager – Kathryn Verheyden; assistant stage manager – Kacie Ley; dance captain – Annika Osell; costume designer – Kylie Marsden; prop designer – Mallory Shefchik; sound designer – Alan Deuschert; light designer – Morgan Rachelle; hair/make-up designer – Janelle Knick; dramaturg – KaCie Ley; rehearsal accompanist – Elissa Ribbens

Cast:

Addams family

Gomez – Zac Dickhut
Morticia – Kiera Matthews
Wednesday – Savanna Meo
Pugsley – Jack Zampino

Uncle Fester – Richard Dauphinais
Grandma – Emily Helen Tomcek
Lurch – Michael Wagner

Young Wednesday – Emalyn Patchak

Beineke family

Lucas – Nick Surprise
Alice – Sarah Jensen
Mal – Logan Groh

Ancestors

Saloon Girl – Alyssa Brugger

Pilgrim – Julia Carmarillo

Nurse – Kirstin Duprey

Flapper – Madelyn Glosny

Conquistador – Will Hammann

Flight Attendant – Sarah Hanna

Waitress – Carly Hartenberger

’80s Rocker – Danelle Hove

Soldier – Trent Larson

Bride – Annika Osell

Pirate – Madeline Pamperin

Maid – Hannah Schierl

Chef – AJ Wetenkamp

Caveman – Tanner Witthuhn

Moon

Annika Osell

Pit orchestra: Director – Erin Hanke; reed I – Megan Lau; reed II – Noah Kuchta; reed III – Natha Ortiz; trumpet – Bryce Daniels; trombone – Tyler Sobacki; bass – Jason Holz; guitar – Eduardo Padrino Velasquez; percussion I – Marquise Weatherall; percussion II – Brendan Koxlien; piano I – Elissa Ribbens; piano II – Craig Sampo Jr.

Running time: 2½ hours

Remaining performances: 7:30 p.m. Jan. 25; 2 and 7:30 p.m. Jan. 26; 2 p.m. Jan. 27; 7:30 p.m. Jan. 31, Feb. 1; and 2 p.m. Feb. 2

Info: snc.edu/tickets/

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Songs

Act I

“When You’re an Addams” – Addams Family, Ancestors

“Fester’s Manifesto” – Uncle Fester

“Two Things” – Gomez

“Wednesday’s Growing Up” – Gomez

“Trapped” – Gomez

“Honor Roll” – Pugsley

“Pulled” – Wednesday, Pugsley

“Four Things” – Gomez

“One Normal Night” – Company

“But Love” – Uncle Fester, Ancestors

“Secrets” – Morticia, Alice, Female Ancestors

“Gomez’s ‘What If?’” – Gomez

“What If?” – Pugsley

“Full Disclosure – Part 1” – Addamses, Beinekes, Ancestors

“Waiting” – Alice, Ancestors

“Full Disclosure – Part 2” – Addamses, Beinekes, Ancestors

Act II

“Just Around the Corner” – Morticia, Ancestors

“Just Around the Corner” Playoff  – Morticia, Ancestors

 “The Moon and Me” – Uncle Fester, Female Ancestors

“Happy/Sad” – Gomez

“Crazier Than You” – Wednesday, Lucas, Alice, Mal

“Not Today” – Gomez

“Live Before We Die” – Gomez, Morticia

(Dance) “Tango de Amor” – Gomez, Morticia

“Move Toward the Darkness” – Addamses, Beinekes, Ancestors

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THE VENUE: The 184-seat Neil and Mary Webb Memorial Theatre is the smaller of two theaters in St. Norbert College’s Abbot Pennings Hall of Fine Arts. The space has an amphitheater feel with its sloped seating area. The stage is one-of-a-kind thrust stage, meaning it “thrusts” into the audience space. A traditional proscenium stage has a flat front and usually has curtains. A trust stage rarely uses curtains. People in front rows can practically reach out and touch performers when the performers are on the stage lip. Any seat in the theater is close to the action.

THE PEOPLE: Neil and Mary Webb were husband and wife. Neil Webb was president of St. Norbert College from 1973 to 1983. He earlier headed the St. Norbert psychology department. He left academics for a while before becoming president of Dominican College in California. In December 1987, Neil and Mary Webb died in an airplane crash in California in an act of sabotage by a disgruntled employee. That was shortly before the Hall of Fine Arts was to be remodeled with a small theater in the plans. Neil Webb had a lot of friends in the community and had the reputation, so his name was used to raise funds for the theater.

Contact me at warren.gerds@wearegreenbay.com. Watch for my on-air Critic at Large editions on WFRV-TV at 6:20 a.m. Sundays.

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