The Addams Family is visiting Fort Myers Theater starting May 6. It promises to be scream.
Ah, the intoxicating smell of the graveyard, proclaims Gomez in the opening number of the Addams Family musical. Once a year, we gather to honor the great cycle life and death. Come, every member of our clan - living, dead, and undecided - and let us celebrate what is to be an Addams.
Yes, the Addams Family – living, dead and undecided – gather once a year in the graveyard for a family reunion. This year, the graveyard is located at Fort Myers Theatre, an intimate setting with plush, first-class airline seats located on San Carlos Boulevard in west Fort Myers.
This show features all the usual suspects – the flamboyant and flashy Gomez Addams, his lithe and luscious wife, Morticia, Grandmama, Lurch, Cousin Itt and, of course, Uncle Fester, whose ambition is to beat Elon Musk, Jeff Bezos and NASA to the lunar surface.
But one of the stars of the Addams Family musical is Wednesday Addams. Now 20, she’s fallen in love with an ordinary boy whose ordinary family hails from Ohio, “a swing state.” Yikes!
Anna Joy Lehman doesn’t just play Wednesday. She is Wednesday. The whole cast is so invested in this show that they morph into their characters well before they reach the playhouse doors for rehearsal. In fact, no one at Fort Myers Theatre has ever seen Terry Lavy, who plays Fester, out of his skull cap!
When talking about her cast, director and choreographer Robin Dawn beams like one of Fester’s lightbulbs.
"The cast is amazing. The cast is so good. Fester is great. The first practice Fester came in and he had his bald cap on," said Dawn. "Our Pugsley, being the youngest in the cast is amazing. He’s doing a great job. The characters just all fit, and everyone is excited about the show and everyone works for the show. I’ve worked with hundreds of shows and you get the characters that, uh, just come in. This group is not like that. This group has been on fire since before they were even cast into the group and ever since then they don’t miss practices. They show up. They work hard and we’re in a really good spot right now."
But Lehman’s eye-narrowed, furrow-browed Wednesday is the catalyst who drives the action in the musical. Not only does Wednesday enjoy torturing her little brother Pugsley (on the rack and otherwise), she tortures dear old dad when she shows him her engagement ring but makes him promise not to tell Morticia until after she meets ordinary Lucas and his ordinary mom and dad.
Morticia doesn’t keep secrets. Ever. And she doesn’t abide others keeping secrets from her. Especially Gomez. In fact, that’s explicitly written into their wedding vows.
The reason is pragmatic. Secrets are the enemy of passion.
Lies and secrets They’re the sins that keep A husband from a wife Gomez loves me He would never keep a secret in his life Never keep a secret Not one secret in his life
So the improvident promise that Gomez makes to his daughter puts him in a rather awkward position, to say the least. Parrish Danesh, who plays Gomez, has this to say about his predicament:
"Two women that I adore and swore to suffer for, so it’s the ones that I want to put in the best spot possible. Unfortunately, with the story in the musical, it puts me at odds and basically caught in between …."
Paola Cifuentes (who plays Morticia) interrupted, "Trapped."
"Yes, trapped," continued Danesh. "That’s one of my songs and it basically lays out how Gomez is stuck in between pleasing his wife and honoring her and not keeping secrets from her but to try and help his daughter on the way with her new path in life, I’m trapped."
Danesh describes Gomez as “very extra.” There’s a lot of extra in his dialogue, in his motions, and in his character, which Director/Choreographer Robin Dawn says is “suave and debonair.” That extra requires a woman with special attributes to play opposite him, and in Paola Cifuentes Fort Myers Theatre has found the perfect Morticia. She brings not only a dancer’s elegance to her character, but a delicious combination of earthiness and transcendental otherworldliness that you simply have to behold to fully appreciate.
Morticia takes family very seriously, and her woman’s intuition convinces her that Gomez is keeping something from her. So much so, that she refuses to tango with him, something that’s never happened over the course of their long and passionate marriage.
And it’s her motherly radar that prompts her to agree when Wednesday (with her father’s backing) asks Morticia to host a dinner for her boyfriend and his parents.
Wednesday just wants one normal night …
One normal night That’s all I want That’s all I need from you One normal house Without a mouse To feed a plant or two You must admit we aren’t what people call “laid back” So can’t we muse a bit and lose the basic black? Whoa, one normal night With normal people on their way Just one normal night Whaddya say?
But mom has other plans, as Cifuentes explains:
"Gomez and Wednesday convince Morticia that they have to have this dinner because she is a little worried that Wednesday’s being exposed to this world that’s new to her, so they convince her and she says 'Well, dinner it is. Dinner and then the game.'"
Ah, the game. The game involves each person confessing something and the “Full Disclosures” that ensue enbroil both families in turmoil.
Before, during and after the game, two things advance the story to its satisfying conclusion. The first is the music. It’s so good. You’ll be singing the songs from this show long after the final bows.
The other is the ensemble. They’re the dead and undecided ancestors who Fester enlists to help resolve the situation with Wednesday and her beau. Here’s how Director/Choreographer Robin Dawn describes them:
"The ancestors are all milling around trying to help out in the background … and there are all different kinds. We have a ballerina, and a bride, and they’re all a part of the Addams Family. They’re the ensemble. They move the props. They dance. They sing. We call them the 'dancestors.'"
Perhaps this will come as a spoiler to some, but Gomez and Morticia do tango in the end. In this show, it’s a dance of reconciliation. It reaffirms the love and passion they have for each other. And it’s such an important part of the story that Danesh and Cifuentes took it upon themselves to choreograph the scene. Robin Dawn loves what they produced.
"It’s quite a long piece and they’ve done an outstanding job. They work really well together. It’s beautiful."
Paola Cifuentes adds, "Well, Parrish has his ballroom background and I also have my dance background, ballet and jazz that I’ve danced for many years. So I think that we just complement each other well and came up with a good choreography."
Parrish interjected, "I generally move around the floor, but she makes it look good. She’s got the flash."
Paola continues, "He’s a great lead."
Like the tango, the Addams Family musical is a story of love. The love that Gomez and Morticia share. Their love for Wednesday. Their love of family. Not just of the living, but of the dead and undecided. And the love and connection that this cast has developed both on and off stage. As Robin Dawn underscores, it all comes together to create one dynamic, extra-special experience.
They dance. They act. You’re going to be entertained not just by the story but by the talent as well. Beautiful voices. Beautiful people. It’s great. Yeah. They’re great.
The Addams Family Musical is at Fort Myers Theatre from May 6th through the 15th.
To read more stories about the arts in Southwest Florida visit Tom Hall's website: SWFL Art in the News.
Spotlight on the Arts for WGCU is funded in part by Naomi Bloom, Jay & Toshiko Tompkins, and Julie & Phil Wade.