From the song “One Normal Night” to “Crazier Than You,” the musical comedy “The Addams Family,” presented March 31 to April 10 by the Theatre Company at University of Detroit Mercy, will have audiences appreciating the Addams, their eccentricity and their bonds as a family.
When Wednesday Addams falls in love with a young man from a middle class family from Ohio, she asks her family to give her “one normal night” when he and his parents come to visit. However, the visit that unfolds is anything but “normal,” and the young man’s parents unintentionally reveal some of their own secrets.
The show is directed by Greg Grobis of Oak Park, with musical direction by Dan Greig of Rochester Hills and technical direction by Alan Devlin of Dearborn.
Devlin said that with “The Addams Family” being their first musical the company has attempted since the pandemic began, the decision was made present a 90-minute concert version of the show, which he said provides the company with more flexibility, and allows students to take on greater onstage and offstage roles.
“We have students assistant directing, working as the social media manager and in multiple design roles, many of which would not have been possible with the full version of the show,” he said.
Devlin said producing “The Addams Family” at the Boll, a relatively small venue, has also required creativity and collaboration.
“One major change is a less traditional approach to the Addams ghostly ancestor chorus,” he said. “Lighting, choreography and scenery will all be working together to bring those characters to life in a way that is unlike any of our previous productions at the Boll YMCA.”
Devlin said they are also using some new atmospheric fog effects that will help set the show’s mood.
He said they have learned from past productions how to safely rehearse during the pandemic.
“One method that has worked well on this production is having individual and small group vocal rehearsals rather than having the entire cast present,” Devlin said. “This can make for a longer day overall but helps mitigate risk while still allowing for adequate rehearsal time.”
The cast includes Adam El-Zein of Dearborn as Gomez, Katherine Mutschler of Royal Oak as Morticia, Olivia Swad of Chesterfield Township as Wednesday, Josiah Martelle of Warren as Pugsley, Luke Adamkiewicz of Dearborn Heights as Fester, Kirsten Renas of Garden City as Alice, Jeremy St. Martin of Wyandotte as Mal, Jacob Yasso of Sterling Heights as Lucas, Elise Pannemann of Clinton Township as Grandma, and Elizabeth Breger of St. Claire Shores as Lurch.
Adamkiewicz said he has fun embodying Fester’s offbeat personality.
“He is so odd and silly, I get to show some of my own weirdness on stage,” he said. “The most challenging part has been trying to figure out Fester’s inspiration and history – what made him the way he is, and what makes him tick – and I am finding he has a lot more depth to him than meets the eye.”
Adamkiewicz said “One Normal Night” is his favorite number.
“Fester expresses that ‘normal’ is not always a clear-cut definition,” he said. “He gives a hilarious nod to our own times.”
Adamkiewicz can relate to being an odd uncle himself, as he has 13 nieces and nephews, affectionately known as his “niblings.”
“I’ve always been the fun uncle, spreading joy by just being weird: Making funny faces, playing silly games, and creating characters using weird voices,” he said.
Adamkiewicz said that, ultimately, “The Addams Family” focuses on the love that families share.
“I hope audiences recognize that they can be whoever they want to be and that family can be found in strange places – not always by blood relations,” he said. “‘The Addams Family’ is a fun show, with many good laughs, moving moments and relatable characters that highlight the uniqueness and chaos of every family.”
El-Zein said the show is a “must see” for all kinds of families.
“If you want to have a good time and forget about your outside troubles for a while, this show will make you laugh,” he said. “With incredible songs, fun scenes and a wonderful cast, this comedy is for people of all ages.”
El-Zein said he loves playing Gomez, especially during his passionate scenes.
“Being able act with my 100 percent without it being too much is great,” he said. “He is a character with such a big presence every time he speaks.”
El-Zein said he relates to Gomez’s exaggerated hand and body movements.
“When I talk, I tend to use my hands to get across what I am saying, or to emphasize something,” he said. “Maybe not as passionately as Gomez, but I definitely move around a lot like him.”
El-Zein said the opening song, “When You’re an Addams,” is his favorite, and it introduces the characters and their personalities.
“It perfectly sets up the comedic aspects of the show, and the music by Andrew Lippa is just incredible,” he said. “The comedy in this show is excellently written, with lines that will leave the audience laughing and wanting more.”
Proof of vaccination or a negative COVID-19 PCR test taken within 72 hours of the performance time, or a 6-hour antigen test, are required for entry. All attendees must wear masks, regardless of their vaccination status.
The show runs 7:30 p.m. March 31 and April 1, 2, and 7 to 9, and 3 p.m. April 3 and 10 at the theater at the Marlene Boll YMCA, 1401 Broadway, Detroit. Tickets are $30 for general admission, $22 for seniors and UDM faculty and staff, and $15 for veterans and students with valid identification.
To order, call 313-993-3270 or go to DetroitMercyArts.com.