Erin Hensley-Schultz (Morticia) and Chris Greene (Gomez) rehearse a scene from the musical, based on the beloved Charles Addams' cartoon characters.
They’re spooky, a bit kooky and they’re coming to the stage soon in Northeast Tennessee.
Theatre-at-Tusculum is presenting “The Addams Family,” the first time the Broadway-award winning musical has been staged in East Tennessee. The musical, based on the beloved Charles Addams’ cartoons, will be presented at 7 p.m. on Nov. 14-15, 20-22 and 2 p.m. on Nov. 16 and 23 in the auditorium of the Annie Hogan Byrd Fine Arts Building on the Tusculum College campus.
Well known and respected actors from the Northeast Tennessee fill the cast for the musical that finds the weird and wonderful Addams family with an affinity for all things macabre with a developing crisis. Wednesday Addams has fallen in love with nerdy Lucas Beineke, who is from a “normal” family. Meanwhile, well meaning Uncle Fester has been working behind the scenes with the Addams family ancestors, who set about helping the family with its new challenging situation, and the fun ensues for the audience.
Under the direction of Marilyn duBrisk, the talented cast includes Erin Hensley-Schultz, a well-known Johnson City thespian, who is bringing Morticia to life, opposite Chris Greene who is portraying the suave Gomez. Wednesday Addams is brought to life by Hannah Faith Rader, who has performed in Jonesborough and Johnson City productions, and her love interest, Lucas Beineke, is talented Parker Bunch, who many will remember from his role as Bob Cratchit in Theatre-at-Tusculum’s 2013 production of “A Christmas Carol.”
Undertaking Fester and also acting as assistant director is Brian Ricker, who has become a local favorite through his many roles in the Theatre-at-Tusculum program. A relative newcomer to the local stage, but who is also quickly becoming a favorite, is Audrey Shoemaker, who is being transformed for the show into 102-year-old Granny Adams. Young newcomer Tate Brumit plays obnoxious and cheeky little brother while Mike Willis, who delighted audiences as the Ghost of Christmas Future in “A Christmas Carol,” will bring the memorable Lurch to life. Lucas’ parents, Mal and Alice Beineke will be portrayed by Josh Davis, who has starred in roles in Morristown productions, and Jodi Carter, another veteran of Theatre-at-Tusculum productions.
Hensley-Schultz practices a dance with the Addams Family Ancestors during rehearsal. From left are Angie Willis, Austin Bird, Josh Beddingfield, Hensley-Schultz, Charlene Kight, Laura Berry, Zach Gass (partially hidden) and Toni Bates.
Portraying Gomez has meant lots of practice in using a Spanish accent for Greene. “It has been challenging, but a lot of fun.” Audiences will find lots to love about the show,
Greene says, and he has especially enjoyed the music. “The music in this show is great. It is different from the other musicals – the songs are a lot more in the rock and jazz vein.” Greene is a local favorite, and some of his memorable leads include The Cat in the Hat in “Seussical,” the Scarecrow in “Wizard of Oz” and Sir Toby in “Twelfth Night.”
Hensley-Schultz is returning to the Theatre-at-Tusculum stage as Morticia, a role she has wanted to play since a child. She recalls seeing the Addams Family movies and finding the Morticia to be the “coolest character” because of her dark beauty and graceful movements. Hensley-Schultz was in duBrisk’s productions while in high school and then moved away from the region and recently moved back to the region. Among her memorable roles are Patsy Cline in “Always Patsy Cline,” Winifred in “Once Upon a Mattress” and Columbia in “Rocky Horror Picture Show.”
Bringing the “very loaded” character of Wednesday to life has been a welcome challenge to Rader. Falling in love has pulled Wednesday in a new direction from the dark world that is her norm. “The Addams Family” is a show that has something for everyone, Rader says. “It has a great message in terms of love,” she said. “Although the Addams family members are weird, they are all about family, they look out for each other.” Rader’s recent work includes Jonesborough Repertory Theatre’s “Hairspray,” and Blue Moon Dinner Theatre’s production of “Rocky Horror Picture Show.” She also appeared in several productions while in college at Carson-Newman University.
Wednesday’s new love, Lucas Beineke, is portrayed by Bunch, who finds himself playing a shy teenager in love, much like the character of Peter in Theatre-at-Tusculum’s production of “Anne Frank,” but unlike his own outgoing personality. Audiences will find the musical to be funny, with lots of great music and costumes, he says. Bunch has been featured in such plays as “Christmas Carol,” but says he especially enjoyed being part of last spring’s production of “The Complete Works of William Shakespeare.”
The role of Uncle Fester is much like The Cat in the Hat in “Seussical” in moving the action along, said Ricker of the role. Uncle Fester also has some interaction with the audience. “I love that,” he said. “It is sort of like improvisation – it makes you be on your toes and focused.” Ricker is also taking on the additional role of assistant director, which has been a fun challenge. “I can’t say enough about the amazing cast, they are absolutely brilliant,” he said, noting that it will be difficuult for him during the performances to stay focused on his character as he will also be thinking about things that need to be happening backstage and onstage.
Shoemaker says it has fun but challenging to play a 102-year-old. “The lines are awesome,” she said of the part, but the role is also physical as Granny’s body language is as important as the lines. Shoemaker’s past Theatre-at-Tusculum roles in such shows as “Carnival,” “You’re a Good Man, Charlie Brown” and “Seussical,” have all been strong character roles, which has been an enjoyable change. Prior to coming to Theatre-at-Tusculum, she was primarily cast in leading roles, but she said she is more comfortable in playing the character roles such as Granny.
The youngest member of the cast is Brumit, whose portrayal of Pugsley is his first leading role. While the play has been fun, he says, it has also been a lot of work. “Most of my parts are in the first act. It is hard because I go on and off stage several times.” Brumit’s experience in the theater began with a role in “Seussical.” “I really liked it a lot and enjoyed being in it with my friends.”
A veteran of both Morristown and Greeneville theater, Davis has been tasked with playing the much older character of Mal Beineke, Lucas’ father. Returning to work with duBrisk and a talented cast has been the best part of his experience with the Addams Family, Davis says, and invites audiences to come enjoy the fun musical. “The Addams Family are American icons and it is fun to see them brought to life on the stage,” he notes. “There are some things about the show you will not be expecting but there are different things you should expect. It is very funny, and there are lots of surprises.” Audiences have enjoyed Davis in such roles as Lord Farquaad in “Shrek the Musical” and as the lead role in the production of “Sweeney Todd” at Walters State Community College in Morristown.
Portraying Mal’s wife Alice is Carter, who agrees with her stage husband that the best part of the production has been the camaraderie among the cast. A music teacher in the Greene County School System, Carter’s first experiences under the tutelage of duBrisk was as a participant in the GLAWPIGT (Great Literature Alive, Well and Playing in Greeneville, Tennessee) program for students in grades 3-12). She has had lead roles in “Seussical,” “The Wizard of Oz” and “Oliver.”
The production staff includes Angie Clendenon, music director; Chris Beste, accompanist; David Price, percussion, and Kim Berry as the show’s choreographer. Frank Mengel is technical director and set designer; Barbara Holt, costume director; Suzanne Greene and Jim Holt, stage management; Zach Holdich, lighting design; Margo Olmsted and Sandy Neinaber, props management; Trenda Berney, make-up director; and Jennifer Hollowell, house manager in charge of the box office.
Parents are cautioned that while “The Addams Family” is family friendly, it is rated as a “PG” show due to a few instances of rough language.
With music and lyrics by Andrew Lippa and story by Marshall Brickman and Rick Elice, the original show opened in April 2010 with Nathan Lane as Gomez and Bebe Neuwirth as Morticia. The show won a Broadway.com Audience Award for Favorite New Broadway Musical and played 722 performances before closing on December 31, 2011. It then went on tour both in the U.S. and Internationally.
Admission is $12 for adults, $10 for seniors 60 and over, and $5 for children 12 and under. To reserve tickets, please call 423-798-1620 or email email@example.com.