The magnificently macabre, spectacularly eccentric Addams Family, headed by mustachioed patriarch Gomez, has been a staple of American popular culture for nearly sixty years, but Derryfield’s upcoming production of The Addams Family: A New Musical featuring the clan is decidedly fresh-faced.
Bill Westenberg, a trained actor whose credits include appearances in Law & Order and Third Watch, served in various roles at the School prior to stepping into one as Creative Arts Department Chair and Upper School Musical Director this year. While his acting chops are diverse and impressive, this is the first time that the cast is performing under his direction.
Westenberg is not the only new face with major involvement in the production. This may be junior Ella Weintraub of Bedford’s first year at Derryfield, but her talent and stage experience have earned her the coveted role of Wednesday Addams, daughter of Morticia and Gomez and older sister to Pugsley. The musical follows Wednesday as she navigates a visit to the Addams mansion from her “normal” boyfriend Lucas and his well-to-do parents.
Not everyone in the cast is a newcomer to the Derryfield stage; veteran senior Mark Rotering, who has held roles in previous productions of The Phantom of the Opera and Pippin, returns as Gomez, and The Drowsy Chaperone’s Caroline Desmarais, who played Kitty in the 2017 show, puts her dance experience to work as Morticia. Sophomore Regan O’Brien is Pugsley, senior Matt Michaud is Uncle Fester, junior Zoe Cousineau is Grandma Addams, junior Eric Chapdelaine is Lurch, and the three members of Lucas' family round out the main cast: junior Yash Patel as Mal Beineke, senior Emma Tierno as Alice Beineke, and senior Ian Davis as Lucas. A host of talented “ancestors” and “ghosts” make up the ensemble.
“The Addams Family was my first choice due to its wonderful score, very witty script, and, most of all, its heart,” Westenberg says of the process of choosing this year’s show, noting that “casting is a brutal endeavor.” As for how he selected the leads from a talented pool of young actors, for Westenberg, “the story is always first and foremost. I consider deeply who will play each role. Obviously talent plays a large part, but I also consider willingness to take direction and the ability to put ego aside in favor of the production.”
In her approach to portraying Wednesday, performance veteran Weintraub does her best to channel Christina Ricci’s iconic deadpan from the 1991 film. “Portraying her lack of enthusiasm while still giving an engaging performance has been an interesting challenge in rehearsal,” she says, adding that the cast’s “super supportive dynamic” enhances the numerous group dance numbers.
Rotering names Gomez as one of his more challenging roles, a significant designation considering the extent of his stage experience. “He’s always trying to please his wife or his daughter, which ultimately causes a division between the family, and then he has to try and pull things back together. It’s a very interesting dynamic, which I have had to analyze and make sure is accurately represented in the script,” Rotering notes, adding that consistently delivering Gomez’s trademark Spanish accent has been no easy feat.
The musical composition of the show bridges the gap between the family’s aristocratic aesthetic and the modernity of recent productions with “echoes of classical composition” in addition to “modern instrumentation,” according to instrumental teacher Tony Bonjorno. And, fear not, the classic theme song beloved by audiences worldwide serves as the show’s opening and infuses the entire musical with what Bonjorno describes as a “‘snappy’ sense of fun.”
Ultimately, Westenberg emphasizes the show’s appeal as directly related to its message of acceptance, “acceptance of the differences between all of us and the need to embrace those differences. In this musical, two very different families are forced together when a member of each falls in love with the other and want to marry. The parents must learn to accept this or risk losing and alienating their children.” Amidst the inescapability of our turbulent, polarized world, audience members will no doubt enjoy the warmth and humor “that pulse beneath and throughout this otherwise funny, witty and lovely musical.” The Addamses are indeed a most American family--odd, dramatic, flawed, but filled with heart. The Addams Family
will run on Friday, February 15 at 7:00 p.m. and again on Saturday, February 16 at 2:00 p.m. and 7:00 p.m, with all performances taking place in the Performing Arts Auditorium at The Derryfield School in Manchester, NH. Open seating tickets are $10 and will be sold online at eventbrite.com
and at the door.