In the long, storied history of Broadway musicals inspired by books, movies, and other pop-cultural stimuli, few projects seem less obvious than a splashy song-and-dance extravaganza built from The Addams Family. For one thing, as introduced in a series of 1930s New Yorker cartoons, then popularized in the 1960s television show, and two hit movies in the 90s, this gleefully death-obsessed, merrily grotesque sideshow of a family seem about the least likely group of characters to burst into song.
“I don’t think I agree with that,” laughs actor Michael RJ Campbell, who will be playing Gomez Addams in 6th Street Playhouse’s upcoming presentation of The Addams Family: The Musical, created in 2010 by Broadway hit-makers Andrew Lippa (Big Fish), and Marshall Brickman and Rick Elise (Jersey Boys). “Gomez is full of passion and craziness,” argues Campbell, hanging out with cast members Shannon Rider (she’s playing Morticia) and Shawna Eiermann (Wednesday). “I don’t think it’s too out-of-the-box for these people to sing,” he says.
Well. All right. Point taken.
Dry-witted and morose or not, the Addams are an expressive bunch, and the musical art form is nothing if not packed with grand, outsized expressions.
“The Addams Family is really not unlike other families,” suggest Rider. “Morticia is very much the traditional image of a mother. She loves her children, she likes to cook, she loves to take care of her garden—it’s just a carnivorous garden. Other than that, she’s really pretty traditional.”
“And Wednesday is a fairly typical 18-year-old teenager,” adds Eiermann. “She’s rebellious. She argues with her parents. But she’s also a ‘daddy’s girl’, and when she tortures her brother, she uses a medieval torture rack.”
Directed for 6th Street by Matthew McCoy, the show follows the Addams Family through one particularly torturish night, as Wednesday, who’s fallen in love with a “normal” boy, convinces the family to play it straight for dinner.
“Matthew keeps bringing us back to the original New Yorker cartoons,” says Campbell. “We’ve learned a lot from those weird old drawings, the way the characters stand, their facial expressions. So, back to your original question, of course the Addams Family sings. It’s just that, instead of singing happy songs about sunshine and flowers, they sing happy songs about death, decay, and rotting corpses.”
‘The Addams Family’ runs Thurs–Sun Oct. 10 – Nov. 2 at 6th Street Playhouse. 52 W 6th St, Santa Rosa. Thu-Sat at 8pm. 2pm matinees on Sat and Sun. $15-$37. 707.523.4185.