June 07--It's all very familiar. The finger-snapping opening theme. A black-clad Morticia snipping the heads off flowers. Uncle Fester making a lightbulb glow by putting it in his mouth. Daughter Wednesday torturing her brother Pugsley on a rack.
Anyone familiar with the 1960s sitcom "The Addams Family" or the 1991 movie based on the TV show will recognize the characters -- the elegant Morticia, fiery Gomez, gloomy Lurch, fun-loving Fester, the short and hairy Thing and the dour, pasty children -- in the stage musical "The Addams Family." The touring company of the Broadway show comes to the State Theatre in Easton Monday and Tuesday.
The show, which is like a giant pop-culture cartoon, draws most of its inspiration from the original cartoons drawn by Charles Addams for The New Yorker magazine, beginning in 1938.
"It's half-horror and half-Disney," says Shaun Rice, who plays Uncle Fester. "It's weird and quirky. This is the most fun role I've ever had."
For most of the mid-20th century, the Addams Family appeared in single panel cartoons as an unnamed family that delighted in the macabre. The kids used a tiny guillotine on a doll and kept the family's pet bats in a bird cage. The joke was that they were blissfully unaware that they were unusual.
In 1964, a television series based on the cartoon characters introduced the world to this weird clan. The family went on to star in an animated series and in two films.
"If you know the movies or TV shows, things will pop up," Rice says. "We even re-create the Thanksgiving scene, an iconic moment from the drawings, in the musical number 'Full Disclosure.' It has got a lot of that sitcom-type humor."
Addams drew the macabre family for six decades, creating thousands of cartoons, sketches and drawings.
But Rice says familiarity with the cartoons or the television show isn't a pre-requisite to enjoying the musical.
"It's a fun show for everybody, even if they don't know the Addams Family," he says. "You get to know them right away and fall in love with them."
But he admits the response is "amazing" when the audience recognizes the familiar characters in a graveyard in the opening scene.
The storyline is completely new. Gomez and Morticia's eldest child Wednesday is 18 and has fallen in love with a "normal" boy from Ohio. When she invites his straight-laced family over to the family's forbidding mansion to announce their engagement, all kinds of craziness ensues.
The music and lyrics are by Andrew Lippa, who was nominated for a Tony for his work on "The Addams Family." He also wrote the music and lyrics for Broadway's "The Wild Party" and contributed songs to "You're A Good Man Charlie Brown," for which he was nominated for a Grammy.
Wednesday, played by Jennifer Fogarty, gets to belt out her big solo, "Pulled," and joins fiance Lucas and his parents for the love song "Crazier Than You." Gomez, played by Jesse Sharp, ponders his little girl growing up in the poignant "Happy/Sad."
It wouldn't be the Addams family without a sexy tango between Gomez and Morticia in "Tango de Amour."
Rice's Fester acts as a sort of emcee throughout the action.
"I'm the point-person for the audience," he says. "I'm the only one who talks to them. Fester is so off-the-wall. He's an old song-and-dance man and that fits perfectly with me."
The musical, which ran on Broadway 2010-2011, has undergone some changes to the story for the national tour, and Rice says it has made the story stronger. Gone is a subplot about a giant squid and another with Morticia angry at Gomez because he said she was old. In the revised script, they have a fight because Gomez hides something from her.
"Keeping secrets has a little more oomph to cause them to fight," Rice says. "They have such a strong bond between them. It was a change for the better. They strengthened the story line and focused on the storytelling aspect."
Rice's big scene is when he professes his love for the moon in the Vaudeville-style "The Moon and Me." But he says his favorite song is "But Love," which was added for the tour and which he sings with the Addams ancestors who serve as a sort of ghostly Greek chorus.
"I am in love and I want to make sure everyone finds love," Rice says.
The Florida native, who previously played the grandpa in the tour of "How the Grinch Stole Christmas" and Sir Topham Hatt in "Thomas & Friends Live!" says he was not familiar with the Addams family until a friend urged him to see the musical on Broadway.
"I knew it was the perfect part for me," he says. "It's so similar to how I am in real life -- a very lovable maniac."
He calls the show "costume- and makeup-heavy." The cast must undergo time-consuming makeup and many wear wigs. Rice shaves his head to portray the bald Fester.
He won't divulge how he makes the lightbulb in his mouth glow.
"It's Fester's trademark move," he says. "He was hit by lightning so many time, he has an electric charge in his body."
As Fester he also gets one of the highlights of the finale, when he rides a rocket into space to join the moon.
"It involves everyone," he says. "It's a lot of theater magic."
THE ADDAMS FAMILY
-- What: Touring production of the Broadway musical based on the macabre drawings of Charles Addams and the popular 1960s-era television show.
-- When: 7 p.m. June 10 and 11
-- Where: State Theatre, 453 Northampton St., Easton
-- How much: $55 and $60
-- Info: 610-252-3132, http://www.statetheatre.org
-- Also: "The Addams Family" also will come to Zoellner Arts Center in Bethlehem on Feb. 9. Tickets not yet on sale. Info: http://www.zoellnerartscenter.org.
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