Come out and see Wednesday on Friday (or Saturday).
NEW PROVIDENCE, NJ - If you were to wander into the New Providence High School auditorium early last week you would have found a hive of activity centered mostly around the main stage which is presently dominated by The Addams Family mansion, complete with a sweeping double staircase and stonework on either side. At the center of this storm is a very composed Craig Duke, the 18-year veteran director, producer and drama teacher at NPHS. Duke, standing on the stage with his crew, was not giving away any trepidation regarding the monster production he has assembled or the impending winter storm barreling towards New Providence. Instead Duke was standing downstage, surrounded by his crew and helping them guide the full moon into its rightful spot above the mansion.
After producing classic plays the past few years at NPHS, Duke assessed his talent pool this year and decided on the contemporary musical, "The Addams Family." “We’ve all been feeling that we’ve done some classics and we wanted something contemporary to fit our kids,” said Duke. This version of "The Addams Family" centers around Wednesday Addams. “She falls for a normal guy and the two families come together, crazy family meets normal family and chaos ensues,” laughed Duke. This year’s production also has a big cast, “We have very strong performances; we have 10 principles and a 30-plus ensemble of ancestors, ghosts and zombies,” he added.
Duke was also looking for strong musical talent. “We always look in terms of voices and we had a really strong vocal talent this year. We felt confident that we had kids who could pull those roles off,” said Duke. He also loved the story line. “Parents and families could easily identify with the characters and the situation, so for a lot of reasons we thought it was a good fit,” he added.
The script, by the “Jersey Boys” team of Marshall Brickman and Rick Elice, along with songs by Andrew Lippa are a mix of Cabaret and Tango with some old vaudevillian numbers for the faint of heart. It is loosely based on the legendary cartoons created by Charles Addams who was famous for his fictional dark and morbid, but surprisingly relatable household characters that were first published in The New Yorker in 1938.
This production is anchored by its two strong leads, Troy Droussiotis and Julia Dabrowska. Together, they make these iconic roles their own. Gomez and Morticia Addams are the aristocratically undead heads of this famous macabre household. The madly-in-love husband and wife are best remembered for breaking into the Tango at a moments notice.
Droussiotis and Dabrowska worked behind the scenes with Leslie Ditta (Choreographer) learning the Tango, the Argentine Tango, and the Paso Doble for those memorable dances most might remember from the 1960’s TV show. For Dabrowska, the years of ballet paid off. “My experience in choirs and ballet definitely helped me prepare for this role. I feel that my choir experience allowed me to be extremely comfortable on a stage, and my ballet training significantly helped me pick up choreography efficiently,” said Dabrowska.
She also studied up on the iconic Morticia, “I did plenty of research on various iconic interpretations of her character. I did so by watching clips of Bebe Neuwirth’s performance of Morticia on Broadway, as well as several televised versions of her character by actresses such as Carolyn Jones and Angelica Huston.” But in the end, she wanted to make this fearless matriarch her own. ”The most challenging part of learning this part was finding how I personally wanted to interpret Morticia,” said Dabrowska.
Gomez Addams, patriarch to the eccentric family, turned out to be Droussiotis’s favorite role, “Gomez is definitely my favorite part I’ve played out of all the shows that I’ve been in. I love his charisma and flair and he honestly reminds me a lot of my own dad.” This role has been a departure for Droussitis, a veteran of the NPHS drama department, “The best parts about playing him are being able to go over the top with comedy. It’s a big contrast to other roles I’ve played.” Droussiotis, a senior, feels well-prepared for what comes next, “My two years as Drum Major in the marching band has taught me a lot of leadership, time management, and organizational skills that I can utilize in every aspect of my life.”
And this brings us to Wednesday Addams, the character around which the play revolves. Wednesday has fallen in love with a “normal” boy named Lukas Beineke (Jack Nissen). The only daughter of Gomez and Morticia wants to have “one normal night” at the Addams house with her boyfriend and his parents. This leaves the Addams clan in the precarious situation of attempting to appear normal, if just for one evening, in a kind of “Guess Who’s Coming to Dinner” meets “Romeo and Juliet” (minus the Shakespearean tragic turns) as this star-crossed couple tries to unite their very different families.
The character of Wednesday Addams is inhabited by junior Jade Navarro who is appearing in her third musical at NPHS. Navarro has taken to the role of the off-beat rebel who shudders at established norms, “I absolutely love Wednesday Addams because she is the ultimate confident teenager we all admired when we were younger. Her boldness and integrity are very admirable.” Navarro is also enjoying being part of a more contemporary play, “As much as I love the classics, a contemporary show like this feels very personal because it is so relevant to young people. I love being in this show because it is hilarious from the characters to the jokes; it’s a show like you’ve never seen before.”
With the 25 plus musical numbers to be learned and staged, Duke turns to Leslie Ditta and Pamela Crockett, his choreographer and music director respectively. Ditta is impressed by the Addams cast, “This year, with so many dance numbers, it was a lot of work learning the new dances. Gomez and Morticia have a couple lifts and we had to make sure that was done safely. This show is really fun because there’s a variety of styles of dance, I’m really excited to see it all come together.” she said. The huge cast gets along on and off the stage, “From the get-go the cast really seemed to click, it’s been a fun atmosphere, the seniors have really set the tone,” she added.
Music director Pam Crockett, also loves the new musical, “I love it, I love the music in the show, I like how the ensemble gets to be kind of a storyteller, it’s been so much fun, the kids have really responded to the music.” She also is impressed by the musical talent in New Providence, “I’m very spoiled in this school district, we have really wonderful singers, they learn the music quickly and our leads are phenomenal singers.”
Rounding out the cast is Henrik Harman, a senior, as Uncle Fester. Harman has performed in many NPHS plays as well as concert, jazz and select choir and performs with the NPHS Marching Band as well. Also, Trent Zane, a junior, is playing the role of Lurch, the Addams gloomy butler. Hannah Giefraitis, a sophomore, as Pugsley Addams. Abby Arts, a sophomore in her first production at NPHS as Grandma, and Jack Nissen, a sophomore as Lucas Beineke, in his second NPHS production. Sarah Kowalewski, a junior, is serving as Stage Manager. Nick Caburis, a senior in his final spring musical, is serving as Student Technical Director.
Show times for The Addams Family are March 16th at 7:30 p.m. and Saturday, March 17th at 2:00 p.m. and 7:30 p.m. Tickets can be purchased at “Seat Yourself” online ticketing. There is a link on the NPHS website.