SPANISH FORK — It is hard to believe that the fall season is already rapidly approaching, which means an abundance of productions of the popular Halloween musical The Addams Family are on their way. Spanish Fork Community Theatre is offering a rare opportunity to catch this spooky musical in the summertime.
With music and lyrics by Andrew Lippa and book by Marshall Brickman and Rick Elice, The Addams Family is based on the cartoon characters originally created by Charles Addams, which later inspired numerous films and TV spinoffs. The stage musical is an original story in which Wednesday Addams, the daughter of Morticia and Gomez Addams, has grown up and fallen in love with a “normal” young man from a respectable family. Hilarity ensues as the two families meet for the first time and enjoy a dinner party together that is anything but normal. With its catchy score and surprising moments of poignancy, it is easy to see why this musical is a community favorite.
This production, directed by Polly Dunn, features a cast that is much larger than what is typically seen, but this choice actually worked very well. The Addams ancestors, who function as the ensemble, are typically only comprised of about 8-10 actors, but in this production, there are approximately 30 ancestors. This meant that their vocals were resounding and strong, and they filled the theatre in both sound and presence. Music director Leni Thompson has done an excellent job with this cast on perfecting harmonies and creating a balanced, blended sound that was extremely pleasing to listen to. The angelic voices of the female ensemble members particularly shone during “Moon and Me.” It was also fun to observe the many different costumes worn by the ancestors (designed by Bree Bunker) and try to determine who the ancestors may have been in their past lives.
The show is led by Michael Ricks and Merci Hase, playing Gomez and Morticia Addams (respectively), the infamous mysteriously spooky couple whose romance only seems to intensify the longer they are married. Ricks and Hase are reprising their roles after playing Gomez and Morticia together at the Empress Theatre in 2021, and their familiarity and intimacy with these characters is apparent. The two actors have excellent chemistry and energetically portray the passionate romance of Gomez and Morticia. It is completely believable that the two are truly a long-time married couple. Ricks is a standout actor, bringing a sharp, seductive energy to his character while also finding many moments of humor. Several of his lines earned laughs from the audience throughout the evening. Hase is beautiful and mysterious as the matriarch of the Addams clan, and her powerhouse vocals soared in her songs “Secrets” and “Death is Just Around the Corner,” the latter of which was one of my favorite numbers in the show. Hase does an excellent job maintaining Morticia’s regal and authoritative nature while also subtly portraying that, as much as she may wish to deny it, Morticia is quickly losing control of the family during this chaotic evening.
At first glance, Sarah Bennett, playing Wednesday Addams, the princess of darkness and daughter of Gomez and Morticia, appeared too young to be playing an adult version of Wednesday who is preparing to marry and settle down. However, after seeing her performance of “Pulled,” it was obvious why she was chosen for this role. Bennett absolutely excels in both her acting and vocals. Her facial expressions during this number as she battles between her disgust for all things bright and happy and her love for Lucas Beineke (played by Jase Jolley) are hilarious to watch. Her facial expressions alone could have told this story without her even saying a word, but her vocals were the icing on the cake. Her belt is strong and clear without being too overpowering, and the way the audience erupted into cheers after her number was reflective of the excellence of her performance.
Although they were good, the characters of Grandma Addams (played by Cami Jensen) and Fester Addams (played by BJ Wright) struggled to keep up with the other stronger performers in the cast. Jensen was a little too reserved in her acting and was missing the over-the-top kooky eccentricity that Grandma Addams is famous for. The notable exception was her line about wetting herself during the dinner party, which was perfectly delivered with expert comedic timing and earned a huge laugh from the audience. If she can bring this same eccentric and comedic energy to all of her lines throughout the show, she will perfect the character of Grandma Addams. Wright did well with finding moments of humor and bringing a softness to his character, particularly when speaking about his love for the moon, but he seemed a little shaky in his vocals. If he can work his vocals and find the appropriate moments to bring a strong and powerful belt, particularly during his solo in “One Normal Night,” this would improve his character well.
An element of the production that seemed to hold the actors back was some of the directing choices. It seemed as though the actors had been given very specific arm movements during many of their spoken lines, which caused them to look as though they were hitting specific choreographed marks rather than being allowed to interact with each other naturally and organically. If the actors were given permission to relax these specific blocking choices, this would bring more authenticity and believability to their acting.
At the community level, it is typical to experience numerous issues with sound and microphones, but something truly remarkable about this production was the excellence of the sound design by Brock Larson, Kate Wright, and Korbin Leach. There were absolutely no microphone issues at all throughout the entire night. The actors sounded clean and clear at all times, and I never heard any feedback issues during the entire performance. This is extremely impressive, and I commend the sound team for their excellent work.
Also worth noting is the graphic and set design by Lawson Bendall and Bjorn Pendleton. The production used a combination of projections and a physical set to create the setting of the Addams Manor, which was extremely effective. I especially loved how the projections zoomed in and out to create the illusion of movement, particularly during the opening number when Gomez first enters the stage. The projections of Fester flying to the moon at the end of the show were hilarious and a stroke of brilliance.
This production was a great example of the excellence and attention to detail that can be brought to a (sometimes excessively mounted) community theatre production. Those that are fans of The Addams Family musical will be very pleased with this particular production. For those that have never seen the stage version of The Addams Family, I would highly recommend doing so in Spanish Fork. The show features catchy music, a hilarious script, and touching moments to remind its audience of the importance of family relationships. Spanish Fork Community Theater’s production meets all of those marks and then some, and is appropriate for audience members of all ages. Do not miss the chance to see this funny, kooky production before it goes back into the crypt.