CLEARFIELD — Being a resident of Clearfield, I have participated in many of the arts programs that Clearfield City provides. But due to a variety of issues, I have not been able to review any of their theatrical productions until tonight when I attended the opening of The Addams Family. This year, The Addams Family seems to be playing all over the state, but I was pleased to see my own community production of this musical, which debuted on Broadway in 2010. With music and lyrics by Andrew Lippa and a book by Marshall Brickman and Rick Elice, the characters are of course based upon the characters made famous by the comic by Charles Addams and the TV series and movies that followed.
As a critic, I have had the opportunity to review shows than span the range from Broadway to amateur productions where most of the cast is making their stage debut — and everything in between. When I come to any show, I analyze what value the average audience member is getting for the price of admission. This inevitably will be far different for a community show than a professional production. The Clearfield production, directed by Catherine Washburn, has all ingredients that make for fantastic community theatre. With Washburn’s direction what stood out immediately was the ensemble of ancestors. Costume designer Camille Chapman made clever costume choices that allowed each of the ensemble member to use those costumes to create characters out of parts that have few to no lines. Some of my favorites were the flight attendant (played by Sheena Sylvester) and the caveman (played by Ben Stephen). Washburn had some of these ancestors wander a lot around the stage and audience during the show. The Clearfield Arts stage is quite small, and this could have backfired, but it did not. The ancestor characters had a bit of flare to their characters, but also pulled attention to the principal actors when that was essential.
Speaking of the principal actors, the standouts were Gavin Moyes as Fester and Tim Behiun as Lurch. Moyes had many scenes to shine in, and each of them became more and more of a delight, culminating in his love song to the Moon. Behiun as Lurch was more of a surprise, because his role is more of grunts and gestures with a bit of a spectacular surprise ending, but it was his facial expressions that won my heart over. Each time he made a new face, I was smiling in delight. The rest of the characters in the show were standard for a production of The Addams Family.
As is the case with many a small community theatre, opening night was full of technical mishaps. What I was impressed with was both how well the crew handled it and how even some improv entered into the mix. A scene between Wednesday (played by Lydia Opp) and Lucas (played by Xander Larsen) was executed magnificently while some challenges backstage were handled. However, I enjoyed the lighting design by Carson, Gracie, and Ryan Sabin. Their best design was in the number “Pulled,” where the lights change as Wednesday expresses different and unexpected emotions.
A surprising aspect of this production could only happen in a community theatre production is the small chorus of skeleton dancers, made up of younger members of the cast. Periodically, these children would perform dances choreographed by Candice Dallin during many scene changes. It made for a delightful look while anticipating the next scene.
I enjoyed and appreciated that the things that made me feel the show was absolutely worth the price of admission were not some breakout star talent, but more seeing my neighbors having fun being dead pirates and saloon girls. The Addams Family is not my favorite of Halloween show, but watching a friend walk around with a crystal ball guiding dead spirits while a dead flight attendant offers audience members pretzels may become one of my favorite theatre memories. And therein is the value of community theatre — and why it is important for a critic to attend and write about every level of theatre, from community up to professional productions. All levels of theatre are important. And all provide a strong level of entertainment when audience members know what to expect. Clearfield City has created a production of The Addams Family that lines up well with those expectations and provides excellent value for its community of performers, technicians, designers, and audience members.