Family of the Year: Troupe #6198 goes darker and bolder with The Addams Family


Grandma Addams (Rem Aitbouchireb) shows her private stash of herbs and remedies to Pugsley Addams (Kurtis Deschamps)

Darkness fills the room. A thick fog covers the floor and a low light appears slowly. Gravestones adorn centre stage along with spirits dressed in white. A lone figure, Gomez Addams, makes his way through the throng of spirits, the Ancestors. Dressed in a smart suit, he says with a thick Italian accent, “Once a year, we gather beneath our Family Tree…” As he speaks, what was an ominous graveyard quickly became a large musical number as the Ancestors burst into song and dance.

Once again, Cadre Kerr delivers a brilliant performance, this time, another musical.

“With the success of Avenue Q, only one thing shows clearly: Cadre Kerr can pull off a h*** of a musical production at any time,” said senior Tadeo Vivero, who plays Gomez.

And so it seemed that the theatre director, Julie Ryan, had not misplaced her faith in musicals. After the huge success of Avenue Q: School Edition two years ago, there was less apprehension from the theatre troupe about pulling off yet another high-end production.

And high-end it will be indeed. The director had wanted to do the play for a long time now, but because of its complexity, she had put it off until she could assemble the perfect cast and crew. A dark comedy full of mystery and mayhem, it tells of the misadventures of a macabre, aristocratic family. On the whole, The Addams Family will demand higher expectations in terms of expenses and efforts.

“This wasn’t as bad as Avenue Q, but we still spent a lot,” said Toni Maness, Ryan’s theatre assistant. “We spent the most on makeup and costumes, I believe.”

The Addams Family, so far, has proven to be more expensive than past musical productions of Cadre Kerr. Due to the higher demand in quality, the theatrical technicians required more professional equipment. Old tech habits had to be abandoned in order to adapt to the new atmosphere the play exudes. For example, a brief walk through the makeup and costume rooms would quickly show a monochromatic theme in cosmetics and wardrobe.

“I know makeup for this show has exceeded at least $200. We’ve had to purchase bald caps, wigs, prosthetic noses,” said junior Dara Hall, co-crew head of the makeup department for the production. “I can’t forget about making the dead, yet alive for a moment, people look pale and deadly, not like clowns with the white makeup!”

The level of dancing had to be taken up a notch from previous musicals. The play calls for more advanced techniques and Ryan’s experience in choreography could not cover the range of dances that were required.

“Ryan hired this crazy, but brilliant choreographer, Darryl [Yarbrough], for a lot of money to teach us how to do a couple of tangos and other complicated dance routines,” said sophomore Kathryn Negri, who plays one of the Addams Family Ancestors.

To junior Khang Nguyen, co-crew head of the set crew, money was not the only difficulty in producing the play.

The Foreigner’s set [in 2013] was not as crazy as this one,” he said. “We have two rotating doors, a curved balcony, and a Gothic gate to design. Everything had to be done with an elegant touch which isn’t what set is known for.”

However, much of this burden has been eased off the troupe’s back with the arrival of a new assistant director, Joey Watkins. He first worked with Cadre Kerr in last year’s district musical, Beauty and the Beast. Even with Maness’ help, Ryan still worried about the intricacy The Addams Family would require. She had confided in Watkins her search for an assistant director with a skill set in choreography and singing, and this year the campus had the funds to add the position. Having previously worked with her for years and fitting all of her criteria, Watkins moved from his position as theatre director at Elsik to Kerr.

“My first working experience with the Kerr kids was on the Beauty and the Beast set,” he said. “They have a great work ethic and were never afraid to jump in and try new things.”

Many of the troupe members have quickly adapted to Watkins’ presence. Because he devoted his time and efforts to tech theatre, Ryan and Maness were able to direct more of their focus towards the cast. So far, he has proven to be a match for the black box’s notoriously messy work areas.

“He’s a blessing,” said freshman Khanh Nguyen, a member of the props crew. “He completely organised the props room in two hours! Apparently, it has always been messy, but it’s a totally different room now.”

The assistant director bought a wide range of new equipment for the crews, most of which changed their poor work habits.

“Everything we did in the past used to be so risky,” said Nguyen (junior). “If we needed to cut something, we’d balance it on one of the benches and had someone sit on it and prayed that the jig saw or whatever didn’t touch them. But now that Watkins got us these new clamps that hold the wood pieces to our work tables, we don’t have to do that anymore.”

But more than just overseeing set construction and theatrical properties, Watkins is also a force to be reckoned with when it comes to the art of acting.

“I was having trouble trying to be angry for my class play,” said senior Ana Espaderos, one of the Thespians. “I don’t know what he did, but he kept talking to me and somehow, I got angry and pushed this girl who I was supposed to harass for the play. And it’s hard to get me angry, just saying, but that just goes to show how amazing Watkins is.”

So far, most of the troupe is excited for the new changes. With both a new faculty member and completely different season theme, tackling The Addams Family seemed like a daunting task.

“I’m a little nervous because we’ve never attempted anything like this before,” said sophomore Alex Parson, a member of the props crew. “This isn’t a school edition or anything, it’s the real thing. But I have high hopes for it because we’re so much stronger as a troupe now.”

The Addams Family will have a total of six performance nights. Straight plays typically have four performances while musicals have five. Because of the large number of ticket requests, Ryan felt it was best to include an extra night for the dark comedy. The dates are October 24, October 25, October 27, October 30, October 31, and November 1. Because October 31 will be a matinee performance, it will begin at 2:30 pm.

Though the play is dark, crude, and downright chaotic in nature, it has brought together the troupe members, both new and old alike.

“I’ve always wanted to join theatre, but I was too shy to,” said senior Elizabeth Chau, a member of the props crew. “But it’s my last year and I wanted to have fun and I’m so glad I joined.”

Check out The Addams Family commercials here .