So, I went back to Renton Civic Theatre to watch the last show of their season: The Addams Family, and I must say this was a much better experience than the last one I had. This production was the Renton Summer Teen Musical program that has been a part of the Renton community for 30 years. This program has young actors, aged 13-19, and has a strong teaching style of process over product. The goal of this organization is if you teach the process of acting correctly, the product will be successful. And I can say, it worked like a charm with The Addams Family. I really enjoyed it.
The acting, overall, was consistently good, with a few standouts and a few who missed the mark. Let’s start with the best performance of the night: Gomez, played by Dillon Engelhart. Mr. Engelhart’s Gomez is everything you want him to be: emotional, funny, charismatic and passionate! A family man above all else, his scenes with his wife and daughter were both spectacular. Brilliant line delivery, a wonderful accent, and strong character development made Gomez my favorite performance of the night!
Additionally, Wednesday, played by Jaidyn Lam was as deliciously menacing as any I’ve seen on stage or screen. Christina Ricci would have been proud of Ms. Lam’s performance. This kid’s voice is pitch perfect, and her commitment to the dark mind of Wednesday Addams was extremely impressive. And shifting back an forth between the traditional Wednesday we know and love to a Wednesday who is a smitten kitten reminded me of Anna Kendrick’s performance in CAMP. She was one scary little girl and I loved every minute of it. I look forward to seeing Ms. Lam on stage in more productions. She’s one to watch!
Lastly, the character of Lurch, played by Thomas Smith, absolutely stole the show. To see the moments this young actor creates on stage is worth the drive to Renton, I promise you! His commitment to this character, his ability to communicate so much through mostly grunting, well, it was reminiscent of Guardian’s of the Galaxy’s Groot, and his amazing performance brought me to tears. Well done, young man!!
On the flip side, the one role that left me disappointed was Morticia, played by Sam Hefford-Anderson. There were moments of the Morticia as she’s meant to be played, all cool and collected, full of power and poise, with just enough scary edge to keep all around her in line. But sadly, those moments were few and far between. Ms. Hefford-Anderson’s performance was inconsistent throughout the show, with her version of Morticia being far too animated and bubbly for the dark matriarch. Although, I will say, with her lithe, willowy frame draped in a stunning black gown, her long dark hair parted perfectly down the middle framing her pale face and red lips brought Morticia physically to life before me, and she was stunning to behold. Ms. Hefford-Anderson is a strong vocalist and dancer, so if her acting skill would get up to the same level, this kid would be one hell of a triple threat.
As for the production, Nick Hyett-Schnell, an alumni of this program, made his directorial debut with this show under the mentorship of Vincent Orduna. Together these two men put together a stunning production, my favorite moment of which is the opening tableau! People, you must see this! The moment where the right actors, in the right costumes (expertly done by Jentra Smith), in the perfect light (design by Peter King) was so spectacular that the audience burst into applause at the sight of it! And that is how the show started, setting the tone for the rest of the show to continue to delight! So many more moments impressed me throughout the show, that there are too many to name. Just go see it and enjoy for yourself!
Vocally, the cast sounded fantastic, under the music direction of John Kelleher. The music was great, the harmonies were tight, and the pacing was right where it needed to be. Not only did Mr. Kelleher expertly conduct the performers, he also conducted the audience beautifully during the curtain call as we all snapped along to the famous theme song. Bravo! Choreography by Stephanie Graham was hit and miss for me. She definitely did wonders with the ensemble, I loved every group number performed throughout the show. There’s a tango that left me nonplussed, but other than that, it was really wonderful to see choreography done well for a group of kids with different dance strengths. Ms. Graham showcased each cast member beautifully, and I hope to see more choreography from her in the future.
Technically, however, this show was a mess! The light cues were spastic and distracting. The audience was left in the dark for an awkward amount of time during the overture which set the technical tone for the show and sadly it never got better. These amazing kids, working their asses off on that stage only to have lights go out on them before the song/scene was over, to have light cues changing on them early here or late there were so obvious it was embarrassing. There’s a bit with the moon that left poor Fester in a lurch (no pun intended), and so many actors were halfway through speeches or songs when weird light changes would happen. I felt for the performers, it was just so jarring to watch, but kudos to the actors for not looking thrown. Additionally, there were sound issues with some mics, that I hope will get fixed before the next show. However, someone should bring a venti sized Redbull in for the light board operator and the stage manager to wake them up and ensure that cues are on point going forward, because these kids deserve better than what they got on opening night.
Overall, though, this production is wonderful, and my hope is the tech issues will go away as the run goes forward. And even if they don’t, the exceptional talent of this cast and the dedication of the artistic production staff should be seen by everyone who can make it! These young actors were taught the acting process brilliantly creating a wonderful product, and those of us who go to experience opening night left raving about this show. I even heard an elderly gentleman in the lobby after the show say to Mr. Orduna, “I am a season ticket holder, and we always bring friends to shows here and we all agreed this is the best show we’ve seen here in a long time.” And I couldn’t agree with him more! This show had the audience all loving what it means to be and Addams! Congrats to all involved on a stellar show!
Addams Family runs this weekend and next, and I highly encourage you to go see it! Ticket and show information can be found on Renton Civic Theatre’s website.
This one gets a resounding applause and a ‘Bravo!’ shouted to the cast as they take very well deserved bows, hopefully before the lights go out on them too early to enjoy it.
Ciao for now,