Addams Family Values

Ghoulish classic goes modern with immersive animation

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Images by TBishPhoto

One hundred Hoboken public school students in kindergarten through 12th grade performed in this year’s all-district musical, “The Addams Family,” which debuted in May.

The show is based on Charles Addams’s single-panel cartoons, which depict a spooky American family with an affinity for all things macabre. The comedy follows 18-year-old Wednesday Addams who is about to marry a “normal boy,” Lucas Beineke. His parents are meeting the Addamses for the first time at the family dinner table.

“What appears to be normal isn’t always normal,” said Director Danielle Miller who heads the district’s theater department. “The family that is so off-put by the Addams family wind up learning about real love and themselves through this whole experience.”

A year in the making

PJ Benson was assistant director, Kristen Hoyt was music director, and Britteny Schruefer was choreographer. Kimberly Mara directs the K-2nd grade ensemble.

“This show is really funny,” Miller said. “It’s like when you watch a good movie, and there is adult humor, and the kids love it too.”

Miller chose The Addams Family after attending the International Thespian Festival in Nebraska with some of her students last June. One school’s performance used digital graphics in lieu of sets. Miller began brainstorming how the all-district musical could use similar technology.

She acquired the rights to perform the show, confident that it could accommodate a cast of 100, as well as digital animation and graphics.

They started fundraising and working with California-based Broadway Media to customize the digital animation, including mansion wallpaper, which was projected onto the auditorium’s walls where spiders weaved their webs. Walking suits of armor immersed the audience in the family mansion.

After 180 public school students auditioned in March, 100 were cast. Students had a hand in everything from set design and construction to playbill publication.

Playbill

Wallace Elementary fifth-grader Lucas Daly, who has been performing in district musicals since kindergarten, landed the role of Gomez Addams. He said he enjoys singing and acting and feels it’s a great experience to connect with people older and younger.

Mable Blishcke-Villavicencio, a seventh-grader at Hoboken Middle School, played his daughter, Wednesday Addams. It was her first time as a lead in a district musical.

“It was exciting and nerve-racking at some points, but throughout the whole thing it was mostly exciting because I got to go out of my comfort zone with certain things, like singing,” she said. Sixth-grader at Wallace Elementary School, Arcadio Torres, who played Mal Beineke, said musicals are fun and allow him to interact with students from all six of the district’s schools. It’s also a hobby he shares with his older sister.

Other cast members included Sofia Melfi as Morticia Addams, Miguel Cabelin as Uncle Fester, Charles W. Bird as Pugsley Addams, Riddhi Damani as Grandma, Ethan Ortiz as Lucas Beineke, and Zeniah Edmondson as Alice Beineke.

“It’s definitely a don’t-judge-a-book-by-its-cover type story,” Miller said. “It was a labor of love.”—Marilyn Baer