‘The Addams Family’ at CASA is to Die For

Review: CASA’s production is strong bid for Outstanding Show in Apollo Awards season

The Addams Family at CASA is to Die For

Caleb Steindel, News Editor/Staff Writer

Intro

Since the outset of the COVID-19 pandemic, live theatre has suffered greatly. Shows closed mid-run, casts and crews lost jobs, and musical junkies resigned themselves to Disney+ recordings and YouTube bootlegs. Now, though, live theatre is almost in full swing; once again, the Central Pennsylvania scene is alive and well.

Each year prior to 2020, the Hershey Theatre hosts the annual Apollo Awards, a Tony’s-style awards show for high school productions in the area. With the Apollo Awards returning in May for the first time since 2019, I’ll be reviewing many of the Central PA high school musicals that have registered to be evaluated. I’ll also be adding my own predictions.

Hershey Theatre Apollo Awards Facebook page

Hershey Theatre Apollo Awards website

Review #5:  Capital Area School for the Arts

Here in a flash, gone in a blink. As quickly as it arrived, high school musical season is almost over. With only a handful of shows remaining, we’re starting to get a well-rounded picture of what this year’s Hershey Theatre Apollo Award nominees will look like. But, this year’s shows get better each week, meaning that this year’s Outstanding Show winner may have not even been performed yet. 

But Capital Area School for the Arts has certainly submitted their own strong bid for that category – and several others, too.

As their name suggests, CASA in Harrisburg is a performing arts high school first and foremost, and one would think that due to their theatrical focus they would be rolling in Apollo nominations year after. But, that hasn’t often been the case, as they have only received one nomination for their spring musical since 2017. That’s all about to change, though, because their performance of The Addams Family brought the entire package: beautiful vocals, well-timed humor, energy, and a brilliant retelling of a spooky classic.

The story of The Addams Family is a comedy wrapped in a thin layer of horror. Themes of family, romance, and independence are interspersed with a plethora of pop culture references and punny jokes. The story centers around Wednesday Addams, a teenage girl who has rejected her family’s dark traditions by falling in love with a boy from a mostly normal family. Gomez Addams, Wednesday’s father, finds out and is forced into the difficult decision of telling his wife about Wednesday’s relationship or keeping his daughter’s secret. As the family gradually discovers Wednesday’s secret, everything comes to a head at a big dinner gathering of the Addams and the family of Lucas, Wednesday’s boyfriend. The secondary characters also have their own little side adventures, as little brother, Pugsley tries to sabotage his sister’s relationship and Uncle Fester forms a relationship of his own. 

Capital Area’s production was performed at the Whitaker Center for Science and the Arts, a gorgeous, vintage building with a stage that can really add to a show’s aesthetic when used properly. The actors used their space effortlessly and executed their simple choreography well. The cast is strong from Gomez all the way down to the last ensemble member, a fact that few high school shows this year can boast. The dancing is not complicated, but that just means the actors cannot rely on flashy choreography – it’s all about the characters and the vocal blend.  

One of CASA’s distinct twists on this classic high school show came in the form of the male lead, Gomez Addams, being played by a girl, Amani Weary. Admittedly, the character’s vocal range is difficult for a female, even for one who’s an alto. There are certainly instances where Gomez’s range carries Weary below her vocal register and she falls into a sort of speak-singing. But other than that, the gender swap is virtually unnoticeable. Weary plays an incredibly convincing family patriarch with enough goofiness to keep the audience laughing and a polished singing voice when she is able to showcase her range. Gomez is a passionate family man who adores his wife, and Weary puts together a captivating performance that carries the show. Rayne Houser plays Gomez’s wife, Morticia, and she is the absolute perfect foil to her husband’s hilarities. Houser is aloof and composed, and it’s clear she wears the pants in the family by how she brings Morticia to life. She’s attractive and determined but has some underlying fears about her family coming apart. Houser easily navigates those conflicting personalities and she walks the fine line between seductive wife and protective mother. She has a good voice that fits the character well, and while she might not be the most talented vocalist, she is still an excellent singer.

The remaining family members are each brought to life by a supporting cast of talented young performers. Lei Bowser, who plays Wednesday Addams, is not only the best singer in the show, but she delivered one of the best performances of any high schooler this season. Bowser is a vocal powerhouse, and her control and vibrato are well beyond her years. Her line delivery is impeccable, and her dry sense of humor never ceases to elicit a chuckle. “Crazier Than You” is probably the best song in the show. Outstanding Supporting Actress is not an impossibility for her! Will O’Conner plays Pugsley, and his character is encapsulated in one desire – he wants Wednesday to stop dating so that she can torture him more. O’Conner is the perfect combination of a devoted little brother and a schemer at the same time. Kayla Lawson as Grandma and Gilad Goldman as Lurch don’t get the most amount of stage time, but they have their characters down to a T. Lawson is the quintessential quirky oddball, and Goldman is the strange Zombie butler that somehow holds a room by merely moaning and groaning. Both Lawson and Goldman don’t offer much nuance to their characters, but in fairness to them, there really isn’t much depth to explore. Finally, Uncle Fester is played by Fletcher Smith. Smith has a good voice, if not a great one, and it works well for the character’s awkward, weird, and comedic personality. Smith acts as the narrator, too, and he keeps audience members engaged and enraptured from start to finish. 

The somewhat normal Beineke family contrasted terrifically with the creepiness of the Addams. Moses Handy, who plays Wednesday’s love interest, Lucas, has a beautiful voice that sadly isn’t shown off that often due to his limited singing opportunities. He’s a calm, levelheaded presence. He exemplifies the theme of young love through his internal struggles and it is easy for the audience to sympathize with him. His parents, Mal and Alice, are played by Joshua Horn and Sarah Roland. They are a great representation of a picture-perfect American couple until Alice drinks a truth potion that exposes her for who she really is. Horn and Roland have great chemistry and their voices blend effortlessly well together. Their characters are often underrated, but their performances are unforgettable. 

Don’t let the strength of the show’s leads distract from the ensemble! Creepy, kooky, mysterious, and spooky, there isn’t a weak link among the ancestors. Not once are they out of character, and they even draw some attention away from the leads from time to time. The show also includes a few featured performers who are incredibly talented dancers. Every ensemble ancestor adds to the scary atmosphere of the entire production. 

As for the rest of the show’s creative elements, they were each stunning in their own right. In particular, the set and lighting design was out of this world. The show’s backdrop consisted of a constantly changing digital backdrop that dictated each scene. The details were impeccable, right down to the cobwebs and falling pictures inside the house and the stormy weather outside. The Addams Family Home was a beautiful gothic, Victorian-esque set-piece with tasteful and believable props. The element of creepiness was evident in the interior design, but it was subtle enough to not be overpowering. The costume choices were satisfactorily dark and foreboding for the Addams Family, and the Beineke family costumes provided the perfect happy contrast. The costumes weren’t incredibly creative, but The Addams Family doesn’t necessarily allow for a ton of flexibility. CASA’s costumes were perfect, right down to the pale makeup on Morticia’s face. Lastly, the most intriguing and well-used element of the production was the combination of lights and fog. The lighting design by Assorted Studios is utterly brilliant. The dark, mysterious, foreboding color scheme of green and purple is a perfect choice, especially in the opening number, “When You’re An Addams.” A fog machine is used tastefully throughout and creates some incredible effects when the fog hits the colorful lights.

Capital Area School for the Arts stepped up its game in 2022. Over the past several years, their musicals have not exactly been competitive at the Apollo Awards, but The Addams Family promises to give them an excellent shot at several nominations. Strong leads with great vocals, an enthusiastic ensemble, and a cutting-edge, bold collection of technological elements all work together to produce one of the best shows of the high school musical season. CASA will certainly get some nods in 2022.

 

APOLLO NOMINATION PREDICTIONS

Outstanding Musical

Outstanding Lead Actress in a Musical: Amani Weary as Gomez Addams

Outstanding Supporting Actor in a Musical: Fletcher Smith as Fester

Outstanding Supporting Actress in a Musical: Lei Bowser as Wednesday Addams

Honorable Mention for Outstanding Lead Actress n a Musical: Rayne Houser as Morticia Addams