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Center Stage

Ghosts, ghouls and puppy love

5/27/2015

At a recent rehearsal for “The Addams Family,” the stage manager started things off with a weird warning.

“The Addams Family.” Des Moines Playhouse. May 29 - June 21. Wednesdays - Saturdays, 7:30 p.m.; Sundays, 2 p.m.

“The Addams Family.” Des Moines Playhouse. May 29 – June 21. Wednesdays – Saturdays,
7:30 p.m.; Sundays, 2 p.m.

“Some of you,” he said, “have got to watch out for those dangling chains.”

Ah, Addams Mansion, with its clanking chains and groaning ghosts. The set, by Alan Reynolds, will of course feature black and gray, the family colors since “New Yorker” cartoonist Charles Addams first dreamed up these amiable monsters. In the ’60s, these nutty ghouls moved to TV with an irresistible theme song, punctuated by finger-snaps. In the ’90s, they turned up in the movies, and not much later came the Broadway musical.

Yet the changes didn’t stop there. At the Playhouse, Dani Boal will handle the role of Morticia Addams, and she caught the show in New York. Yet as soon as she saw the script here in town, Boal realized it had gone through “serious changes.”

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The new version, she says, is “really snappy.”

Director Jim Sohre agrees and says the rewrite is “very tight.” The show’s creative team (Andrew Lippa on music, Marshall Brickman and Rick Elice on book) hammered out something more “fast-moving,” Sohre says, before they offered it to community theaters. The result is an “Addams Family” with “a lot of variety, with song and dance, with slapstick and supernatural effects.”

To make it work, Sohre needed a really good team. Coming from Las Vegas, a veteran musical director but a newcomer to the Playhouse, he wasn’t sure what he’d find.

“But I’ve been delighted with the choices we had,” he says. “I can see why this company has such a high reputation.”

Among his choices was Edward Corpus, who teaches opera at Drake but sounds most excited about going for laughs. As Gomez, he’s having a ball with his comic monologues.

“Finally, I get to show people that I’m a funny guy,” says Corpus. The show also offers a departure for Micheal Davenport, usually seen in harder-hitting dramas. “I’ve been knocked out by the passion people are bringing to this,” says Davenport.

I heard the same excitement about the two young leads. The plot turns on the love that springs up between Wednesday Addams and an ordinary guy, Lucas Beineke. For them to get together — cue the special effects. Yet everyone says Andrew Rubenbauer is about to follow up his Stagewest job as Ascher Lev with something even more impressive. As for the 14-year-old Waukee native Marisa Spahn, playing Wednesday, the others kept coming back to the word “fantastic.”

Rubenbauer and Spahn look forward to the “One Normal Night” duet that brings their characters together. The song gives us two kids pleading for something entirely ordinary, for their family not to scare off someone they care about, but under wildly different circumstances.

Things may seem scary and screwball, but they can be touching.

“Comedy is always rooted in reality — and what could be realer than a whack in the head?” says Sohre.

Overheard in the Lobby: “The Lion King” sold out its three-week run at the Civic Center, generating an estimated $14 million in city revenue. CV

 

John Domini is a published local author who has lived on both coasts and abroad and enjoyed theater everywhere. See www.johndomini.com.

 

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