Nancy Sasso Janis / On the second weekend where it felt like every high school within a 40 mile radius of Naugatuck was putting on their spring musical (and it didn't feel much like spring,) Nonnewaug High School in Woodbury presented their production of 'The Addams Family A New Musical Comedy.' Luckily I was able to squeeze in the Sunday matinée by the Nonnewaug Dramatic Society before it closed, and I was glad that I did.
The ghoulish musical has a book written by Marshall Brickman and Rick Elice with music and clever lyrics by Andrew Lippa. The students took on the creepiness with a playful spirit and their directors Walter Culup and student Maggie Gillette (Morticia) clearly encouraged them to shine. From the opening notes of "When You're an Addams," the audience was with them.
The choreography by Gemma Bauer (Grandma) and Ms. Gillette was very impressive, especially the tango production. I was also impressed with the quality of all of the costumes and liked the purple tone of Morticia's tight dress. Gomez had several changes, all of them character appropriate.
The mostly student orchestra was a small one but they sounded frighteningly powerful. TJ Thompson was on hand to play piano. The director played tenor sax. The scenery was quite large and was often enhanced with smoke and lightning. There were a couple of smoke and lighting errors, most of the technical aspects only made the scenes more effective.
All of the ten ghostly ancestors in the ensemble looked their part and danced well, but because they weren't wearing microphones it was hard to hear their singing. Freshman Matt Gilligan, appearing in his first show, was a tall Lurch who made us smile even as he did not. Ms. Bauer, a NHS junior, was a riot as the crazy grandmother of the clan (or is she?) Freshman Jacob Kelsey played Lucas Beinike, the "normal" boyfriend of Wednesday Addams and brought an earnest quality and a fine voice to the role. Beth Mieczkowski and Laura Contento shared the role of his mother Alice, while senior Michael Vollmer did a great job in the role of his father Mal.
In the Addams family (snap, snap) were some serious triple threats. Ms. Gillette was the perfect Morticia, with stage presence and a super singing voice that reminded both my son and me of Watertown High School's very talented Kristen VanDerlyn that I had seen the night before in 'Leader of the Pack.' This NHS senior hopes to pursue her dreams in acting at a NYC college of her choice.
Ian Bauer, a seventh grade student at Woodbury Middle School and the younger brother of Gemma, played young Pugsley. Junior Henry Heilshorn was the perfect choice for the role of Uncle Fester and managed to sing very well despite using the Fester voice. Kate Rupar had another strong voice in the role of Wednesday, who is growing up before her family's eyes. This NHS sophomore has been an actress and dancer for 11 years and it shows.
Full disclosure: The young actor who played Gomez is former first grade student of mine named Grant Herchenroether, now a junior at Nonnewaug. I could not have been more proud of this young man in only his second year of performing with the NHS drama club. He demonstrated maturity in the role of the Addams family patriarch, as well as a fine sense of comic timing. He sang, he danced (tango, no less) and appeared in the vast majority of the scenes.
I was quiet impressed with the overall quality of this production at a school that I visited for the first time. I look forward to seeing some of their future productions.
Pictured: Members of the cast of 'The Addams Family' at Nonnewaug High School Photo courtesy of Lisa Herchenroether