JBU seeks humanity in ‘creepy, kooky’ ‘Addams Family Musical’ Oct. 27

JBU seeks humanity in ‘creepy, kooky’ ‘Addams Family Musical’ Oct. 27

“Wednesday Addams is so iconic and yet strangely nuanced — especially in this show,” says Madison Cartmill, who portrays the character this Halloween season at John Brown University. “She’s 18 in the musical, and I’m trying to keep some of her iconic mannerisms while also having her seem older than she’s normally portrayed.”

“The Addams Family franchise is having quite a cultural moment right now because of the success of the Netflix show ‘Wednesday,’” agrees Liesl M. Dromi, chairman of the Department of Music & Theatre at JBU. “The musical has been on my shortlist for a long time, and this year the timing felt perfect to bring it to JBU. The musical is a very enjoyable adaptation of the Addams Family universe: both the music and the book are sharp and witty with a delightfully goofy sense of humor, and the pacing is refreshingly tight — no wasted space here!”

Like Wednesday, “the characters are so specific and have lived a thousand lives before,” Dromi says. “The points of reference are endless, which is a gift for me and for the actors to have so much great reference material.

“The challenge then is to represent these characters in a fresh way, beyond the two dimensional quality of the original cartoons and the 1960s TV show. To that end, I have encouraged the students to seek out the deeper humanity of the characters and situations, and to bring that humanity to the forefront.”

The premise of the musical, which debuted on Broadway in 2010, is that Wednesday has fallen in love — with a very normal young man from a respectable family. What could possibly go wrong when he and his parents are invited to dinner?

“This show did not do well on Broadway, but in regional theaters it has had quite the cult following and success,” says Dromi. “I think this is because of the show’s enduring themes: family, truth and love. And of course the wacky, lovable, iconic characters.”

Wednesday, says Cartmill, is “dark, deadpan, and gothic, but ultimately just wants her parents’ approval and validation.”

“I hated the idea of stopping theater in high school, so I decided to audition for Wednesday in April of my senior year,” she explains. “I love the show’s music and was praying to at least get ensemble, but was ecstatic when I got the cast list.

“I’m currently double majoring in music (with a vocal emphasis) and Integrated Marketing Communications,” she adds. “Studying music is insanely helpful when it comes to musical theater, though marketing is also strangely helpful.”

“Many of our students in musical theater productions have professional goals in the performing arts and are here at JBU to study music or theater or a related academic field,” Dromi explains. “Some students in these productions are studying in fields outside of the performing arts and enroll in these productions because they see the value of participation from a different perspective.

“But all of our students in musical theater — regardless of career goals — build a supportive community, develop their creativity and expression, and grow in empathy through these productions,” she says. “Musical theater is art of great magnitude and complexity that can only exist when all work together toward the common goal, and when that happens, both the process and the end product are deeply transformative and healing.

“I hope our audiences are charmed and delighted, but also that they leave the theater with a deeper feeling of connection and love to those around them, especially those that may be different from them,” Dromi concludes.

“I’ve been involved in theater off and on for 14 years, and it truly is my happy place,” adds Cartmill. “It brings me so much joy. I genuinely hope that audiences enjoy the heartwarming comedy and walk away feeling nostalgic.”



‘The Addams Family Musical’

WHEN — 7:30 p.m. Oct. 27-28 & Nov. 2-4

WHERE — Berry Performing Arts Center at John Brown University in Siloam Springs

COST — $7-$15

INFO — jbu.universitytickets.com

Categories: Theater