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'Addams Family' opens at Peoria Players

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Altogether ooky is probably a pretty good way to describe the core characters in “The Addams Family,” once you see the cast in the Peoria Players Theatre production in costume and makeup.

Director Travis Olson doesn’t want it any other way. “They are different from you and me, but we would be different from them. So really, who is to say what normal is? Don’t judge a book by its cover, you know?”

That is basically the theme of the musical based on the once-popular television show by the same name. It opens at the theatre at University and Lake streets at 7:30 p.m. on Friday and continues through Oct. 18.

Olson has taken to directing shows that are a little more out there than the typical love-story musical. His last show at Peoria Players was “Shrek The Musical” in April 2014. But that’s not what drew his interest to the creepy and the kooky in “The Addams Family.”

“I just liked the show from the first time I saw it. Then, when I saw it later after it had been tweaked and improved, I was in. I wanted to do it so I submitted it. I’m glad they asked me to direct it,” he said.

This musical is filled with quirky stuff that go beyond the characters of Gomez and Morticia, their children Wednesday and Pugsly, their Uncle Fester, Grandmama Addams, Lurch the butler and Cousin Itt. Such as the myriad of hair extension sewn together to form the costume of Cousin Itt, or the hand that lives as Thing.

Of course, Olson says there are some surprised audiences will have to wait to see. “I can’t give everything away,” he said, including the identity of the actor portraying Grandma. “We want that to be a surprise.”

Audiences who come to see-um will be struck immediately by the set, which is itself eerie, by design. But how it got here is an interesting tale.

Olson saw “The Addams Family” at the Mercury Theatre in Chicago, where it won a prestigious Jeff Award. He called officials there to ask where he might be able to find certain items contained in the set and was invited to meet with them. When he got to Chicago, he learned the set – which was in several interchangeable pieces – was going to be thrown out two days after the show closed. “They asked me if I wanted it. I said yes and the day before it was going to be trashed I rented a truck and went up there and got it,” he said.

It is a cool set. “We love it. I don’t know what we’re going to do with it when we’re done, though. I hope we keep part of it, at least,” he said.

While he is proud of the set, Olson said he is most proud of his cast, a mixture of community theatre veterans and newcomers.

The cast is headed by George Maxedon as Gomez. Maxedon, who portrayed Shrek for Olson as well as the monster in Eastlight Theatre’s production of Young Frankenstein a year ago, is making what may be his last appearance on a Peoria stage because of a job change involving him and his wife. “I hope he comes back some day because he is so talented and so much fun to work with. He is great as Gomez,” Olson said.

Morticia is portrayed by Michelle Rouland, on stage for the first time since playing Velma in “Chicago” more than three years ago. “She is Morticia,” Olson said. “And the banter that goes on between Michelle and George on stage is great. It really is quite fun to watch them play off of each other.”

Madison Boedecker portrays Wednesday, Kaden Micklos is Pugsley, Josh Shepherd portrays Uncle Fester and Austin Shaw is Lurch. Gareth Mitchell and Ethan Foti split time in the hot and confining costume of Cousin Itt.

Other characters include Lucas Beineke, portrayed by Adam Raso, and his parents Alice and Mal, portrayed by Kellen Nitsch and Clifford Clark, respectively. Lucas is Wednesday Addams’ boyfriend and the conflict in the story comes when she brings him and his parents to the Addams home for dinner to announce upcoming nuptials.

Other characters are said to be Addams family ancestors who make appearances throughout the show. In the Peoria Players production those ancestors bring to mind other characters from the current season, including Atticus Finch and Scout from “To Kill a Mockingbird” and a saloon girl from “Best Little Whorehouse in Texas.”

The music was directed by Nicole Fauser and the choreographer was Mariah Thornton. Songs in the show include “When You’re an Addams,” “Where Did We Go Wrong,” “What If,” “Full Disclosure” and “Crazier Than You.”

Almost all the costumes were made for the show by a crew headed by Sue McGrew and Mary Keltner.

Tickets for “The Addams Family” are $20 for adults and $13 for children and can be purchased online at or ordered by calling (309) 688-4433.

Show times are 7:30 p.m. on Friday and Saturday, Oct. 9 and 10, Thursday-Saturday Oct. 15-17, and at 2 p.m. on Sunday Oct. 11 and Sunday Oct. 18.

About the Author
Paul Gordon is the editor of The Peorian after spending 29 years of indentured servitude at the Peoria Journal Star. He’s an award-winning writer, raconteur and song-and-dance man. He also went to a high school whose team name is the Alices (that’s Vincennes Lincoln High School in Indiana; you can look it up).