A back-to-the-’90s theme looms large over the Ladysmith drama program this month.
Not only will the stage be filled with the deadpan humour of one of that decade’s staple comedy franchises, The Addams Family, the fun will be fed by the directorial hand of a former student who cut her thespian teeth on that same stage two decades ago.
Aisha Allsop directs The Addams Family Musical, a Broadway adaptation featuring Charles Addams’ drolly morbid creations. It opens Thursday in the school’s multi-purpose room.
Allsop takes the reins of the school’s annual production from longtime LSS drama stalwart Bill Taylor. She was Aisha Petrak when she was a mainstay of the LSS stage. She’s done her share of community theatre in the years since, but this project marks her return to LSS.
“It’s been different. They are used to going with Bill,” she said. “These kids have been working with Bill for five years. I have to give them kudos for learning a whole new set of rules.”
Allsop is not doing it alone, rather as leader in a directorial team.
Good friend Geoff Cram, a drama colleague since her high school days, is handling the sets as artistic director. Husband Rod Allsop (see sidebar) is in charge of the music. Candace Gibson is directing the vocals. And Taylor — who simply needed a break from the exhausting job of overseeing the school musical — is the technical director.
The plot — buoyed with great lines and a rich list of songs — is simple.
Unsmiling Wednesday Addams (Christina Youngren) has grown up and fallen in love. When the time comes to introduce her unusual clan to the more conventional family of her boyfriend Lucas (Daniel Kelly) a predictable clash of cultures ensues.
What was less predictable to Allsop was the lack of familiarity her cast had with the characters. When she was their age, Gomez, Morticia, Uncle Fester and Lurch were cultural icons. Today, when you mention the Addams Family to a teen, the response is mostly blank stares.
Today though, there is a little thing called Youtube, which offered the young actors a crash course in exactly what they missed.
Youngren, in particular, has closely observed the nuances of gloomy Wednesday, and, Allsop said, taken a real leadership role in the production. She’s just one leader in a senior drama class that is ready to graduate with a bang.
“Our Gomez, Sam Street, he leads the class,” she said. “It’s a very tight group of seniors.”
Pre-production has been plagued by a few actors dropping out resulting in a carousel of roles, but Allsop is confident everything is coming together nicely. The mood was light and filled with laughter when the Chronicle watched the cast run through rehearsals two weeks prior to opening night.
The show opens with a May 21-23 run and closes with another three shows May 28 to 30. Doors open at 6:30 p.m. for 7 p.m. curtain.
And despite the lack of knowledge the younger generation has about the Addams Family, she’s confident they will join the older audience in thoroughly enjoying the show.
Like Shakespeare, some universal themes just resonate through the years.
“There’s torture, sword fighting, there’s tango dancing, zombies coming up from the grave,” she said. “Everything kids could want.”
Family with strings attached
Audiences watching the antics on stage during The Addams Family Musical will probably be moving to the music.
But they should not be taking it for granted.
It might sound as polished as something pre-recorded and running through the PA system, but it will actually be created real time backstage courtesy a hidden 13-piece band.
Rod Allsop conducts a group of students augmented by a handful of professional-calibre musicians volunteering their time.
Director Aisha Allsop said the ensemble, which includes stringed instruments like cello, bass and violin adds enormous depth to the production.
“We had a practice and it just puts goosebumps on your arms,” she said.