The undead are a truly gruesome bunch in the Abu Dhabi Choral Group’s version of The Addams Family Musical – with the family manor set in an Abu Dhabi park and Uncle Fester wearing a kandura.
It’s a far cry from the Legally Blonde musical they staged last year.
“That was all bubble-gum pink, with cheerleaders, fashionistas and blonde bombshells,” says The Addams Family Musical director Cameron Toman. “Now we have this family who love torture, spiders, skulls and the darkness.”
Cathryn Downing, who portrays the family’s zombie butler Lurch, says the goriness is more comical than scary.
“We picked this musical because of all the physical comedy – the whole family can enjoy the jokes, little ones included.”
This version is based on the original cartoons by American Charles Addams, rather than the 1960s TV show or The Addams Family movie directed by Barry Sonnenfeld (1991).
Wednesday Adams (played by Katy McCants Floyd) has grown up and fallen in love with a human, Lucas Beineke (Jordan Murray), who is coming with his parents to visit The Addams’s spooky mansion, which is located in an Abu Dhabi park.
Can the wacky Addams clan pretend to be normal for just one night? Maybe not, because adding to the chaos are 16 family ancestors who have risen from their graves “because you never forget your family”, says Downing.
Toman refers to the Addams’s ancestors as “dead cupids” because “they’re trying to make everyone fall in love. Because the living characters can’t see them, they hang over people doing funny things”.
White make-up is spray-gunned onto the undead, and wounds, made from home-made latex (tapioca, flour, gelatin, water and paint), are smeared on.
“A thicker mix makes for a great fake ear,” says American stage manager Claire Potts. Toman resisted the temptation to dress his ancestors in traditionally ghostly colours.
“A sea of black, white and grey on stage would be so boring,” he says. “I wanted to go a little deeper into what death would really look like.” So the undead wear the colourful clothes they died in, the wounds that killed them on full display, all spray-gunned with a mix of dirt and paint for that “straight-from-the-grave” look. In contrast, the Addams Family stick to black and white “with a little pop of colour”, while Uncle Fester, played by American-Jordanian Rami Al Shihabi, sports a black kandura and carries toys.
Toman, who is also set designer, refused to get creative inspiration from watching YouTube videos of the original Broadway musical. Instead, he read the script several times and dredged up visual ideas from his own imagination.
“I decided to create a life-size doll’s house on stage, so you can see the activity happening in its four rooms throughout the show,” he says.
“I wanted to create a fullness to the set and also make it voyeuristic. For example, Pugsley gets electrocuted and stays that way for the next three scenes.”
The finished set looks every bit the haunted house, but the thrifty director came up with ingenious ways to keep costs down. The skull wallpaper decorating the kids playroom-cum-torture room was homemade, using Photoshop. Grandma’s attic walls are covered with palm tree husks, and Toman scoured the city until he found palm fronds for the roof. He also came across “a gazillion mannequin heads”, he says.
“I thought, ‘This is so weird, we have to do something with these’. So we used them as skulls for the banisters, and to create a piece of art that looks like the heads are popping out of concrete. It’s really disgusting.”
• The musical is at Abu Dhabi Folklore Theatre, behind Al Wahda Mall, on Thursday, May 16, 19 and 20. Show starts at 7.30pm. For the performances on Friday the Thirteenth, at 2pm and 7.30pm, guests are invited to wear spooky outfits and take pictures inside open coffins and among gravestones in the foyer. Prizes will be awarded for the best costumes. Tickets cost Dh100 for adults (Dh110 online); children under 12 pay Dh75 (Dh80 online). Visit platinumlist.net and www.abudhabichoralgroup.com
Source: art & life