My youngest daughter is deep into rehearsals for a production of a family-friendly version of the Broadway hit, The Addams Family. The musical is based on the original American comics by Charles Addams about a fictional family who, according to Wickipedia, 'are a satirical inversion of the ideal American family; an eccentric, wealthy clan who delight in the macabre and are unaware, or do not care, that other people find them bizarre or frightening.' The comics were published at intervals in The New Yorker between 1938 and 1988 when Charles Addams died. Films, TV series, video games and the above mentioned musical have all been based on the comics. Charles Addams said of his created family:
Gomez and Pugsley are enthusiastic. Morticia is even in disposition, muted, witty, sometimes deadly. Grandma Frump is foolishly good-natured. Wednesday is her mother's daughter. A closely knit family, the real head being Morticia - although each of the others is a definite character - except for Grandma, who is easily led. Many of the troubles they have as a family are due to Grandma's fumbling, weak character. The house is a wreck, of course, but this is a house-proud family just the same and every trap door is in good repair. Money is no problem.
My daughter is double-casted (meaning she shares her alternating roles with another young actress) as Grandma and as a 1960's flight attendant, or stewardess as they called them in those days, in the chorus of undead ancestors. The production is on a large scale and will have a two week run in the new, and quite swanky, cultural centre in our nearby, mid-sized city which is also home to the school of performing arts which she attends for classes and rehearsals. I have not read the script, but I have a skeleton of the story thanks to my daughter's general enthusiastic chattiness, as well as a good idea of the various songs and dances - she practices in the house, of course. We have, thankfully, a room with a door on it downstairs where she can feel free to make all kinds of delightful vocal noise, and a large square of plywood on which she hones her tap sequences.
When our girl first began to practise her parts she would only do so when we were out. She has come a long way. Now she gleefully shows us videos of her and her castmates working on their routines which the director has filmed and posted on a secret Youtube channel, and eagerly demonstrates her dance moves. The school of performing arts is her second home and she loves everyone there and everything about it. Kids aged twelve to eighteen attend the school's Mainstage program and kids from tiny tots on up take all kinds of other classes and programs. Our daughter started with a couple of summer camps and then took two year-long programs before she asked to join the Mainstage program. Even though the program is a huge commitment from the kids and their parents, we agreed. Her sister was leaving home last September to attend college and our youngest would be the only one home during the school semesters. In order to help her forget how much she missed her siblings we helped her with her audition for the musical and enrolled her in the program. Little did I know how much I, too would become involved.
No, I will not be acting, singing and dancing in The Addams Family. I will be helping backstage as part of the production crew. I am learning new words like 'fly system' which are weighted ropes that are pulled with a certain amount of skill and muscle to move the set pieces up and down on horizontal pipes hung from the rafters above the stage, and 'main rag' which is the big, red velvet curtain which can be used to hide more involved set changes or to indicate the opening or closing of the performance. Tomorrow evening I will be learning what I need to do backstage for the entire show. I will have to be up past midnight many nights from now until the end of the show. Considering I am generally in bed by ten o'clock I will have to drink some extra coffee in the afternoons so I do not nod off in the cozy dark of the backstage area during the show. Then, we have 'cue to cue' rehearsals on the weekend, followed by two dress rehearsals on Monday and Tuesday, preview shows on Wednesday and Thursday, and then opening night on Friday.
I am glad I am not one of the performers. During our safety tour of the backstage area of the theatre the other night, I faced the rows and rows of seats from the stage and imagined them filled with people awaiting and expecting the performers' best. I confess I gasped at the thought. But the kids? They seem fearless. Those who catch the acting bug seem to thrive on performing in front of crowds. My daughter has certainly caught the bug, but even she has confessed to being a little scared and nervous. She has never performed for such a large audience, not since her elementary school choir shows when the audience was filled mainly with parents. She is also tremendously excited to take the past four months' practise and rehearsal and preparation and throw it at an audience. For my part, I merely hope I can support her and the other kids by doing whatever it is I have to do backstage properly. I will take a break to watch at least once from the audience, though. My husband and I are going to attend the opening night performance and gala.
Watching this video from the original Broadway production has stirred the magic for me and I can't wait to see my daughter and all her friends in their roles. As we say in the theatre biz, 'Break a leg!'