Paul VI will present 'The Addams Family' April 17-19

Whether you know the Addams family from the '90s movies, the '60s television show or the long-running New Yorker cartoons, you know that macabre is their shtick. Now imagine that dark humor on stage. Katherine Miller, theater teacher at Paul VI Catholic High School in Fairfax, can and will.

This year, Paul VI's spring production will be "The Addams Family," a Broadway show written by Andrew Lippa. Featuring an original cast with Nathan Lane as Gomez and Bebe Neuwirth as Morticia, the musical comedy premiered in Chicago in 2009 and hit New York in 2010 before touring nationwide through December 2011. Paul VI's version of "The Addams Family" will play April 17, 18 and 19.

Though unpopular with critics, "The Addams Family" - which included 722 performances - was a smashing success with audiences throughout its run. Miller expects the show will be just as beloved at Paul VI because it's "very funny" and "modern," yet "traditional" in terms of its storyline.

The plot centers on Gomez and Morticia's daughter Wednesday (she of Christina Ricci, ebony pigtail fame) growing up and falling in love and all the problems that ensue because of this affair split between two worlds. The main problem is that her beau is kind, smart and … "normal." To complicate matters, Wednesday pleads with Gomez to keep the romance a secret from Morticia when keeping a secret from his wife is something he's never dared do before.

"It's hilarious," said Miller. "It also is spooky, so that's a nice change. It's something different."

Joey Arzeno, 17, who plays Gomez, said that he's excited about the show because it's "quirky," "high energy" and "eccentric."

"Gomez has some of the funniest parts in the show," said Arzeno. "He has some pretty great one-liners."

Traditionally, Paul VI has staged classic musicals, such as "Guys and Dolls," "Bye Bye Birdie" and "Hello, Dolly!", which was Arzeno's first show.

What doesn't differ this year is Miller's commitment to her tried and true process, a process she said works because of involvement from the entire Paul VI community. Every year, spring production prep begins in the fall when the show for the upcoming semester must be decided.

"We go through a lot of scripts and we think a lot about the kids we have (available for particular roles)," said Miller.

Auditions and callbacks come after Christmas. Hopeful students memorize a monologue and a song to perform a capella to giver Miller "an idea of how they sound."

Once the show is cast, three-hour long rehearsals take place every day after school. On Saturdays, parents gather to wield hammers and build set pieces. Students not performing in the show may get involved by painting scenes, procuring props and practicing light and sound cues. The spring show generally runs one or two weeks after Easter, giving students extra time over Easter vacation to fine-tune before opening night. That's when Miller, who usually directs the shows, sits in the audience and lets the students run the show, from stage management to theater tech.

But, really, students prepare for the show year-round. Paul VI students can take theater as an elective all four years of high school, honing their skills as actors, with a few opportunities for writing and directing black box dramas. Every other year, Miller takes students to New York for three days to watch Broadway shows and meet a professional actor backstage.

While some Paul VI theater students study drama in college and try "making it" professionally (such as alum and Washington actor Chris Stinson), Miller said that grooming her students for a theater career is not her main goal.

"High school theaters are a very special place for students," said Miller. "I want to provide that kind of space because people did it for me. That's my biggest motivator. Paul VI theater is supportive and friendly. I want kids to try new things and take on challenges."

This year, that means recreating the oddball realm that first sprung from the mind of cartoonist Charles Addams during - no joke - the Great Depression.

Main cast

Gomez: Joey Arzeno

Morticia: Abby Rozmajzl

Wednesday: Caleigh Davis.

Fester: JJ Cummings

Grandma: Isabella Whitfield

Puglsey: Tommy Kelleher

Lurch: Wade Madden

Mal: Luke Knodt

Alice: Meghan Hubbell

Lucas: Nathaniel Smith

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© Arlington Catholic Herald 2015