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The Addams Family helps ETBU music and theatre embrace the darkness

March 5, 2020

They’re creepy and they’re kooky, they’re mysterious and spooky, and they came to Marshall in East Texas Baptist University’s special musical performance of The Addams Family, which was staged at the new Memorial City Hall Performance Center in downtown Marshall February 27 – March 1. The show boasted a University-record attendance of over 1,700 patrons throughout the run of the show.

Based on the zany 1960s sitcom, The Addams Family revolves around the iconic household with an affinity for the macabre, joined in this Broadway musical reimagining by their ancestors—ghosts of famous individuals from the past with connections to the Addams family. Despite their eccentricities, director and ETBU theatre professor Joshua Scott believes there is an abundance of truth to be found in the script and lyrics of this show.

“The controlling idea we championed from the beginning of the production process intentionally colors every single facet of this show: a family grows in faith when truth wins over deceit,” Scott said. “The story’s counter idea is both just as powerful and truthful as its controlling idea: doubt destroys relationship, community, and family when lies are championed over truth. These sentiments are echoed over and again in the Word of God.”

The themes of family, love, truth, and forgiveness are heavily evident in the musical, which ran on Broadway from 2010-2011. As such, Scott intended the rehearsal process to replicate the way professionals prepare for a show, putting a special emphasis on creating meaningful characters and discovering how they interact, how they respond, and how they come together as an ensemble cast.

“What made this show truly unique is the characters,” sophomore music education major Caitlynn Bonnett, who played Morticia, shared. “Every single character, including the ancestors, made the show interesting. Playing Morticia has stretched me as an actor. Tapping into how dark she is, was harder than I thought it would be, but director Scott encouraged each of us to make decisions as actors instead of making the decisions for us.”

ETBU students and faculty members in the cast and crew began rehearsing in October to bring the full-fledged production to the stage, which included eye-catching scenery, exquisite costumes, and original choreography combined with a spectacular, Tony Award-nominated score.

The Addams Family has one of the most complicated musical scores I’ve ever had to sing in a show,” junior theatre education major Elaina Berry said. “The choreography has also been a challenge for us, but there is nothing like the feeling of accomplishment you get when you conquer a challenge. I hope when people walked away from this performance, they were thinking about families and the love they share on a deeper level.”

The Addams Family marks ETBU’s first musical performance held at the recently renovated Memorial City Hall Performance Center. Built in 1907, the building that once accommodated city offices, courts, and a municipal auditorium was extensively refurbished to house a state-of-the-art auditorium and performing arts center, as well as the Harrison County Veterans Museum. According to junior theatre arts major Codi Arndt, taking on such a complicated production at a new venue marks a bold new direction for ETBU music and theatre—one he hopes will draw more attention to their hard work and talent, while attracting new talent to study in these departments at ETBU.

“By the time our story plays out, we as an artistic team hope it will be obvious to those watching that being courageous and searching for truth in spite of the darkness are Kingdom ideals worth fighting for,” director Scott concluded. “Ultimately, it’s just like the opening number states, ‘Family first, family last, and family by and by.’”