Spooky, kooky and fun, the Addams family and their shenanigans are coming to the 5Cs this weekend in musical form, streaming four shows from May 1 to 3.
The project began before the COVID-19 pandemic and was funded by Claremont McKenna College to expand performance art at CMC, according to executive producer Max Fine CM ’21. Wanting to produce a well-known musical that would excite students, Fine and his team initially chose “Mamma Mia.”
However, after the production could no longer be in person, the logistics became complicated: Unable to get the rights to stream “Mamma Mia,” the team had to pick a new musical. They chose “The Addams Family” — it was well-known and had a medium-sized cast in which everyone had an important role.
“The word we use to describe [‘The Addams Family’] is ‘kooky,’” Fine said. “It just has this element that even if there was some mistake in the editing or some things that didn’t quite make sense, it’s ‘The Addams Family,’ so it kind of fits anyways, because it’s not realism in that way. You can have things that are strange or out of the ordinary or different and off about it.”
Then, the team had to determine how to produce a virtual musical.
“The question became, ‘OK, what does remote production mean? How can we do this so that it’s fruitful for the people in the cast and the production team but then also makes a quality product?’” director Hershey Suri PO ’21 said.
Even with this uncertainty, many members of the 5C theater community were excited to be a part of the production.
“I couldn’t sign up fast enough,” Andrew Gewecke PO ’24, who plays Mal Beineke, said. “When I saw that there was going to be something [theater-wise], I almost didn’t care what caliber it was, because no matter what it was, it was just going to be great to meet people, people that I would probably get along with, that I would really enjoy knowing. And then you know, lucky me, not only were the people great, but the process was fantastic.”
The final product is a full-scale, 2 1/2 hour-long virtual musical created with green screens, several recording devices and cameras for each actor. Even though the actors filmed separately, the musical was edited to make it look like they were in the same room.
The process was not easy. It took a lot of trial and error to determine what practices worked best for the cast and crew.
“We filmed a 2 1/2 hour movie in six weeks. That, even when everybody is together, would be an absolutely incredible thing,” Fine said. “… Truly, it’s an innovative thing that we managed to pull off to bring this together.”
The actors each found themselves transformed into a one-person crew with equipment setup, makeup, costume design and lighting.
“It was very interesting to have to be able to put up my own set every time I wanted to film and move the lights around and do more tech than I was used to and more than I probably would have had to do on an in-person show,” Aviva Miller SC ’24, who plays Fester, said. “[In person and online shows] are both very positive experiences — they’re just very different.”
Additionally, they needed to adjust their acting styles to act effectively for a camera and a screen.
“When you’re acting for the camera, you’re just acting as though the camera is another person, so you’re expressing just enough for that space,” Vanessa Dalpiaz PO ’21, who plays Morticia Addams, said. “When you’re in a close-up, it’s all about the minute facial details; you don’t have to worry so much about being really expressive, because even the slightest movement in your eye makes a difference.”
To solve the problems posed by time zone differences, stage managers Youssef El Mosalami PO ’24 and Juliet Yousef PZ ’23 created a shared Google Calendar where each actor and crew member added their class times and immovable conflicts.
Although each cast and crew member worked tirelessly to perfect their craft, many uncertainties still remain about their final product.
“Everything that you’re about to see is the brilliance of every Claremont student involved in production coming together and making a phenomenal product.”—Hershey Suri PO ’21
“We don’t know how this is going to turn out … I guess it was always this feeling of ‘It’s not good enough; we need to do better.’ We knew that everyone was putting in their most, but sometimes with vocal recordings, they weren’t as perfect as they could be, or with dance choreography, sometimes the steps were misplaced,” El Mosalami said. “You can see those little errors in the show, but I think it’s what made it perfect.”
Even with these challenges, the cast and crew were thankful to be a part of this production.
“Everything that you’re about to see is the brilliance of every Claremont student involved in production coming together and making a phenomenal product … It’s literally all the students who decided to pour their talent and their time into making a quality product,” Suri said.
The cast and crew hope audience members leave the musical with smiles on their faces and an understanding of the themes of diversity portrayed in “The Addams Family.”
“We all come from these unique and wonderfully diverse backgrounds, and that those are things that can be embraced and that love of all kinds between all different people should be embraced,” Dalpiaz said.
“The Addams Family” streams May 1 to 3. To acquire free tickets, visit the production’s website.