The Addams Ladies Who Lunch

Special Features   The Addams Ladies Who Lunch Playbill spends an afternoon with the women of The Addams Family.

Bebe Neuwirth and Carolee Carmello in The Addams Family.
Bebe Neuwirth and Carolee Carmello in The Addams Family. Photo by <i>The Addams Family</i> stars Bebe Neuwirth

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They're not spooky or ooky. But they are a bit kooky (more on that later), and definitely talented, and certainly hilarious.

Playbill spends an afternoon with the women of The Addams Family. by Seth Rudetsky They're not spooky or ooky. But they are a bit kooky (more on that later), and definitely talented, and certainly hilarious.

I had the pleasure of sitting down to lunch at the Manhattan restaurant 44x10 with the ladies of The Addams FamilyBebe Neuwirth (Morticia Addams), Jackie Hoffman (Grandma Addams), Krysta Rodriguez (Wednesday Addams) and Carolee Carmello (Alice Beineke).

Bebe started the meal by telling Jackie that she listened to a CD of her Joe's Pub show on the drive from Chicago to New York and was "crying with laughter." One of her favorite tracks was "Please, Won't You Get Away With Your Children?” (Sample lyrics: "You may think that I'm bitter, but leave those kids with a sitter.") As Grandma Addams, Jackie plays a 100-year-old grandmother to two actual children. "If I have to do a show with kids," she said, "at least it's kids who torture each other."

Jackie's first Broadway show was Hairspray, followed by Xanadu, where she and the brilliant Mary Testa teamed up to play evil muses who belt pop songs. Those who have seen Jackie on Broadway know that she's been allowed a moment or two (or 20) in each show to add her own improvised lines. Her fans will not be disappointed when they see her in The Addams Family. She told me that there's a section in the show where she's allowed to make up her own sassy lines every night. The ladies assured me it always brings the house down. They also admitted having to stifle their own laughs. And failing.

 

Jackie Hoffman and Krysta Rodriguez in The Addams Family.
photos by Joan Marcus

Jackie's granddaughter is played by Krysta Rodriguez, who portrays Wednesday Addams. After understudying in two Broadway shows (Spring Awakening and In the Heights), she loves originating her first role. When the show was in Chicago, she made her opening entrance from an actual coffin. I asked her how horrible and claustrophobic it was. Turns out, she liked being in the coffin because she found it a "great way to get centered before the show began." Really? A pine box? In my day we did a quick vocal warm-up and light stretching. (I stand by my initial "kooky" statement.)

Carolee Carmello comes to the show after a run in Mamma Mia! I asked Carolee about rehearsals, and she told me about all the theatre games the cast had to play (like "Pass The Pulse," where the cast holds hands in a circle and one person squeezes the next person's hand till everyone's hand gets squeezed). I couldn't quite imagine the show's two illustrious stars participating. I asked on the sly if Nathan and Bebe skedaddled out of the room during the games. Turns out, I was totally wrong. Bebe overheard and told me that everyone loved the games, especially because it bonded the whole cast. She explained that often you start rehearsals for a Broadway show and immediately the principals go into one room and the ensemble into the other. Instead, the first days were spent working together as one big group, getting to know one another and making each other laugh.

The ladies said that their favorite game was called "Instant Acting." The cast recorded themselves reading the script, but instead of acting the lines, they simply read the words. This was to prevent them from deciding their acting choices too early. As a matter of fact, as they recorded it, the director would literally hold up a sign that said "No Acting!" (P.S. I think some casting directors have wanted to hold up that sign towards me after my audition monologue.) After the recording was made, it was played as the cast performed the whole show. They didn't lip-synch the lines; they just had the recording play, and as the lines were heard, the cast would do exaggerated physical actions to go with whatever was happening in the scene. They all agreed that it helped them define their characters and create each character's specific physicality.

Speaking of physicality, I told Bebe how disappointed I'd be if she didn't dance in the show. If you don't know, she is one of the few women who have been able to work with both Michael Bennett (as Cassie and Sheila in A Chorus Line) and Bob Fosse (in her Tony Award–winning turn as Nicky in Sweet Charity) — I feel that if she's in a musical, she needs to hoof it! Luckily, she does dance. And she does it all under the constraints of the classic Morticia dress, which has that "cinched at the knees" look. Bebe told me that she actually spent rehearsals with a giant rubber band around her knees so she'd know exactly what steps she could and couldn't do in the dress. That's dedication!

Alas, lunch was soon over and the ladies headed over to the theatre. In conclusion, I say: if you want to get your fill of some hilarious and talented ladies, get thee to The Addams Family (snap, snap)!

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