IF YOU GO
What: Wednesday Addams has a boyfriend. The family does not approve.
When: 7:30 p.m. Tuesday & Wednesday, 2 p.m. & 7:30 p.m. Thursday; 8 p.m. Friday; 2 p.m. & 8 p.m. Saturday; 1 p.m. Sunday
Where: Barbara B. Mann Performing Arts Hall, 13350 Edison Parkway, Fort Myers
Cost: $65, $50, $40, $30
Information: Call 481-4849 or go to bbmannpah.com
Information: Note the extra matinée performance on Thursday and no evening performance on Sunday
Something Else: Parking is sometimes chaotic because of evening classes at Edison College. Park farther out and escape the after-show traffic jams.
On the Web: More theater news at The Stage Door blog
8099 College Parkway, Fort Myers, FL
Composer and lyricist Andrew Lippa looked for a fun way to represent the characters of "The Addams Family" when he sat down to write songs for Gomez, Morticia, Uncle Fester, Wednesday, Pugsley and the gang.
"You're trying to balance song, dance and story," Lippa said. "Creating something on stage is a complex art form."
And these are iconic characters.
The macabre family created by cartoonist Charles Addams began life as a series of single-panel gags in the New Yorker in 1938.
"People my age know the television show," Lippa said. "I've seen all the episodes!"
"The Addams Family" hits Fort Myers on Feb. 19 for a six-night run at the Barbara B. Mann Performing Arts Hall. A teenage Wednesday Addams wants to introduce new boyfriend, Lucas, to Gomez and Morticia. Tossing "straight-arrow Midwesterners" and the kooky, creepy Addams family together is a recipe for disaster - or is it?
Lippa calls his job as lyricist "the linchpin between the spoken text and the action."
"[The book is] who sings, why they sing and what they're singing about," Lippa said, "and the more ephemeral part, which is the musical idea - when they sing and how they sing."
The lyricist and composer works with the writers of a show to sketch out a plot and story. Is a song right for this spot? What are we thinking for this moment?
At one point in the outline for "The Addams Family," writers penned nothing more than "Uncle Fester sings a love song to the moon."
"I knew what to do," Lippa said.
The suggestion, which was literally nothing more than the idea of Uncle Fester serenading Luna, became love ditty "The Moon & Me."
The show does have heart.
"We weren't just writing jokes, we were writing characters," Lippa said. "The show speaks to the intelligence of the audience as well as their funny bone."
As a boy growing up in Detroit in the 1970s, Lippa said he used to come home from school in the afternoons and watch "Lost in Space," "Gilligan's Island" and "The Addams Family" on TV. Yet, taking the TV show's quirky sensibility and translating that to stage was "a sizable challenge."
"These characters have never really sung before," Lippa said. "There was a lot of thought to style, how to have them sing and be funny."
Lippa matches the characters to a particular style of music. He drew upon the idea of Spanish ancestry for Gomez and thought of Uncle Fester as a silly, vaudeville type of performer.
Lippa usually works in his studio on the piano, but says that he's worked on the plane or even the subway. He always travels with staff paper in his backpack. "Let's Live Before We Die," one of the songs from Act Two of "Addams," was even written in while he was traveling.
"That one, 'Let's Live Before We Die,' I was sitting in a Delta shuttle waiting area," Lippa said. "I got the idea, wrote the lyric and then sang it into my phone."
He raves about smart phones and how technology has let him make notes any time, anywhere and not forget a moment of inspiration - but warns that "I look like a crazy person singing into a phone on the subway."
The composer, who was nominated for a Tony Award for "Addams," definitely has a sense of humor. He's currently working on a musical version of "Big Fish" and was created "The Wild Party." Asked what he hopes audiences take away from the show, he deadpans "merchandise" before getting serious.
"I hope it gives them a lift in their day," Lippa said. "If you get something to go home with, to talk about, that's just fantastic."
Buh-buh-buh-bump [snap-snap]. See you Feb. 19!