“The Addams Family” comes to the State Theatre in New Brunswick just in time for Halloween with three performances on October 25 and October 26. A hit on Broadway, the musical, which features characters created by legendary cartoonist Charles Addams and made famous by the popular television show of the ‘60s and the movies in the ‘90s, is sure to be a fun time for all. And, for the actress who plays Grandma, it’s a homecoming of sorts as well.
Although she’s only in her early thirties, New Jersey native Amanda Bruton plays Grandma — a character that has some of the best lines and a rather ambivalent history. The TV show and the movies can’t agree on whether she’s the mother of Gomez or Morticia. Bruton thinks Grandma is a true Addams (mother to Gomez) but says the play keeps it a secret. Nevertheless, after the tour’s recent trip to Asia, she’s excited to be back in the United States and even more excited to be back home.
“I’ve never performed at the State Theatre, despite having grown up in New Jersey,” said Bruton. “So I’m really excited about it. It’s going to be a homecoming with lots of friends and family and people I probably haven’t seen in years! I’m thrilled!”
Bruton grew up in Avon-By-The-Sea and went to Red Bank Regional High School as part of its performing arts program. Her first play was at the Red Oak Music Theater, which used to hold shows at the Strand Theatre in Lakewood. In the years that followed, she was part of many community theater productions in the state including performances at the Spring Lake Community Theatre, Premier Theater, and Thompson State Park, along with shows at Red Bank Regional.
The transition to a character that’s supposed to be more than 100 years old takes about an hour a day for Bruton. She’s become pretty good at doing her own makeup and has a local crew member help her with the wig, which is extremely expensive.
“They actually trained us all to do our own makeup back when we were in tech rehearsals earlier in the year,” said Bruton. “They trained me over a couple of weeks, which is awesome! I feel like I’ve acquired a new skill.”
The original casting call for the role of Grandma sought someone between the ages of 30 and 50. Despite being on the younger end of that spectrum, she believed the heavy makeup would make her age irrelevant. Yet, she admits her confidence was shaken when it came time for the final call backs for the show.
“I was up against four other women who were in their fifties,” said Bruton. “I thought, ‘I’m done. I’m up against real Grandmas and I’m not even a mom yet!’”
In addition to Bruton, the touring version of the Broadway play features Jesse Sharp and KeLeen Snowgren as Gomez and Morticia, Shaun Rice as Uncle Fester, Jennifer Fogarty as Wednesday, Connor Barth as Pugsley, Dan Olson as Lurch, Mark Poppleton as Mal Beineke, Blair Anderson as Alice Beineke, and Bryan Welnicki as Lucas Beineke. Portraying the ancestors are James Michael Avance, Chloe O. Davis, Jake Delaney, Lexie Dorsett, Aaron Fried, Elizabeth Hake, Julia Lancione, Katie Mebane, Galloway Stevens, and Julio Cataño Yee.
The Addams Family features an original story and it’s every father’s nightmare. Wednesday Addams, the ultimate princess of darkness, has grown up and fallen in love with a sweet, smart young man from a respectable family. A man her parents have never met. And if that weren’t upsetting enough, she confides in her father and begs him not to tell her mother. Now, Gomez Addams must do something he’s never done before – keep a secret from his beloved wife, Morticia. Everything will change for the whole family on the fateful night they host a dinner for Wednesday’s “normal” boyfriend and his parents.
“What you come to find out is that normal doesn’t really exist,” explained Bruton. “That’s one of the main themes of the show – define normal. And I think that’s what I love about it and what is so timeless between the TV show and the films and the play. Maybe we’re all still realizing that there is no such thing as normal? And maybe all families have their own idiosyncrasies and those sorts of thing. That’s why I really love it and why I think a lot of people can relate to it. We’ve gotten such a great response as we’ve traveled the country and the world. Everybody can relate to it.
“What I love about Grandma is that initially you think, ‘Oh God, this lady is off her rocker!’ but she is incredibly wise as you find out,” said Bruton. “And she should be—she’s been on the planet for 102 years! She’s got a lot of worldly experience and, more than anything, she is so committed and devoted to her family; she really loves each and every one of them. I think that really comes through.”
Bruton says she was a huge fan of the Addams Family films that came out in the 90s – especially the second one. “It was written by Paul Rudnick, who is my favorite playwright, and was just so dark and quirky and funny,” she explained. “I’m a huge fan of dark comedies! But our play isn’t too dark, it’s a family show, and a great balance of the two. The characters are just so much fun and the show is very character-driven. I think that’s why people love it.”
This is Bruton’s first time working in a touring theatre company and she’s quickly learning what she likes and doesn’t like about the experience. She’s long loved to travel, but has learned that there’s only so many times you can eat out night after night. A visit home for some nice Italian food along the Jersey Shore was a welcome change after several months on the road. She loves performing in front of different crowds in different cities, gauging whether they will be a polite audience or a rowdy one or even a lousy audience, knowing that the interaction between audience and performers can make for an electric experience for both. “Those are the moments you live for,” she said.
Her first touring production has been a great experience and she’s contracted to be with the play until June 2014. When that time comes, she may be able to continue on with the play or may go after a role in a different show on tour. In her heart though, she knows it may be time for something greater.
“It would be nice to be doing what I’m doing now and do be able to go home at night,” she says. “I’m knocking on Broadway’s door…”
“The Addams Family” comes to the State Theater at 15 Livingston Ave in New Brunswick, NJ for three performances — Friday, October 25, 2013 at 8 p.m. and Saturday, October 26, 2013 at 3 p.m. and 8 p.m. A free Pre-Performance Insights lecture is available for each performance, one hour prior to show time at the United Methodist Church, located at 323 George Street. “The Addams Family” performances are sponsored by Magyar Bank. Tickets range from $35-75. For more information visit http://www.StateTheatreNJ.org.