Addams Family' coming to Clay Center
CHARLESTON, W.Va. -- Portraying someone's grandmother might not sound like the greatest role for a young actress, but Amanda Bruton -- who plays Grandma Addams in the touring production of "The Addams Family" -- is having a ball.
The New Jersey native said she loves the character.
"She's a spitfire," Bruton said. "She's a comedienne. She's the one who comes in and shakes things up a bit."
Based on the cartoons of Charles Addams, "The Addams Family" revisits America's (arguably) most ghoulish family, the family that made malevolence fun. The production comes to the Clay Center on Sunday,
It's a tricky musical to stage. The comedy is based more on Addams' cartoons and less on the films and the 1960s TV series, which might be better known now.
Bruton said she grew up with the films and saw the television show. However, following in the shoes of Blossom Rock (TV) or Judith Malin and Carol Kane (film) wasn't really her intention.
In some ways, she said, she had to rediscover the character on her own terms.
"The biggest challenge when you're faced with playing a 102-year-old," she said, "is how do you bridge that gap of being true to the character but also be someone who can sing and dance on stage?"
The actress said she begins from the inside out. But there's a physical element to becoming Grandma Addams, she acknowledged, and to do that part, she requires a little help.
There's a wig and a costume, but a lot of the Grandma Addams look is in her face.
"For that, we use a technique called highlighting and lowlighting," Bruton said. "I'm actually pretty tan, so I use a powder to lighten my skin and then scrunch my face up to bring out my future wrinkles."
She then draws in the wrinkles with a makeup brush.
"It creates a more realistic look under the lights."
After that, she glues on warts.
The last step is a pair of prosthetic eyebrows, which Bruton said have a personality all their own.
"They're named Bernice and Paulette," the actress said, giggling. "They're pretty wild and crazy. Paulette is a little more refined, but Bernice looks like she's been out on the town all night."
When Bruton first took the role, she wasn't sure if she'd do her own makeup or if the show would provide a makeup person for the tour.
"I really hoped that I'd get to do it," she said. "They taught me, and at the start of the tour, it took me almost an hour and a half to get into costume, from start to finish. Now, a year later, I can do it in about 40 minutes."
Bruton said she's had a good year with "The Addams Family." The tour has taken the cast all over the country and to the other side of the globe.
The show went to Singapore and China.
"In Singapore, they got most of the jokes," she said. "A few went over their heads, but we didn't have the subtitles there."
China was a different story. There, monitors were posted on either side of the stage to provide a translation for the audience.
"They totally got it," she said. "But sometimes the subtitles were running a little fast, and they'd react before we got to the punchline. Other times, it dragged, and we'd have to wait a minute, maybe a beat, before they got the joke."
Shows in both countries were hits, even though "The Addams Family" is a very Western piece of pop culture.
"The comedy, the themes about family -- normal and abnormal -- are very broad," Bruton said. "Everybody can relate to it."
It's hard to say how long the show will go on. "The Addams Family" website lists dates well into spring. Eventually, and Bruton said she's not in a hurry, she'd like to get back to New York for a while and find work a little closer to home.
Right now, though, she's content to keep playing Grandma Addams. She said she's in good company.
"The cast and crew, we've become a real family," she said.
Over the course of the past year, Bruton said, they've celebrated milestones together: 100 shows, then 200 and, soon, they'll reach 300 shows performed.
There's a lot of pride in that.
"And we get cake," she said. "Who doesn't love cake?"
Reach Bill Lynch at firstname.lastname@example.org or 304-348-5195.
'The Addams Family'
Presented by Broadway in Charleston
WHEN: 7 p.m. Sunday
WHERE: The Clay Center
TICKETS: $43 and $64
INFO: Call 304-561-3570 or visit www.the claycenter.org