Gabriel Hage would be the first to admit it. Playing Gomez Addams may be a bit of a stretch for him, but that's what he loves about performing.
"It really requires me to get outside of myself physically and emotionally and go to a different place to bring these features of his to life," said Hage, who is playing Gomez in the Schenectady Light Opera Company production of "The Addams Family," opening Friday night and running through Sept. 29. "But that's what I enjoy the most about acting; the act of delving into new human territory to bring forth those mannerisms, habits and emotions that I personally don't share with the character. I find it fun and exhilarating."
James Alexander is directing the "The Addams Family," which also stars Elizabeth Sterling as Gomez's wife, Morticia, and Tessa Rivenberg as Wednesday Addams, their daughter. Originally the work of The New Yorker cartoonist, Charles Addams, back in 1938, ABC turned the characters into a half-hour sitcom in 1964 with John Astin and Carolyn Jones in the two lead roles. After a series of more reincarnations, "The Addams Family" became a Broadway musical in 2010, earning twoTony nominations.
The story follows the trials and tribulations of the Addams family, a somewhat ghoulish cast of characters that along with Wednesday and her parents includes Uncle Fester, Pugsley, Grandma and Lurch.
"I never saw the stage production or the TV show, but I did see the two Addams Family films that were made in the 1990s," said Hage. "And I rewatched those films in preparation for the audition process."
Hage has been a regular performer at SLOC for the past two years, having performed in "Cabaret," "Jesus Christ Superstar," "Curtains," "In the Heights" and "The Wild Party." The role of Gomez, however, is his first lead performance at SLOC.
"As a character some parts of Gomez come easier than others," said Hage, who grew up in Utica and still works there although he is now living in Schenectady. "The parts of Gomez that come easier for me are his energy, his gregariousness, his generosity and the ways in which he shows affection to others. I come from a very affectionate, tactile and loud family. I'm a middle child with two sisters."
Like Hage, Sterling, a 2005 Saratoga Springs High School graduate, isn't that familiar with the original TV series. She was, however, a big fan of the two 1990s movies based on the show,and she's an even bigger fan of the Broadway musical thanks to the lyrics and music written by Andrew Lippa.
"I love how the show takes what we know about the Addamses and expands on that with music and a fresh story with some great new characters," said Sterling. "Lippa's music faithfully conveys the voices and humor we expect from the family, while also allowing us to connect with them in a more personal, emotional sense. Morticia also has some killer songs that I love performing."
A middle school music teacher in Gloversville, Sterling went to college at SUNY-Binghamton and the Crane School of Music at Potsdam. She has been a regular performer on area stages since 2012, and most recently played Martha Jefferson in SLOC's production of "1776" last season.
"I grew up watching the two movies and loved Angelica Houston's Morticia," said Sterling, "so when I found out about the show, I was really excited by the idea of performing that part. It's absolutely a dream role."
Like his two leads, Alexander has done plenty of performing at SLOC. "The Addams Family," however, marks his first time as a director, and he was eager to put his own stamp on this production.
"I've always been touched by the message centered around family, but in many productions of the show I've seen, I've always been disappointed by how the heavier themes of the show are avoided," said Alexander. "The version I pitched to SLOC, and that my cast has eagerly taken flight with, was one emphasizing family drama, the bittersweet reality of watching your child grow up, and the darker themes that underlie a familiar and lighthearted plot. This is a darker, scarier 'Addams Family,' and I can't wait to see how people take in a new spin on a classic story."
Melissa Narusky is the musical director for "The Addams Family," and Johnny Martinez is doing the choreography.
'The Addams Family'
WHERE: Schenectady Light Opera Company, 427 Franklin St., Schenectady
WHEN: Opens Friday and runs through Sept. 29; performances are at 8 p.m. Thursdays, Fridays and Saturdays, and 2 p.m. Sundays
HOW MUCH: $28-$23
MORE INFO: Call (518) 730-7370 or visit www.sloctheater.org