Andie Peterson believes Bryce Henrickson is making a family-type atmosphere quickly for a new director. His students call him by his first name. He pushes for cast bonding. He's uplifting even when his rehearsals are tough because he has high expectations.
West Fargo High School Theatre wants to become a family, but in an odd way for its upcoming performance. Under Henrickson's direction, the West Fargo High School Theatre will perform "The Addams Family" musical starting this week.
"Change is hard, but it's also been really great," Peterson said. "Bryce has gone above and beyond anything my castmates and I expected."
Henrickson, in his first year as West Fargo High School Theatre's director, is a kindergarten teacher in the West Fargo school district. He was the theater director for four years at Discovery Middle School and an assistant director at Fargo Davies for seven years. He took over as the school's one-act director last school year after Darcy Bakkegard left. Another director will take care of the school's play in the spring, Henrickson said.
Henrickson admitted he's now in charge of more responsibility he ever imagined. But he said the students are transitioning well and "have worked their rears off" for the show.
"This has been where I wanted to be," Henrickson said. "I had never fathomed all of the things the director was doing behind closed doors."
Senior Maddie Johnson said Henrickson has made the theater department like a close-knit family and created a productive atmosphere.
"He's really got us to work together as a big family unit," Johnson said. "He's so driven to get us to pull out the best we can be in ourselves."
"The Addams Family" musical is based on the cartoon of the same name from throughout the 1900s based on a satirically dark and twisted family named the Addams. The story of the musical is based after the major story arc of the family. Wednesday, the family daughter played by Peterson, is now a teenager with a boyfriend she's secretly trying to marry. Henrickson said the story is about the family coming together to deal with changes involved with growing up and how they compare to normal families.
Henrickson chose this production for its contemporary music that still involves classical keys along with the catchy opening jingle with an updated twist. Henrickson believes an audience can expect plenty of laughs with "a lot of heart."
"It catches people by the name," Henrickson said. "But then the story is now completely different. It's an interesting twist (the script writers) took on the story and just allowed us to have these fun characters everyone knows."
Peterson said she's usually a loud character for comic relief so a deadpan character with a darker tone of comedy was an adjustment. However, Peterson has always wanted to perform since she was young and said she's comfortable in a lead role.
"I just knew this would be something I wanted to pursue," Peterson said. "I just feel so good performing, so I knew I didn't want to stop."
Johnson, who plays the Addams family's mother Morticia, said she had to adopt a "spider-like" demeanor for her role. To become the master of the house as Morticia is, Johnson learned to be fix her posture upright, slow down her actions and lower the tone of her voice.
Johnson said those performing as the Addams had a tough time darkening their normally goofy personalities. As excited as she was for the show selection, Johnson, who's also a directing student leader, said she questioned if the cast could pull the production off. However, Johnson has seen plenty of improvement since the beginning of rehearsals. She said audiences can expect to find a family who may not be the same as everyone else but being different is alright.
"It's a come-together, feel-good story, and I think an audience will really appreciate that at the end of the day," Johnson said. "Nobody is normal."
If you go
"The Addams Family" performed by West Fargo High School Theatre
When: 7:30 p.m. Nov. 3-4 and 10-11; 2 p.m. Nov. 5
Where: West Fargo High School Theatre (801 9th Street East)
Admission: $5 for students, $8 for adults
For tickets or more information, go to westfargotheatre.com or call (701) 499-1971.