It's a "Family" affair: Riegler and cast scare up a Broadway favorite
When Lynn Riegler gave birth to her third son, her two older children reportedly suggested naming him "Adam" because they enjoyed watching reruns of the hit television show, The Addams Family.
Back then, no one could have ever imagined that 11 years later the youngest member of the Riegler family of Westport would be featured in a Broadway musical based on that same television series. And, yet for seven days a week, Adam is can be found embodying the part of "Pugsley" on New York City's renowned Lunt-Fontainne Theatre.
"It's absolutely a dream come true for me," said Adam during an interview with the Westport News conducted in his dressing room, in between matinee and evening performances Wednesday.
Performing alongside two of Broadway's biggest musical theater stars -- and Tony Award winners -- Bebe Neuwirth and Nathan Lane, Adam creates a character that is mischievous, loving and also a hell of a singer and dancer.
Adam has been involved in The Addams Family since its inception. At the end of 2008, he landed the role of Pugsley, a devilish lad with a fondness for explosive devices and torture. As the musical was conceived, Adam participated in the workshop process, beginning in January 2009. When the show performed its out-of-town run in Seattle and Chicago, Adam also went along.
New York previews began in March and The Addams Family opened on Broadway April 8.
"I love everything about being in this show," Adam said. "I get to sing and dance on the Broadway stage."
The Addams Family is not Adam's first Broadway credit, though. Two years ago, he joined Shrek, the Musical, both in its workshop and stage productions, as Young Shrek and Grumpy the Dwarf.
When the curtain opened for Shrek, the Musical, the first thing that audiences saw was Adam, as Young Shrek, sitting alone in the middle of the stage. "It was very cool," said his mother, Lynn. "He played a pivotal role because, for the audience, he is the beginning of the whole Shrek journey."
Adam performed in Shrek until last August, when he needed to commit himself full-time to The Addams Family.
Although Adam and Lynn commuted back and forth to their Westport residence during Shrek -- and Adam attended Westport schools daily -- they knew that would be impossible when he undertook a principal role in The Addams Family.
He exerts tremendous energy throughout the show as he sings, dances and acts onstage for nearly all of Act 1. His role during the second half of the play is smaller but Adam's character plays an integral role in the show's overall storyline.
The Riegler family has a studio apartment on the Upper Westside so that Lynn and Adam have a place to stay when he is performing.
Describing him as "a real trouper," Neuwirth, whose roster of awards includes two Emmys for her portrayal of Lilith on the television shows Cheers and Frasier, noted that Adam consistently "puts out 100 percent, eight times a week."
"I love working with him," she continued. "He's very smart. He's very talented, and he's very professional."
Krysta Rodriguez, who plays older sister Wednesday in The Addams Family, is also impressed by Adam's intelligence. "We are all going to be working for him one day," Rodriguez said. "He's the smartest person in the building. If any of us need anything, we go to Adam."
Adam loves the cast's camaraderie. "We all get along and it feels as if Bebe and Nathan are like parents to me," he said. "I feel like Krysta really is like a big sister, and I like spending time with Zach [Zachary James, who plays Lurch]. We hang out in his dressing room when we're not onstage."
Neuwirth agreed. "We all feel protective of him," she said.
Adam's theater career began at Center Stage Theatre Company in Westport, where Lynn works part-time as the school's music director.
Lynn explained that she used to take Adam, then 7, with her to rehearsals. He sat by her side and quietly watched the performances until one day Center Stage's artistic director, and owner, Jill Jaysen, told her to put him in one of the shows. Although Lynn was skeptical at first, she figured it was worth a shot. At the very least, it would give Adam something to do while she was busy coaching the other children.
Adam not only enjoyed the work but he auditioned shortly after -- and was cast -- in two professional shows staged at the Westport Country Playhouse. These were A Christmas Carol and David Copperfield.
In the next two years, Adam performed in two Off-Broadway shows, Intervention, an original musical written by Jaysen which was presented at the New York Musical Theater Festival, and I and Albert, A Tribute to Joseph Stein, at the York Theatre.
Adam has also been involved in a popular web series, based on a character he originated, Cubby Bernstein.
Jaysen said, "Adam is an intelligent, passionate, considerate, articulate and insightful individual, who also happens to be very talented! His maturity is well beyond his biological years. It has been a joy teaching him and watching him to grow."
Although his performance schedule hasn't offered time to take many classes, Adam said that he appreciates Jayson's professional expertise. "I really learned everything I know from her," he said. "She's also been very supportive and has come to all of the shows I've been in."
Last week Adam had the opportunity to perform with the rest of the Addams family on The Late Show with David Letterman.
Lynn felt that the show was unfairly denied more nominations because of its more commercial, rather than artistic, appeal.
"Audiences love us, though, and we are sold out every night," she said.
More than once during the first act, the actors are interrupted by an outpouring of laughter and applause from the audience.
The Addams Family received eight Drama Desk Awards, including Outstanding Musical, too.
Lynn is responsible for transporting Adam to and from the 46th Street theater, however Katy Lathan watches over him when the performance is under way -- every Broadway show that employs underage actors must hire someone to keep the youngsters busy during rehearsals and the performances.
"I make sure he's where he needs to be when he needs to be there," Lathan explains. "We play games and do simple art projects, but we do this more for me than for him."
During his time off, Adam spends time in Westport with his father, Dr. Nitai Riegler, a physician in Milford. He also looks forward to seeing his brothers, Alexander, 19, a student at Northwestern University, and Danny, 24, who is currently traveling in Cambodia.