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REVIEW: THE ADDAMS FAMILY: A NEW MUSICAL COMEDY — IVRT @ Lewis Family Playhouse

Updated: Oct 23, 2023

"Aaahh...the intoxicating smell of the graveyard!”


Instantly the stage is set: We are entering the Addams family's convoluted mindset where good is bad, cemeteries are dance halls, a dismembered hand makes an ideal house pet, and mom lovingly calls her only son "my little cockroach."


Featuring one of the strangest and most eccentric families of all times, Andrew Lippa’s musical, “The Addams Family: A New Musical Comedy,” comes to the stage, produced by (IVRT) Inland Valley Repertory Theatre, at The Lewis Family Playhouse in Rancho Cucamonga’s Victoria Gardens Cultural Center, under the Direction of Hope Kaufman. Performances began last night, October 20th and will run through Sunday, October 29th.


Yes, they’re crazy and they’re kooky and, for many of us, the graveyard humor of America’s first Goth family – “The Addams Family” – is very much a part of our childhood. With a book by Marshall Brickman and Rick Elice, the musical depicts a ghoulish American family with an affinity for all things macabre. The antics of Gomez, Morticia, Uncle Fester and the kids, Wednesday and Pugsley, together with their monstrous monosyllabic butler, Lurch, began life back in the 30’s as a cartoon created by Charles Addams.


The Company of Inland Valley Repertory Theatre's production of "The Addams Family: A New Musical Comedy," Playing at Lewis Family Playhouse

Published in The New Yorker, it eventually became an iconic TV series which was later revived as a hit movie, then reappeared as an animated series. Now, unless you want to veg out with the classic on one of your favorite streaming channels, this spirited stage show by IVRT will help you relive those cracked headstones, the dead flowers, and the pitter-patter of little rat feet. Almost makes a man feel bad to be alive.


Mark MacKenzie in Inland Valley Repertory Theatre's production of "The Addams Family: A New Musical Comedy," Playing at Lewis Family Playhouse

As the story unravels, Gomez, a proud man of Spanish descent, finds himself caught between his wife and sadistic daughter, Wednesday, the ultimate princess of darkness and troublesome teen. But Wednesday has a quandary. She’s caught up in the throes of romance with Lucas - 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 they plan to marry. Now, Gomez must come to terms with every husband’s nightmare — he must keep a secret from his beloved wife, Morticia. Cara Mia! Soon, everything will change for the whole family on the night they host that fateful dinner for Wednesday’s “normal” boyfriend and his very straight Midwestern parents.


An exceptionally talented cast sets the bar high, acing those big production numbers and memorable songs with “relative” ease, including “When You’re an Addams,” “One Normal Night” and “Full Disclosure.” But it’s the solos – Fester poignantly declaring his love in “The Moon and Me,” or the hot-blooded Gomez lamenting his marriage problems in “Not Today,” or his frustration over the ordeals of parenthood with “Wednesday’s Growing Up.”

The Company of Inland Valley Repertory Theatre's production of "The Addams Family: A New Musical Comedy," Playing at Lewis Family Playhouse

Frank Minano, barely recognizable under heavy make-up, padding, and with a shaved head (or so it seems), plays the barking mad Uncle Fester, rotund and child-like, hugely enthusiastic and totally incorrigible. While Sandra Ochoa Rice, with a sexy, dry wit, feline eyes, jet-black bouffant and slinky black gown, glides around the stage as Morticia in dominant style. And Wednesday, the original deadpan snarker and central character of the show, is none done better than through Amanda Minano's eyes. Always a strong presence onstage, Ms. Minanao portrays a blast of attitude and true vocal prowess while her character tortures Pugsley (Sebastian Balderrama alternating with Cameron Kaeni) on a rack, admitting that love is now pulling her in a new direction ("Pulled").


Cameron Kaeni and Amanda Minano in Inland Valley Repertory Theatre's production of "The Addams Family: A New Musical Comedy," Playing at Lewis Family Playhouse

But it is Benjamin "Benny" Perez who steals the show as the hen-pecked yet totally devoted head of the family, Gomez. The actor possesses a theatrical gusto that brings a mix of perfection with his own unique twist to the character. His voice presents a precise Spanish accent while performing his solos, particularly “Trapped" and “What If,” two numbers that rely not only on vocal ability but also a keen understanding of comic timing. The end result is nothing short of impeccable, never missing a witty joke, a silly moment of banter, or a chance to land a zinging one-liner. Perez’ rendition of “Happy/Sad” is a sweet, tender moment of true inner love for his daughter.


Ms. Rice’s Morticia has an intense stage presence all laced neatly into the corset of her character’s stoic expressionless nature. Looking statuesque and moving with an elegant grace, ostensibly channeling Elvira, the late-night ‘Mistress of the Night,’ her signature number, “Just Around the Corner” is a priceless showcase of sassy attitude and intense vocal power. She plays exceptionally well off Gomez, and their duet, “Live Before We Die” becomes one of their most tender, albeit odd, moments together. But one of the most charming highlights of the show is the passionate make-up scene in Act Two with the quirky couple, ending with a perfect Flamenco-style tango (“Tango De Amor”).


The Company of Inland Valley Repertory Theatre's production of "The Addams Family: A New Musical Comedy," Playing at Lewis Family Playhouse

Lurch (Mark MacKenzie) provides a cameo-style role to the musical, uttering not a word, only long, plaintive groans, until the end of the show. His zombie-like demeanor as the undead butler offers continuous levity, but, when heard in the soulful “Move Toward the Darkness,” he creates another perspective of the character altogether.


The Beineke Family rounds out the main cast, and is always full of surprises whether it’s Mal (Patrick McMahon) and his rigid outlook on life, Lucas (Hayden Magnum) the love-struck betrothed, or Alice (Marinda Convis) the rhyming home maker who is secretly a little fed-up, neglected and unhappy. But when Alice transforms from quaint and quirky into a wild and wacky version of herself during “Waiting,” providing a full-on blast of darkness as she lets it all go in this rich, spicy number, she fully embraces her future inner Addams.


Sandra Ochoa Rice and Benjamin Perez in Inland Valley Repertory Theatre's production of "The Addams Family: A New Musical Comedy," Playing at Lewis Family Playhouse

And who’s to say if Grandma (Ann Thomas) or Fester is the kookiest member of the clan? Mr. Minano’s character is in love with the moon and Ms. Thomas’ character has dubious relations to the family tree, but the pair of them are a real riot. Grandma causes comic calamity during her scene in “Full Disclosure” and her overall tottering gait has everyone convinced that she’s 102. But it’s Fester’s sprightly energy that has everyone’s attention as he leaps all over the stage talking about love, triggering an enchanting number (“The Moon and Me”) that drips over the auditorium in sweet, syrupy emotion.


But there’s more. The entire cast is zapped with jolts of life when it comes to the dance routines, with much help from The Addams Family Ancestors, who help ensure that the quick and the dead are all full of character. Filling the theatre with aural and ocular senses in almost every scene are Tylor Scott Jenkins, Allison Sano, Marcel Almirantearena, Kaitlyn Boyd, Cassidy Love, Adam Granados, and Nathanial Vogel. Teen Ancestors are Abby Lane and Clare Donaldson.


Frank Minano in Inland Valley Repertory Theatre's production of "The Addams Family: A New Musical Comedy," Playing at Lewis Family Playhouse

Suffice it to say the result is a gloriously hilarious night of clashing quirks and skewered values that somehow resolves itself to everyone's satisfaction by the final curtain. It’s comic perfection at its best, and a very good bet that “The Addams Family” will haunt the Lewis Family Playhouse for at least a week more.


Performances began last night, October 20th and will run through Sunday, October 29th. and 27 at 7:30 p.m. and October 21,22, 28 and 29 at 2pm and 7:30 p.m. Running Time: Approximately 2 hours and 30 minutes with one intermission. Inland Valley Repertory Theatre, founded in 1990 by Frank and Donna Marie Minano, is a regional theater company. The Lewis Family Playhouse is located at 12505 Cultural Center Drive in Rancho Cucamonga. Tickets are $40-$65 and can be purchased online at LewisFamilyPlayhouse.com or by calling 909-477-2752.




Chris Daniels

Arts & Entertainment Reviewer

The Show Report













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