Updated: Sep 28
A Show to Die For!
Bet you never thought a woman in widow's weeds singing "[Death is] Just Around the Corner" would make you giggle with delight. But she definitely will if you are in the audience at Newport Theatre Arts Center's newest production of "The Addams Family, A New Musical Comedy!"
Running a full month, from September 22nd through October 22nd, and boasting a tightly catty script by Marshall Brickman and Rick Elice, the adapted and rewritten product, revived with merry malevolence by a wonderful cast and crew, is a vintage treat.
Director Kathy Paladino’s never-dull staging lets this perpetual celebration of “Opposites Day” run rich with fish-out-of-water humor and a few worthy truths before the characteristic “Move Toward the Darkness” finale, two hours and twenty minutes later.
Closely following the formula from “You Can’t Take It with You” (in which Depression-era Sycamore eccentrics transform the conformist and miserable Kirbys), the Addams’ outcast Bohemian/Goth lifestyle loosens up the repressed parents of a neurotically normal boy named Lucas Beineke, with whom daughter Wednesday has fallen in love and plans to marry. The macabre tribe, which infests a very spooky demesne in an unlit part of inner Manhattan, gathers their addlepated ancestors in order to deal with a home invasion: Sweet simpleton Lucas is bringing along his conventional parents for a mix and mingle dinner not soon forgotten.
And Gomez, like most dads, is wrapped so tightly around his young daughter’s sadistic little finger that he agrees to hide her engagement from Morticia and help with the dinner plans.
The joke, of course, is that in this Bizarro-like world, screams replace sentiment, torture is a kind of caring, and death is the real deal they not only yearn for but want to share. Yet as much as the Addams have their oddities (a mystery grandmother living in the dormers; a zombie butler; a bald-pated uncle in love with the moon; a vampirish mother and nightmarish Latin dad whose bratty boy is crazy about explosives), the Beineke family have their own skeletons in the closet, bats in the belfry, and secrets dying to be exposed.
This is a show filled with lunacy, lighthearted fun, and rapid-fire jokes, but Andrew Lippa’s serviceable songs prosecute the culture clash rather nicely, and is as clever a musical mash-up as you will find (with a shout-out to Maureen Russell’s wickedly chilling choreography). "Pulled" is for a torn-between-worlds Wednesday to sing as she takes Pugsley for a spin on the rack, the anthem "Just Around the Corner" salutes in chorus-line style that most final of inevitabilities, and there's even a killer Dancing with the Stars-esque “Tango de Amor” for Gomez and Morticia to reaffirm their dying devotion to each other.
Brandon Gomez’ smooth-tongued, oily-unctuous Gomez is a rhapsodically manic romantic — a hot-blooded Latin lover with a fiery libido, and is the glorious conduit into the cobwebby recesses of Addams’ life. Drolly urbane one moment, and tomb-like serious the next, Mr. Gomez’ macho, sword-parrying Spaniard keeps you guessing at his true motives, but will always be the stalwart pillar that keeps his house and relatives upright.
Scarcely behind him is Noelle Carney Campbell (alternating with Kendall Sinclair) as the delectable ice-queen Morticia, loving mummy extraordinaire, wearing a dress that can’t be easy to get into every evening. She is a proud representative of nuclear-family mothers everywhere, and slinks through the two acts in a seductive, deadpan manner, trading tempestuous pleasantries with the debonair Mr. Gomez, while conveying much of the elegance that gives the Addams their hauteur. "Unhappy, darling?" "Oh, yes, completely!"
Add to their cunning chemistry the excellent Owen Lovejoy’s gleeful Uncle Fester (our noxious scene-stealing narrator), Victoria Groskerutz’ decomposing Grandma (“Wait! I thought she was YOUR mother"), Brooke Lewis’ spunky, crossbow-wielding Wednesday, Brady Barrett’s (alternating with Ethan Horner’s) prankster Pugsley (who left us laughing in the aisles), and Jack Mills’ outstanding, but mostly muted Lurch...and you've got a show to remember!
Sean Farrell strikes the proper notes of rebellion and acquiescence as Lucas (who must learn to take risks for love), while Randall Goddard brings a solid adenoidal uptightness to the straight-laced Mal Beineke.
But perhaps most dazzling is Kayla Agnew as Beineke matriarch Alice, who cracks her character's conservative façade in unapologetic Broadway-diva style with her rafter-shredding first-act front burner, "Secrets," inspired by drinking a vial of, um, Acrimonium that Pugsley intends to use to return Wednesday to the dark side.
This propels things into the second act where everyone bares their souls in skillfully performed, angst-ridden ballads. Even the Frankensteinesque butler breaks into song.
It's clearly a labor of love for cast and crew. and a phantastic gaggle of ghostly Ancestors of Addamses past, that includes Alexis Slear, Ally Vargas, Ariana Nin, Ashley Montgomery, Cheryl Dekeyser, Sebastian Kahn, Shannyn Page and Terry Vickrey — pancake monstrosities one and all, quick of foot despite being fresh from the graveyard, and providing a constant background tableau that does serve to remind us that this is not your average American family.
Arts & Entertainment Reviewer
The Show Report
Photo Credits: Sarah Whitwell Photography