"...A character-fueled comedy that aches to be seen!"
There they are, lined up like tombstones, and looking as if they had just stepped out of a cartoonist’s inkwell. Shrink these impeccably assembled creatures to a height of 8 inches, and you could give them away with McDonald’s Happy Meals.
Ah, the Addams Family. How they’ve been burned in our brains. They started out as Charles Addams’ single panel cartoons in The New Yorker. His zany lampoons in the magazine regularly depicted the antics of childlike Gomez and his Vampirish wife, Morticia, their guillotine-loving 18-year-old daughter Wednesday, their demolition-happy son, Pugsley, the walking cadaver butler, Lurch, their wacky witchy Grandma and the androgynous Uncle Fester, whose past-time is illuminating light bulbs in his mouth.
From there, they begat a 1960’s television show, Barry Sonnenfeld’s two movie adaptations in the 1990s, and countless other minor adaptations that have since been added to the Addams Family crypt.
Their latest spawn is 2010’s “The Addams Family: A New Musical.” Marshall Brickman and Rick Elice wrote the script; Andrew Lippa did the music and lyrics. And, for ghouls, geeks and goths who loved that finger-snapping show, the spooky, kooky comical feast that embraces the wackiness in every family was resurrected this past week at Orange Lutheran High School in all its creepy, anti-conformist demeanor. A less bawdy school edition, of course…I mean, it’s a high school for goodness sakes. But just as much fun as the Off-Broadway hit a decade or so ago, and just in time for Halloween! The show ran October 21st through the 24th to excited and charged audiences.
“The Addams Family” was performed at the Alexandra Nechita Center for the Arts, extraordinarily directed by Chelsey Everhart, musically directed by Daniel Vu, and invigoratingly choreographed by Jennifer Blomquist. Carole Zelinger did a fantastic job on the crepuscular costumes and also did double duty as Prop Master. Chris Caputo hit the mark perfectly with his inventively creepy set design. Josie Austin was Stage Manager; Steve Giltner was Lighting Designer; and Nick Green was Sound Designer.
The cast truly embodied the classic characters fully, and along with a talented ensemble, filled the stage with energy from start to finish. Director Everhart, with his hand-picked cast of 34, has crafted a show that is thrilling and moves at a spirited clip. The production starred Natalie Bright as Wednesday (Understudy Julia Sawtell); Liam Somerville as Gomez (Understudy Garrett Atwater); Chloe Larson as Morticia (Understudy Natalie Han); Connor Jones as Pugsley (Understudy Logan Kishi); Harrison Gomes as Uncle Fester (Understudy Abby Van Hoak); Espen Ross as Cousin Itt; Garrett Atwater as Lurch (Understudy Julia Schlachter); Kayleigh Gilbert as Grandma (Understudy Kayla McCoy; Connor George as Mal (Understudy Benjamin Krochman); Sophie Busch as Alice (Understudy Sophia Zonni); Bryce Thompson as Lucas (Understudy Remington Walke).
Ancestor soloists were Julia Sawtell, Emma Stewart, Sophia Zonni, Natalie Han, Amy Stukenholtz and Abby Van Hoak; Ancestor dancers were Haylee Brinson, Kaleo Howe, Natalie Turbedsky, Lindsay O’Leary, Lucy Stewart, Natalie Han, Alyssa LeBlanc, Anne Wilkenson, Annalise Lockwood and Juliana Zonni. And character ancestors were Logan Kishi, Espen Ross, Julia Schlachter, Alaska Stewart, Remington Walker, Kayla McCoy, Anna Scott, Melkamu Sherman and Benjamin Krochman.
The musical’s numbers were memorable, catchy and ghoulish, which are delivered admirably. Every number is outstanding, notably the overture “When You’re an Addams,” the ensemble’s upbeat “Full Disclosure,” sang during a post-dinner game of truth-telling, the cryptic, ancestral dance number “One Normal Night,” and Gomez’ and Wednesday’s loving lament, “Happy/Sad.”
And Brickman and Elice, whose excellent book kept “Jersey Boys” from being just another juke-box musical, got to write some very funny lines in-between the songs and draft a loose plot around the Addams family clan, living in their eerie mansion, which, for some reason, is located in Central Park. Grammy award winning composer Andrew Lippa (“You’re a Good Man, Charlie Brown,” “Big Fish,” “Prince of Egypt”), who has also performed at Carnegie Hall as a singer, was honored with a Best Original Score Tony nomination for his work on “The Addams Family” in 2010.
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 Addamses have their oddities (a mystery grandmother living in the dormers; a zombie butler; a bald uncle with a crush on the moon; a vampiress mother and nightmarish Latin dad whose bratty boy just wants to blow a few things up.
The show, a zany mix of goulash vaudeville routines, double entendres, deliciously macabre eccentricities, Borscht Belt jokes, sitcom zingers and romantic plotlines, began with the expected milking of classic Addams peculiarities, in which morbidity is automatically substituted for cheerfulness. The premise of the story has Gomez and Morticia discovering to their alarm that Wednesday has fallen in love with Lucas Beineke, a young man from a middle-class all-American home, after almost hitting him with an arrow from her crossbow.
What’s more, Wednesday has invited Lucas and his conventional parents, Mal and Alice (who has a few skeletons in the closet themselves), for dinner to announce their marital plans, and secretly reveals the news to her adoring dad, Gomez (without her mother knowing, of course), enlisting him to rally the family into behaving like “normal” folks - whatever that is. The problem is, the Addams family has no idea how weird they are. But all these worries have been set to lively music by Mr. Lippa, which includes a chorus line of grisly ancestral cadavers from the family crypt, summoned by the hopeless romantic Uncle Fester to help ensure the young couple’s intentions. The romance is complicated, however, by both sets of clashing parents.
It's never dull, and this perpetual celebration of “Opposites Day” runs rich with fish-out-of-water humor and even a few worthy truths before the distinctive “Move Toward the Darkness” finale. Still anti-social, yes... but not so much polemical, “The Addams Family” is a character-fueled comedy that aches to be seen. If you saw the show during the short run, one of your biggest takeaways most likely was…no matter how weird your family is, you can take heart that the Addams family is definitely weirder. Unless your last name happens to be Munster.
Arts & Entertainment Reviewer
The Show Report