13 November 2014
That strange, spooky family familiar to most of us comes to Stoneham, Massachusetts, with their own style of family values. Stoneham Theatre’s The Addams Family, A New Musical brings a wonderful and energetic concoction of silly and memorable characters with family morals that just might not be so creepy after all.
The Addams Family franchise has had a long run, starting with Charles Addams’ one-panel comic that debuted in the New Yorker in 1938, before moving on to be a successful television show in the 1960s. I am old enough to remember watching the first runs of that show. We would all run around singing and finger snapping, “dah-dah-dah-DAH”, snap, snap (funny enough, my neighbor-friend actually looked like Pugsley). In this musical, when it reaches the inevitable finger snapping scene, the whole audience is snapping along. I loved it.
The set is an impressive two-story haunted mansion with a huge glowing moon to set the mood. Uncle Fester (a dead ringer for the TV Fester, aptly played by Thomas Derrah) has called up the Ancestors from the grave to ask for their help because Gomez’s (Steve Gagliastro) and Morticia’s (Vanessa Dunleavy) daughter Wednesday (Sarah Pothier) has invited her new boyfriend, Lucas Beineke, and his parents, Mal and Alice, to dinner. Lucas had previously proposed to Wednesday and hoped that the two families would get along. Both of the young lovers instruct their families to act “normal”. After Wednesday tells her father that she is engaged, she makes him promise not to tell Morticia for fear of her overreaction. The problem is Gomez has never told a lie to his wife during their twenty-five years of marriage. When the Beinekes arrive for dinner and they are greeted at the door by Lurch (Colby Morgan), you know nobody is really going to act “normal”. The most memorable scene in the show takes place during the dinner, when the Addams insist that they play “The Game”, where everyone at the table makes a confession which, of course, includes Wednesday’s engagement announcement. A delightful song (“Full Disclosure”) highlights the scene before hilarity and chaos ensues.
Act II opens during a storm as Wednesday tries to leave, but Lucas wants her to stay and for them to work things out with their families, and soon the pair is having their first fight. Mal and Alice are also arguing, while Gomez tries to apologize to Morticia without success. Meanwhile Uncle Fester, who had confessed to being in love with the moon, plays his ukulele professing his lunar love in an amusing scene that features a bit of audience participation. Differences get ironed out, of course, and we get to enjoy a wonderful tango between Gomez and Morticia. When everyone is back together and singing one last time, even the ultimate deadpan Lurch (Colby Morgan) has a surprise in store.
The dancing is adequate, with the Tango De Amor being the standout number. The Ancestors’ costumes alone are a work of art. There are plenty of amusing scenes of torture, monsters under beds, crossbow shooting a la “William Tell”, and plenty of zany performances. At times, I felt as if I was watching a low-cal version of “Rocky Horror Picture Show”, tailored for mainstream audiences, but it all works.
The standout talent is Pothier’s Wednesday. Her slumping posture and pouty face makes her look like she could be a black-haired version of the farmer’s daughter in Grant Wood’s painting, “American Gothic”. Her voice is particularly strong and I wish she had more opportunity to sing. Derrah’s Uncle Fester captured the essence of the character and also has the funniest line in the show, even if I did see it coming a mile away. Dunleavy’s Morticia fit the bill: strong, steamy, sultry, stone faced and blessed with tango-perfect legs. Grandma (Kathy St. George) was a delight. I expected Gagliastro’s Gomez to be a little more suave and sexy, and less like the fictional coffee character Juan Valdez, but, as my wife pointed out after all, Morticia and Gomez HAVE been married for twenty-five years. Stoneham Theatre’s Young Company veteran Phillip Dragone did a fine job as Pugsley. It’s tough getting electrocuted by your sister every night.
What makes the show enjoyable beyond the obvious is that despite their strangeness, the Addams’ cherish the same family values that we all strive to find within our own families. To that end, are they really any different than you and me?