note: entire contents copyright 2014 by Sheila Barth
Lately, an Addams Family revival is popping up in area theaters, perhaps because of the Halloween season. Regardless, the spooky, kooky family musical resurrects one of 1960‘s TV favorite, wackiest, weirdest, families, “The Addams Family,” in all their creepy, anti-conformist societal demeanor. Why not? For the past few years, the walking dead, vampires, werewolves, and other grisly ghouls have dominated film, TV, best-selling books, videos and merchandise in overflowing abundance. The public can’t get enough of it.
At least, in Marshall Brickman and Rick Elice’s two-act, two-hour, musical production at Stoneham Theatre, laughs abound, thanks to Stoneham’s Producing Artistic Director-Director Weylin Symes and his carefully, handpicked selected cast of 15, including Boston’s most beloved, versatile, multi-award winner, Thomas Derrah as narrator/Uncle Fester. Stoneham home-grown, favorite star, Kathy St. George, whose antics as wild, 102-year-old Grandma, unleashes her signature brand of humor, too.
This unconventional, wacky musical ran two years on Broadway. Stoneham’s version targets all ages, with Katheryn Monthei’s creepy, cartoonish set, dancing cadavers, (thanks to choreographer Ilyse Robbins) and reminiscences of the abnormal Addams Family. Everyone gets into the act immediately, with Music Director-keyboardist Jim Rice and his four musicians’ finger-snapping overture, highlighting the TV show’s theme song.
The musical comedy is based on Charles Addams’ cartoons, which were further popularized in the 1960‘s TV comedy series and movies. Its underlying theme tackles the question of what is actually normal, whether young love can survive under abnormal conditions, and reviving long-standing love.
While children giggle at the characters’ wacky antics, their parents and grandparents recognize flashes and techniques of other successful musicals, including “Monty Python’s Spamalot,” Teyve’s stream-of-consciousness and paternal angst in “Fiddler on the Roof,” and flashy lighting, supernatural stage effects and fog prevalent in rock operas. Monthei’s compartmentalized, two-tiered, set enables the vibrant cast to dance around crypts and gravestones in the Addams Family’s crumbling estate that was bequeathed hundreds of years ago to them, and located in the middle of Central Park nestled in untrod woods.
When the Addams’ daughter, Wednesday, (impressive Sarah Pothier) meets fresh-faced Lucas Beineke of Ohio, after almost hitting him with an arrow from her crossbow, their courtship blooms. She invites him and his conventional parents, Mal and Alice to come for dinner and meet her family. Wednesday secretly enlists her adoring dad, Gomez, and circumspects her mother Morticia, requesting him to rally the family into behaving like normal folks - whatever that is.
To ensure the young couple’s marriage plans, hopeless romantic Uncle Fester summons and enlists the aid of his cadre of grisly gray cadavers from the family crypt.
Fester’s in love, too - with the moon. He sings “The Moon and Me,” to the celestial, glowing white orb and tosses a large, white beach ball back and forth to theatergoers.
Andrew Lippa’s songs are hummable, their lyrics catchy and insensible,which Rice and Co. deliver admirably. Every number is outstanding, especially the overture and favorite number “When You’re An Addams; the ensemble’s upbeat “Full Disclosure,” during a post-dinner game of truth-telling; the cryptic, ancestral cadavers’ dance number, “One Normal Night;” Gomez Addams’ loving fatherly lament, “Happy/Sad,” and Wednesday’s solo lament, “Pulled”.
Ellisabetta Polito’s costumes easily define the dead and undead, the live and sunshiny from the harmless dark-siders.
Vanessa Dunleavy is beautiful, sexy and brooding as vampiric Morticia, and affable Steve Gagliastro struts comically and sings well as Gomez. Tall, gaunt Colby Morgan is a riot as the Addams’ slow-motion, deep-groaning butler, Lurch, who breaks his silence with his rumbling, rich, bass voice; and 15-year-old, Baby Huey-shaped Phillip Dragone is fun to watch as Wednesday’s overgrown little brother, Pugsley, who loves it when she tortures him.
Besides Derrah’s superlative performance, Sarah Pothier as Wednesday and Jordan Ahnquist as Lucas, create chemistry together. Also, Lucas’ parents, Mal (Jeff Mahoney) and his rhyming, suppressed mother, Alice (Ceit Zweil), are great foils to Morticia and Gomez, as they undergo their own self-actualization and changes.
“The Addams Family” is a fun, family-friendly, silly production where no theatergoer is immune from laughing out loud, snapping their fingers, and, yep, singing along, in spite of themselves. Join the party!
BOX INFO: Two-act, two hour musical, appearing through Nov. 9, at the Stoneham Theatre, 395 Main St., Stoneham. Performances:Thursdays at 7:30 p.m.; Fridays, 8 p.m.; Saturdays. 3.8 p.m.; Sundays, 2 p.m. Also, with show admission, a free, pre-show, KISS 108 costume party, with hostess Kendra Petrone, Oct. 30, 5:30-7:30 p.m., with music, contests, prizes, giveaways. Show tickets:$50-$55; seniors, $45-$50; students with valid ID, $15. Call the Box Office at 781-279-2200 or visit www.stonehamtheatre.org.