The Addams Family has been successful as a New Yorker cartoon, a TV show, and on film, so it makes sense that it would be adapted as a Broadway musical. While the show may be a bit different from much of what is presented at La Comedia Dinner Theatre in Springboro, Ohio (situated between Cincinnati and Dayton), audiences should embrace this kooky clan and witness this solidly performed, funny, and well-crafted production for themselves.
Based on the cartoons created by Charles Addams, The Addams Family follows the comically dark, eccentric family headed by Gomez and Morticia. Joining them are their children Wednesday and Pugsley, Gomez's brother Fester, Grandma, and the zombie-like butler Lurch. In this version of the story, Wednesday is a young adult who is in love with Lucas, a "normal" boy. The keeping of a secret, as well as a visit by the boyfriend's parents, sets the typically chaotic family into even greater frenzy.
Marshall Brickman and Rick Elice have written the story adaptation for this musical version. The show was changed between the Chicago tryout and Broadway, and then further after Broadway into the currently licensed version, improving each time significantly. The show still contains its fair share of one-liners, vaudeville style numbers, and sight gags, but they're sharper now, and there's stronger storytelling as a result. Some inconsistencies exist, most notably from having delectably morbid characters stuck in a story of conventional family strife, but that gives the show a level of universal appeal while also being humorous. The first act is stronger than the second half of the show, which drags a bit. But, with plenty of comedy, romance, and conflict, The Addams Family is overall engaging and interesting.
The songs by Andrew Lippa have likewise gotten better with each incarnation. Mr. Lippa historically writes especially well for younger voices. Here again, the young characters of Wednesday and Lucas get many of the best melodies, including "Pulled," "One Normal Night," and "Crazier Than You." His clever wordplay is also on display with the effective opening number "When You're an Addams" and in "Happy/Sad," Gomez's sentimental and parental reaction to seeing his little girl growing up into an independent woman.
La Comedia's cast for The Addams Family is a very good one. Matthew Janisse is an energetic and suave yet goofy Gomez. He channels Nathan Lane (Broadway's Gomez) a bit in the delivery of some of the jokes, but does well with the comedy and is a first-rate singer. As Morticia, Kari-Lee Sutherland is sexy and a strong singer and dancer. She provides a livelier take on the role than the deadpan delivery of the character typically seen. Amalia Tollas is deserving of the highest praise in the cast, supplying impeccable vocals, crisp dancing, a strong commitment to her characterization, and a commanding stage presence as Wednesday. Killian Lock is a suitably weird yet likeable Uncle Fester, and shows off a very pleasant singing voice. Fine supporting performances are likewise turned in by Richard Bull (an aptly uptight Mal), Cheryl Salzman (a suitably repressed Alice), Matthew Joshua Cohen (devilishly devious as Pugsley), Ray Zupp (effective as Lucas, Wednesday's love interest), Elaine Wilson (an off-kilter Grandma), and Danny Mullanaphy (a funny Lurch with a beautiful deep singing voice). The remaining ensemble members, portraying the Addams' ancestor ghosts, do well in vocal support and dancing.
Director/choreographer Chris Beiser provides fluid scene changes, an excellent use of the chorus, visually pleasing dances, and a tone befitting this funny, yet wildly eccentric group of characters. Some of the humor in the opening moments didn't land due to rushed delivery or unclear diction at the performance I attended, but overall, the comedy of the piece came through very well. Music director Lloyd Butler's pre-recorded accompaniment/orchestration is an improvement over what's been supplied in years past, and the cast is vocally strong.
Ray Zupp also provides a set design using sliding wooden panels and larger modular set pieces. The dinner theater setting limits what can be done set wise, especially for a show like The Addams Family, but the work here is well-suited, appropriate to the darker atmosphere of the proceedings, and functional to the storytelling. The costume design by A.T. Jones is similar to that of the Broadway production (and what is expected of the characters and script) and includes many nice details for the ancestor costumes. Geoffrey D. Fishburn's lighting helps to further define and flesh out the scenic design and is capably rendered throughout.
While The Addams Family isn't a perfect musical, it's a fun and entertaining one. The show has improved since Broadway, and the macabre, yet humorous story should connect well with theatergoers, in large part due to the universal themes of family. La Comedia has assembled a talented cast to go along with strong direction and choreography, and apt design elements.
The Addams Family continues through June 28, 2015, at La Comedia Dinner Theatre in Springboro, Ohio. Tickets can be purchased by calling 1-800-677-9505 or visiting www.lacomedia.com.