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The Addams Family
Paolo Alto Players

Also see Richard's reviews of The Way West and The Way West


Betsy Kruse, Joey McDaniel, and Doug Santana
I always loved the television show "The Addams Family," with Gomez, Morticia, Uncle Fester, Wednesday, Pugsley, Grandmama, and of course Lurch, so I was looking forward to the Palo Alto Players production of the musical based on the original comic work of Charles Addams. I found it to be an enjoyable production that significantly surpassed my expectations. The show is hardly a masterpiece, but it is great fun, with a book by Marshall Brickman and Rick Elice and a score by Andrew Lippa. This company, now in its 84th season, has really put out a whiz bang production with a talented cast of singers and dancers and terrific choreography by Janie Scott.

The Addams Family opens in a graveyard with the family performing a ritual to raise their deceased ancestors. Suddenly, the stage is alive with ancestors dressed in various costumes ranging from the Stone Age to the flapper era of the '20s. They break into song with "When You're an Addams." You know you are in for an enjoyable show with Lippa's clever rhyming and the company's great singing and dancing. Uncle Fester (Joey McDaniel) becomes the master of ceremonies for the evening and he decides to keep all of the dead Addamses around, forestalling a crisis in the family.

Wednesday (Catherine Gloria) is all grown up now and has fallen in love with Lucas Beineke (Adam Cotugno), a "normal" boy from Ohio. She has decided she will marry this "normal" person, but fears an unsympathetic retort from her mother Morticia (Betsy Kruse Craig). So, she goes to her father Gomez (Doug Santana) for moral support. This presents Gomez with a problem, since he has never withheld anything from Morticia before and is terrified of risking their intimate relationship. Pugsley (Leo Jergovic) is jealous and plots to break up the engagement. Lucas is also worried about his parents' reaction to marrying this slightly strange girl. His mother Alice (Jen Wheatonfox) and father Mal (Kennan Blehm) are having problems of their own. So Wednesday demands that her family present themselves as normal, just for the night. Of course, it just doesn't work.

Andrew Lippa's music is very upbeat and melodic. Many of the songs have a flamenco inflection and some sound a little like Stephen Sondheim melodies. Lippa also includes some lovely ballads. Brickman and Elice's book does not create the farcical misunderstandings that would have occurred in the television series. There are well perceived character moments between couples. The big production numbers "Just Around Corner" that opens the second act, Tango de Amor," and "The Moon and Me" are outstanding.

Doug Santana is excellent as Gomez. His humorously animated face and great timing, plus a corny Spanish accent, are pitch perfect. He also has great vocal cords singing "Wednesday's Growing Up" and "Happy/ Sad." Betsy Kruse Craig rocks as the ravishing Morticia. She plays the role with a certain sensual straight-faced drollness. She also has a unique singing voice; her singing of "Secrets" and "Live Before We Die" and her tango dance moves with Gomez on "Tango de Amor" are flawless.

Catherine Gloria is splendid as the sullen teenager Wednesday. She has an effervescent voice singing "Pulled." Joey McDaniel is a hoot playing Uncle Fester. His voice and manner are just as good as those of Jackie Coogan, who played the role in the television series. He relishes every campy line, and his dance with his love, the moon, in the second act reminded me of Charlie Chapin's similar dance with the Earth in the Great Dictator. Linda Piccone almost steals the show as Grandma every time she is on stage. Her conversation with Pugsley, played beautifully by Leo Jergovic, about Mary Poppins and Medea are hilarious. Not to be overlooked is David Murphy as Lurch, who reminded me of a character in the television series "The Walking Dead."

The "normal" family is admirable as well. Adam Cotugno is impressive playing the boyfriend Lucas and he has pitch perfect vocal chops, while Kennan Blehm and Jen Wheatonfox give good account of themselves as Lucas' parents. Wheatonfox is particularly lively belting out "Waiting" in the first act. The Ancestors are fantastic, with harmoniously energizing choral work and Janie Scott's sizzling dance numbers. Scott also directed this fast-paced musical. Every macabre joke in this romantic comedy is delivered with the aid the design team of Shannon Maxham, for her stunning costumes, Ron Gasparinetti, for his fantastic sets, and Carolyn A. Foot, for her tremendous lighting.

The Addams Family is a good old-fashioned show with good showtunes. It plays at the Lucie Stern Theatre, 1305 Middlefield Road, Palo Alto through May 10th, 2015. For tickets call 650-329-0891 or visit www.PAplayers.org. Coming up next is David Henry Hwang's Chinglish opening June 12 and running through June 28th.


Photo: Joyce Goldschmid


Cheers - and be sure to Check the lineup of great shows this season in the San Francisco area

- Richard Connema



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