Regional Reviews: Phoenix
Charles Addams' family appeared in a series of cartoons for The New Yorker magazine and were subsequently brought to life in the iconic 1960s TV show as well as a number of films in the 1990s. A big Broadway musical with an upbeat score with clever lyrics by Andrew Lippa, who also wrote the music, and a book by by Marshall Brickman and Rick Elice filled with an abundance of one-liners, comical sight gags and funny situations opened on Broadway in 2010. While it was a commercial hit, the Broadway show didn't receive a lot of praise and the creators made even more changes for the subsequent national tour. That final version is the one that is being licensed for regional productions. The changes greatly improve the musical, but the plot is still fairly basic and there is the unfortunate addition of an ensemble that is never truly incorporated into the plot; I've yet to see a production where they are truly used effectively.
The plot is one we've seen before and also fairly basic. Teenager Wednesday Addams is in love, but with a boy from a "normal" and respectable family, something the Addams' are the furthest from. She tells her father Gomez of the boy, and that they are engaged, and pleads with him not to tell her mother Morticia, afraid of how she'll react. Gomez agrees, even though he is now forced to do something he's never done before: keep something from his wife. The secret causes a rift between the parents that creates confusion and trust issues. Add in the rest of the wild Addams clanUncle Fester, silent butler Lurch, crazy Grandma, and young brother Pugsleyas well as many funny encounters between the Addams' and the straight-laced family of Wednesday's boyfriend Lucas and you have an evening of wacky fun centered around a dinner party the Addamses host for the young couple.
Though the musical focuses on all of the members of the Addams family, Gomez and Morticia are most prominent throughout, and Sam Chartier and Alek Rahman do an excellent job of creating characters filled with moments of insanity, love, charm and poignancy. Chartier's crazy accent, which is constant and consistent throughout, is hilarious and his ability to deliver his many wacky one-liners so every joke lands and gets big laughs is exceptional. Chartier also ensures his Gomez is both the doting father and the romantic spouse. Rahman makes Morticia a loving wife and mother but also instills the character with a sense of melancholy that makes you truly understand the pain and confusing she is going through as a woman whose children are growing up and who questions her husband's intentions when she suspects he isn't being truthful with her. They both have lovely singing voices, with Rahman getting some big laughs with the funny lyrics in her "Just Around the Corner" number and Chartier's touching delivery of "Happy/Sad" creating a heartfelt moment between a father and his only daughter who is growing up too fast. The act two tango that Chartier and Rahman dance is excellent, sensual, and also utterly hilarious.
As Wednesday, Kayla Dobbs is feisty and charming with a rich singing voice. Grant Roberts is hilarious and appears to be having a blast as Uncle Fester, and Zachary Snyders brings a sweet and charming, completely sly nature to the playful Pugsley. Grace Napoletano voice soars as Lucas' mom Alice and Olivia Palmer's Grandma is a complete hoot. Benji Gerst and KJ Kluge do well as Lucas and his father, and Finn Smith gets laughs as the tall, monosyllabic Lurch with barely opening his mouth.
Director Mark-Alan C. Clemente has not only found a talented cast to bring these characters to life but also keeps the pace fast and loose, and the jokes flying, yet he doesn't let the heart of this close-knit family get lost under the zany one-liners. I only wish Clemente were able to find a way to better incorporate those pesky ancestors who show up in the act one opener and stick around for far too long without ever serving any purpose in the plot. He makes a few of them into statues, which is a nice touch, though for an extended sequence in act two, which includes the poignant "Happy /Sad," the sight of the two stoic ancestors threatens to pull the focus from the heartfelt moment that Gomez and Wednesday share.
The set from Doran Matson is simple, but it works, and Tamara Treat's costumes are lush and lovely. Darlene Duffy's music direction derives some lovely sounds from the leads and lush harmonies from the ensemble. Katy Callie's choreography, with the added contribution of ballroom dance specialist Devi Hajduk, is fun and lively.
While not everything in the musical The Addams Family works, and the plot does require the audience to already have some familiarity with the kooky characters, the score is fun, the book is funny, and the characters are incredibly lovable even though they are also very eccentric, gothic and ghoulish. With a gifted cast and fun direction, Desert Foothills Youth Theater production is a crazy and fun time.
The Addams Family at Desert Foothills Theater runs through October 22nd, 2017, at the Cactus Shadows Fine Art Center, 33606 N. 60th Street in Scottsdale AZ. Tickets and information on upcoming shows can be found at www.desertfoothillstheater.org or by calling 480 488-1981.
Directed by Mark-Alan C. Clemente