Regional Reviews: San Francisco/North Bay
The Addams Family
Gomez and Morticia Addams (Peter T. Downey and Serena Elize Flores) inhabit the gloomy ancestral mansion hidden somewhere in Central Park, Manhattan, sensibly holed up there eschewing the outside world with the rest of the family, including children Wednesday (Emma LeFever) and Pugsley (Mario Herrera), Grandma (Tika Moon) and Uncle Fester (Erik Weiss), and butler Lurch (Brian Bertoli). Plus, on this occasion, a cadre of ghostly Ancestors who are resurrected for one night and then commanded by Fester to help him in a mission of love.
Little torture-happy Wednesday has grown up and fallen for an outsider, Lucas Beineke (Cooper Bennett). They want to marry, but fear their families will never get along, being polar opposites on the scale of "normal" to "crazy." With Fester's help they engineer a get-acquainted dinner so Lucas' parents Malcolm (Larry Williams) and Alice (Morgan Harrington) can see just how normal the Addams can be when they try. It's essentially the Romeo and Juliet of the netherworld, but hey, it's also musical theater, filled with puns, witticisms, sight gags, general silliness, and laughter.
That the original Addams family would ever have attended a musical theatre performance, much less burst into song themselves, is highly doubtfulthe entire premise veers into uncharted territory, turning the dark satire of the original cartoons into a sweetly odd love story. The book, by Marshall Brickman and Rick Elice, also bogs down in act two, taking far too long to reach its predictable conclusion. One could also say that Andrew Lippa's score doesn't generate memorable songs, and could easily do with fewer of them overall.
Downey is a delightful Gomez, spirited and spritely, delivering one-liners with aplomb and turning sweetly wistful over Wednesday's impending marriage. LeFever nicely animates the dark side of Wednesday and her blossoming into a young woman in love, sporting strong vocals. Weiss shines as Fester, intent on promoting love with joyful abandon, giving a stellar rendition of his own love song to the moon. Flores makes a surprisingly emotive Morticia, far from the funereal figure we're accustomed to seeingbut she possesses other assets for the role, including fine vocals and impressive dance skills.
Herrera charms as Pugsley, Moon channels Carol Kane for a very funny Grandma, and Bennett is suitably clueless as Lucas. Harrington stands out as mother Alice, a Debbie Reynolds gone bonkers, totally winning us over with song and absurdity in the dark dinner game. Williams gets to join her in madness, thoroughly enjoying his move from staid to wild.
Director Carl Jordan shows his experienced hand in staging, even if he adds a few new twists to the Addams saga.
Kudos to set designers Elizabeth Bazzano and Eddy Hansen for an amazing, epic spectacle, full of surprises and fabulous visual effects. Eddy Hansen also brings on terrific lighting effects to complement the gorgeous sets, and Chris Schloemp provides ingenious projectionslove that moon! Pamela J. Johnson works wonders with costumes, particularly the ancestors and Morticia's transformation. Michella Snider, herself an Ancestor, creates a choreographic feast, and Lucas Sherman guides the vocals and gets an excellent sound from his pit orchestra. Thanks to sound designer Jessica Johnson for a near-perfect balance between pit and stage.
It's spooky and ooky and silly and lots of fun overall- give yourself a little treat for Hallowe'en this year.
The Addams Family, through October 28, 2018, at Spreckels Performing Arts Center, 5409 Snyder Lane, Rohnert Park CA. Tickets $18.00-$36.00 can be purchased online at www.spreckelsonline.com or by phone at 707-588-3400.