Yes, they’re creepy and they’re kooky, mysterious and spooky, but they’re altogether ooky – and that’s just the “normal” members of the dynamic cast of The Addams Family, directed by Debbie Barber-Eaton, with Book by Marshall Brickman and Rick Elice, and Music and Lyrics by Andrew Lippa.
Opening night for The Addams Family at the Annapolis Summer Garden Theatre had all the elements of a hit – plus about a half hour of light, scattered showers.
It’s what you’d expect from an outdoor theater. The ASG is entering the final lap of its 50th season and heading into a year of celebratory anniversary events.
Yet, as this production proves, ASG is still as original, fresh and frisky as a young puppy. Plus, over-the-top hysterical.
Each generation from the 1930s onward has been exposed to weird antics of humorist Charles Addams’ The Addams Family, first seen in cartoon form in The New Yorker Magazine in 1933. The 1964 – 66 TV show was a hit that’s still wickedly funny and relevant today, as are the movies and animated series that followed. The musical version debuted on Broadway in the spring of 2010 and continued on the Great White Way through 2011.
The ingenious 2-story set, designed by Matt Mitchell, was haunted, dark and appropriately decrepit. Most of the action takes place in the Addams’ rundown home, which is apparently hidden in plain view in Central Park. Spiders were everywhere, printed on the moldy peeling wallpaper, nesting in giant cobwebs or crawling up a far wall.
When characters are outside, running through the park’s woods, cast members hold up cut-out images of trees. High on a neighboring roof, a giant photo-image of the moon is projected – a terrific touch.
The set also includes something on the second floor every modern household should have: a rack. The kind used in medieval torture sessions.
As the audience entered, they were greeted by the nonstop sound of monsters thrashing and growling menacingly.
Thing signaled the start of the show with a snap of its fingers.
The band, conducted by Ken Kimble (and musical directed by David Merrill), played the iconic Addams Family theme and segued into the Overture – the prelude to 25 musical numbers – as the hand-some Thing waved and did a five-finger dance throughout.
The band (Trent Goldsmith, Rich Estrin, Randy Martell, Randy Neilson, Paul Pesnell, Reid Bowman, and Zach Konick) is unseen throughout the show. The music Opening Night was so smooth, clear and dynamic, some in the audience assumed it was a long-play recording. And, they played nearly nonstop for almost three hours.
Gomez Addams, portrayed suavely by Vince Musgrave, was the centerpiece of the whole Addams clan, all of whom eagerly sank their fangs into their respective roles: seductive Morticia (Alicia Sweeney), fey Uncle Fester (Eric Meadows), herbally-enhanced 102-year old Grandma (Ginny White), a conflicted Wednesday (Lucy Bobbin – with a great voice and dance moves), pugnacious Pugsley (Drew Sharpe – played on alternate evenings by Matthew Beagan), and that lumbering tower Lurch (Steve Streetman).
They were quickly joined onstage by ten of the family’s Ancestors, dressed in ghostly cream and pale gray costumes. Several Ancestors had met untimely deaths – Puritan (Nathan Bowen) had a noose around his neck, Gambler (Christian Gonzalez) appeared to have a bullet wound in his forehead. No word on what happened to the Bride (Katie Gardener), Conquistador (Michael Ruttum), a Flapper (Karah Parks), the Courtesan (Ashley Gladden with an exquisite vocal range), or the Flight Attendant (perky Mariel White) – whose costume was reminiscent of the 1960s Braniff Airlines uniforms designed by Pucci.
There was also a Caveman (Kevin Cleaver), Native American (Kirsti Dixon), and a Sailor (Brian Mellen).
The audience is given a few minutes to acclimate to the Addams Family daily rituals.
Morticia inhales deeply, enjoying “the intoxicating smell of the graveyard” as the Ancestors enter.
The plot quickly develops.
Pugsley is upstairs, tied to the rack. He’s being a pest, so Wednesday pushes a lever to torture her baby brother – which he loves, screaming with manic delight. (A future Christian Grey?)
Wednesday is mad. Make that madly in love with a “normal” boy, Lucas Beineke (talented cutie pie Daniel Starnes – still in high school), whom she met in the park. He’s given her a diamond engagement ring. Lucas’ parents, unaware of the engagement, are flying in from the midwest to meet Wednesday and her family.
Wednesday tells Gomez of the engagement, and swears him to secrecy. This is tough for Gomez – he’s never kept a secret from Morticia before. Morticia instantly senses Gomez is holding back –violating a promise he made to her, and she makes her displeasure known.
She’s also not happy about the upcoming dinner and tries to cancel it. She thinks of her clan as the “normal” ones.
“We’re who we are,” she proclaims. “And, they’re from Ohio.”
Turns out Mal Beineke (the hysterical Jim Reiter) and his ditsy wife Alice Beineke – the extremely manic Andrea Wildason – (runner up for scene stealer) are not entirely normal. Not at all.
Mal has anger management issues. He’s a workaholic who’s ignored his family.
Alice likes to talk in rhyme. All the time.
It goes from bad to verse.
She tells Morticia, “My poems are always about what everyone needs but so few people have.”
“Healthcare?” Morticia shoots back.
The audience roars, nearly drowning out Alice’s meek response: “Love.”
The plot gets a bit thicker, but, at the risk of incurring the Addams Family ire – and fire – we’ll stop here. Except to say, though the Rockettes do the kick line a tad better, this cast does the funniest version you’ll see this year, thanks to Choreographer Jamie Miller.
Designed by Nikki Gerbasi, the show’s costumes, overall, were excellent. Many of the Ancestors’ garb were finely detailed and telegraphed each ghostly character’s past with one glance. Gomez Addams’ suit was perfect. The intriguing wigs by Emily Karol were the crowning touch for the thespians who sported them – even Fester’s short-lived toupee.
Yet, the costumes for Morticia and Wednesday were strangely stiff and unyielding. Morticia has traditionally worn a dress that is fluid, cut on the bias – or fabricated with a spandex blend – that serves as a slinky, second skin. The only thing well-cut on this costume was the neckline that generously showcased the actress’ cleavage. Wednesday could have used more figure flattering dresses, too.
There were some vocal highlights, including Sweeney’s funny “Death Is Just Around the Corner”; Musgrave’s “Happy/Sad”; Meadows’ ukulele playing in the endearing “The Moon and Me”; Bobbin’s hysterical “Pulled”; and Wildason’s outrageously manic “Waiting.”
Almost every character not only stole scenes but also chewed on the scenery – except this one: Thing. This character, the only one not listed in the credits, stole the whole show before it began with a happy, frisky, outrageous performance. This unique right hand was single-handedly comical, emotional, on cue and in good shape. Hands down, Thing gets the Scene Stealer vote.
Annapolis Summer Garden Theatre’s The Addams Family is a hoot, so snap your fingers and try to scoop up some tickets.
Running Time: Two hours and 50 minutes, with a 15-minute intermission.
Come prepared for the weather. Some audience members bring umbrellas, light rain jackets, seat cushions, handheld fans, and blankets, or sweaters and jackets as night temperatures can drop quickly.
If a show is canceled due to rain, check online for details about rescheduling, refunds, or donations.