Imaginatively directed by Justin M. Kiska and excellently musically directed by Jordan B. Stocksdale, The Addams Family at Way Off Broadway Dinner Theatre and Children’s Theatre is definitely a “creepy and kooky” modern musical just in time for Halloween, sparkling with performances from an incredibly quirky cast and fantastic technical elements.
The Addams Family, with a book by Marshall Brickman and Rick Elice and music and lyrics by Andrew Lippa, features the classic family characters from the original cartoon strips by Charles Addams and the following television series and movies. Gomez and Morticia Addams have raised their children properly, to happily live a wickedly dark and macabre lifestyle and shun any trace of “normalcy.” However, their lives are about to be uprooted when Wednesday Addams, their daughter, confides in her father that she has fallen in love and plans to marry Lucas, a nice, normal boy from a classic All-American family, the Beinekes. Now. Gomez must try to keep the biggest secret of all from his wife, Morticia, and with the help of Uncle Fester and the Addams Family ancestors, see if love really can conquer all when the Beineke’s are invited to dinner at the Addams Family mansion!
As the family patriarch, Gomez Addams, Jordan B. Stocksdale not only leads the show, but often tends to steal it. His comedic timing is impeccable and he maintains an impressive Spanish accent throughout the show. Stocksdale has a fantastic natural charisma and his poignant solos “Happy Sad” and “Not Today” excellently showcase his strong dramatic abilities as a nice contrast for his typically eccentric and over-the-top character.
Jessica Billones is a powerful presence as sexy and seductive mother, Morticia Addams. Billones has a wonderfully wry demeanor and excellent deadpan expressions. Some of her singing and speaking lines in the higher register of her voice are very quiet and difficult to decipher in the audience, either due to projection or technical sound issues. Billones and Stocksdale have an excellent natural chemistry and their tango scene near the end was very well executed.
As teenage daughter Wednesday, Mary Ellen Cameron is wonderfully morose as a darkly disturbed teen experiencing her first love. Her comedic timing, often serving concise, crisp punchlines to most of the jokes, was excellent and she displayed a fantastic vocal belt in some of her songs, including “Pulled” and “Crazier Than You.”
Joseph Waeyaert is adorably sweet as Wednesday’s nerdy and wholesome, All-American fiance, Lucas.
Jeremy Trammelle is lovably looney as Uncle Fester. His squeaky character voice and zany comedic antics made him an instant hit with the audience. Trammelle is very agile but with his very narrow, angular frame, doesn’t quite match the classic image of the well-known heavyset character role and could use a bit more padding.
Bill Kiska, substituting for cast member Steve Steele at this performance, was hilarious as Lurch, the looming butler and man of few words. Some of his best facial expressions and physical mannerisms were worth a thousand words.
In an unusual casting choice, the role of Pugsley, typically portrayed as a child, is instead played by adult actor T. Thomas. Thomas is very funny and milks certain moments as an adult actor playing a child for great comedic effect. His falsetto voice during his solo “What If?” was hilarious.
Pam Neely was wonderfully crass and charismatic as Grandma. Without giving away the running gag, her main physical feature, accentuated with lots of costuming help, was terrific and Neely milked that bit as much as possible to leave the audience in stitches.
Ariel Messeca is stern and condescending as the typical businessman father, Mal Beineke. Messeca exerts a natural control onstage at first, which makes the character’s later transformation very heartwarming.
In an impressive feat and possibly the best performance in the show, Melissa Ann Martin is phenomenal as Mal’s meek housewife, Alice. Her character voice and accent is excellent and her comedic skills transform what could be an annoying character in less capable hands into a wonderfully funny and over-the-top loveable character. Martin particularly has some fantastic comedic moments when she recites the poems her character frequently writes.
The ensemble, comprised of Kamilah R. Brown, Paul Cabell, Rebecca Eastman, Daniel Hafer, Mallory Rome, Brett Stockman, and Megan E. West, playing Addams family ancestors from varied historical time periods, are phenomenal and every character has a noticeably distinct persona.
Dee Buchanan’s choreography is very imaginative and makes great use of the limited space through clear placement and clean and classic musical theater dance styles. The clever use of props throughout the show, especially in the dance portion of Uncle Fester’s solo, “The Moon and Me,” was lovely and a cameo appearance by a well-known Addams Family character at the top of Act II was adorable.
The Addams Family is an excellent production overall. However, the pacing of some scenes in Act I directly after the impressive opening number could be increased. Minor sound issues occurred throughout the show, particularly on many of the full ensemble numbers. On some character’s solo lines in the middle of full cast numbers, it was difficult to hear individuals over the loud instrumental music at times.
The set, designed by Justin M. Kiska, is very cleverly planned, as various rooms and locations can fold in and out on the sides of the stage all while action is occurring in the mansion. Set dressings and appropriate spooky touches, such as dangling nooses for wall decorations, provided the “all together ooky” look.
Costumes, provided by Flo Arnold and Bill Kiska, were a fantastic contrast as the main family members are all in their traditional looks in various shades of black and gray against the Beineke family members in warm and bright pastel colors. The ancestor costumes were very impressive, as each represented an easily identifiable character from a different time period (pilgrim, flapper, caveman, etc.), but was dyed in white and deathly shades of gray.
The lighting, also designed by Justin M. Kiska, was the most impressive technical aspect of the show. Various spooky colors and shades represent different occasions and quick but colorful transitions clearly represent some character’s inner feelings or the use of the standard musical theater device to “freeze” time.
Running Time: 2 hours and 30 minutes, with one 15-minute intermission.
The Addams Family plays through October 24, 2015 at Way Off Broadway Dinner Theatre – 5 Willowdale Drive, in Frederick, MD. For tickets, call the box office at (301) 662-6600.