Review: ‘The Addams Family’ at Washington County Playhouse

The Addams Family, made famous by American cartoonist Charles Addams in 1938 in The New Yorker, became well-loved in the 1960s when adapted for television, starring John Astin and Carolyn Jones. This was then followed by an animated series in the 1970s and obtained cult status in the 1990s with feature films, starring Raúl Juliá and Angelica Huston. It only makes sense that a live musical adaption should eventually follow. The Washington County Playhouse’s production of The Addams Family – A New Musical Comedy, written by Marshall Brickman and Rick Elice with music and lyrics by Andrew Lippa, lovingly brings to life this delightfully macabre family for the Halloween season.

Cast of The Addams Family. Photo by Adam Blackstock.

As you walk into the lobby of the Washington County Playhouse, you immediately feel as if you are entering the mansion of Gomez and Morticia Addams, with tombstones, skulls, cobwebs, and lighting to set the mood. The Addams Family is set in their mansion located in Central Park, which is where a now grown-up Wednesday Addams meets and falls in love with Lucas, an all-American boy from (gasp) Ohio. Wednesday tells her father, Gomez, that she and Lucas are secretly engaged and she would like his help to keep this information from her mother, Morticia, and to have a “normal” dinner party with Lucas and his parents to see if the two families can get along. Throughout the night, comedy and mayhem erupts as character-changing potions bring out dark secrets within the two families.

Director Scott Ruble did an outstanding job of maintaining the familiar nuances in each character. While the set was very minimal, Scott used the ensemble, to the delight of the audience, as everything from trees in the park to the front door of the mansion to pictures on the walls. He also choreographed set changes into the ensemble’s blocking during songs and scenes so the action flowed seamlessly from one scene to another.

Shawn Martin, as family patriarch Gomez Addams, is lovably quirky while being pulled between his promise to his daughter to keep her secret and his passionate love and devotion to his wife. His comedic timing and facial expressions are perfect as he casually delivers some of the funniest lines in the show. Shawn’s glorious tenor voice is immediately put on display in the opening number, “When You’re An Addams,” and his rendition of “Happy Sad” is worth the cost of admission alone.

Stephanie Allee is beautifully statuesque as stone-faced Morticia. Although the writers portray Morticia as angrier than past incarnations, Stephanie still makes her likable, allowing the audience to  pull for her to forgive Gomez and joining him for the tango he’s been begging her for all evening. When she finally does, she is graceful and sexy as they dance across the stage. Her song, “Just Around the Corner,” was hysterical. My biggest complaint was there were not enough songs in the show that featured her lovely voice.

As the unlikely lovers, Kaitlyn Marie Lamkin as Wednesday Addams and Tim Diehl as Lucas Beineke prove that opposites attract. But are they really as opposite as they first appear? Kaitlyn was fabulous as Wednesday, with wonderful deadpan expressions. When she tries to appear “normal” for the Beinekes, you can still see her macabre nature just boiling under the surface. Tim portrays the all-American boy very well, but now and then he shows that he too is a little morbid and may actually be perfect for Wednesday. They both had very nice singing voices, but unfortunately at times the accompaniment tracks drowned them out when they needed to be stronger vocally. Hopefully they will be able to work through this with the sound technician so parts of their songs aren’t missed by the audience.

Ensemble of The Addams Family. Photo by Adam Blackstock.

Lee Merriman and Karen Heyser-Paone are perfect as Mal and Alice Beineke. Mal works hard to provide for his family, causing him to forget how to be a husband. To cover up her heartbreak, Alice speaks in rhymes and tries to make it seem like everything is sunshine and flowers. Karen talks in this tiny, high-pitched voice throughout the show that is hilarious. Then when Alice accidentally drinks a potion that is supposed to bring out her dark side, Karen brings down the house with her powerful belting vocals during the Act 1 finale. Lee also has a beautiful voice that is showcased during his part in the song “Crazier Than You.”

There are two actors sharing the role of Pugsley Addams, Donovan D. Yaukey and Jocelyn Merriman. I had the privilege of seeing Jocelyn in the role. She is outstanding as the torture-loving, ghoulish younger brother who plots to make his sister come back to the dark side. Jocelyn is a young girl who I hope continues to perform as she is a natural onstage. Jeremy Trammelle as Uncle Fester, Sue Eckel as Grandma, and Nate Ladow as Lurch are all very funny in their roles. Nate did not say a word through the entire show, then near the end, surprised the audience with his lovely baritone voice.

Filling out the cast was one of the best ensembles I have had the pleasure of seeing in a show in a long time. Vocally, they were outstanding and if I hadn’t seen how few people were in the ensemble, I would have thought it was at least twice the size. Choreographer Chelsea Bondarenko, did a wonderful job with the many styles of dance. Sitting as close to the stage as the audience does at the Playhouse, it is easy to really focus on each individual in the ensemble. Britany Poindexter has a gorgeous soprano voice that lets the high notes float from her with ease. Also Jennifer Flohr was an absolute joy to watch. She is graceful as she dances and her facial expressions were wonderful.

For a hilarious, family-friendly Halloween treat, you don’t want to miss The Addams Family – A New Musical Comedy at the Washington County Playhouse.

Running Time:  Two hours and thirty minutes, with one 20-minute intermission.

The Addams Family – A New Musical Comedy plays through October 29, 2017, at the Washington County Playhouse Dinner Theater and Children’s Theater – 44 North Potomac Street, in Hagerstown, MD. For tickets, call the box office at (301) 739-7469, or purchase them online.

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