It’s all together ooky, The Addams Family. That’s a good thing, of course. Save for one flaw, Silhouette Stages’ production of the show is a comic delight, well sung and danced by a talented cast.
The characters in the show originated in cartoons drawn mostly for New Yorker magazine by the great, and personally rather strange, Charles Addams. The most significant ancestor of this 2010-11 musical (music and lyrics by Andrew Lippa, book by Marshall Brickman and Rick Elice) was a mid-60s TV show that combined Addams’ characters in a sitcom setting.
The musical retains the spirit and shape of a family sitcom, using the familiar trope of a fraught first meeting among young people in love and unexpectedly different parents (think Meet the Parents or the dinner scene in La Cage Aux Folles) to power the plot.
Gomez Addams (Vincent Musgrave) and his wife Morticia (Santina Maiolatesi) preside over a gothic mansion in New York’s Central Park. The couple, devoted to each other while frequenting tango sessions and all things morbid, are fairly odd parents to two fairly odd children: Wednesday (Heather Moe), an urban crossbow hunter in the throes of first love, and torture-philic little brother Pugsley (Sammy Greenslit on opening night).
The household is rounded out by Uncle Fester (Michael M. Crook) – sweet-tempered, fat, bald, of no particular sexuality — Grandma (Caitlin Grant) – the family’s keeper of potions – and the large, grunting Lurch (Christopher Kabara) – shuffling on his heroically high platform shoes.
Into this fairly odd home come Wednesday’s apparently “normal” boyfriend Lucas Beincke (Drew Sharpe), his unhappy-in-marriage mother Alice (Ashley Gerhardt), and his all-too-straight and respectable father Mal (Richard Greenslit). Complications naturally ensue, particularly when Wednesday requests Gomez to keep a secret from Morticia, contrary to the family norm of “full disclosure,” and Pugsley spikes a drink with one of Grandma’s potions, causing the dinner to go off the rails.
Rounding out the cast is an ensemble of ghostly ancestors, who – in their beautifully realized all-white costumes and mostly white makeup – make the most of Tommy Malek’s lively choreography in numbers like “Just Around the Corner.” The ensemble scenes are, without exception, well-designed, energetic, and entertaining.
The Addams Family, based as it is on well-established cartoon and sitcom characters, offers relatively little discretion to actors: it calls more for impersonation than interpretation.
The first-rate cast carries out its function with accuracy and verve, displaying fine timing in delivering the script’s host of cheesily funny lines (e.g., “Wednesday is growing up – soon she’ll be Thursday!”).
Musgrave is polished and assured as Gomez, comic Spanish accent and all. His musical numbers, such as “Trapped” – expressing his conflict between his wife’s and daughter’s expectations – and an ode to ambivalence, “Happy/Sad” (seemingly derivative of Sondheim’s “Sorry/Grateful”) hit the spot.
Maiolatesi’s Morticia moves sinuously in her trademark long black dress; her “Just Around the Corner” is a strong musical moment, as is her duet with Gomez, “Live Before You Die.” Fester gets his time to shine in the moonlight in “The Moon and Me.” Gerhardt nails Alice’s star-turn opportunity in “Waiting.” Sharpe and Moe have a nice moment in “Crazier than You.”
Besides the white-on-white outfits for the ancestors, the rest of Tommy Malek’s costume designs also work well. The parallel yellow dresses for Alice and Wednesday in the first act were notable, as was Gomez’s traditional pin-stripe suit, but everyone gets to look good.
The same may be said for the uncredited makeup and wig work, both of which were extensive and successful. The generally effective lighting design (Thomas P. Gardner) uses follow spots a bit much, especially in the unusually frequent front-of-curtain scenes. My favorite lighting instant was at the end of “Just Around the Corner,” the white-clad ensemble is frozen in light, while Morticia in her black dress at center stage is in relative darkness. Perfect.
That flaw? The sound. The use of a prerecorded score, which inevitably diminishes the spontaneity of what is otherwise a live theater performance and which should be confined to its native habitat of commercial dinner theater.
All the morbid grotesquerie notwithstanding, this is a light, happy, funny, wholesome family musical, its humor being noticeably less dark in tone than Charles Addams’ original cartoons. The lobby featured a nice drawing of the Addams family’s mansion; I found myself wishing for a display of copies of some actual Charles Addams cartoons, to give audience members who may not have known his work (he died in 1988) a chance to appreciate the show’s source material.
Running Time: Two hours and 20 minutes, including one intermission.
The Addams Family runs through October 28, 2018, at the Slayton House Theater at the Wilde Lake Village Center – 10400 Cross Fox Lane, in Columbia MD. For tickets, call 410-632-5289, or purchase them online.