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Last Updated: 17-Oct-15 02:53


REVIEW

Addams Family an ooky, but not altogether kooky, musical romp

Famous macabre family makes local stage debut with Dry Cold Productions

By Joff Schmidt CBC theatre reviewer 

 

They're altogether ooky, but the spooky clan is played for silly, mostly satisfying laughs in Dry Cold Production's take on the 2010 musical The Addams Family.

The musical draws its inspiration from Charles Addams' comics, which in turn inspired the 1960s television show and later movies. The characters will be familiar to anyone who knows either the comics or the screen versions — the Addamses are a curiously macabre family, headed by slightly unhinged patriarch Gomez (played here by Kevin McIntyre) and his cool, vampish wife Morticia (Brenda Gorlick).

In this version, their daughter Wednesday (Julie Lumsden) is 18, and has fallen in love with the comparatively normal Lucas Beineke (Darren Martens).

This delights oddball romantic Uncle Fester (Stan Lesk) and his chorus of long-dead Addams family ancestors, but dismays Wednesday's younger brother Pugsley (Mackenzie Wojcik), who's worried about losing his playmate for his beloved torture sessions in the family's dungeon.

Both Morticia and Lucas' parents, Mal and Alice (Sam Plett and Naomi Forman) are dead set against the union, and a sort of gothic Romeo and Juliet scenario unfolds.

Marshall Brickman and Rick Elice's book is amusing, but certainly doesn't break any new ground. But it's all set to a likeable set of tunes by Andrew Lippa. There are plenty of toe-tapping tango flourishes to the music, nicely performed by a live quartet under music director Andrew St. Hilaire, and every cast member gets a chance to shine.

Standouts include Wednesday's love ballad "Pulled," backed by brother Pugsley stretched out and tortured on a rack, and belted out with gusto by Lumsden. The young Wojcik gets his own chance to show off impressive vocal chops with "What If?" Uncle Fester has his own genuinely touching ballad to his true love, the moon, with "The Moon and Me." And even the normally silent butler Lurch (John Anderson) gets a moment to shine.

The impressive 17-member cast delivers strong vocal performances, and the show is smartly choreographed by Robert Boge, especially a crisp, energetic tango number between Morticia, Gomez, and the Addams ancestors.

Director Donna Fletcher's production certainly captures the look and feel of the mysterious and spooky family, with an appropriately gothic set and costuming.

In the leads, Lumsden delivers a complex and intriguing dead-eyed intensity as the love-struck Wednesday, while Gorlick speaks volumes through Morticia's sly smirk and graceful languidness. McIntyre's Gomez is affable, but more goofy than weird. 

And that's my biggest problem with this musical take on the Addams family. Brickman, Elice, and Lippa aim for silly comedy, and certainly land a lot of it, with everything from laugh-out-loud moments like a bawdy dinner table confession from Grandma (played wonderfully by Mariam Bernstein), to delightful groaners like Gomez's lament, "Wednesday's growing up — she'll be Thursday before you know it."

But they trade laughs and cuteness for real weirdness, which was always the charm of the Addams family to me — this musical leans more toward Mary Poppins than Tim Burton territory. The broad strokes of their eccentricities are still here, but the sense of strangeness that always made the family so fascinating seems to be sometimes missing in this musical version, which wants to make a point about embracing our oddities — but really feels like it's more about moving toward "normal." 

And it moves along predictably, and with a running time of more than 150 minutes (with intermission) none too swiftly, to a conclusion we can all see coming from the start.

Still, it offers pleasant tunes, sharp staging, solid performances, and a lot of chuckles. But I did wish this Addams Family was a little kookier.

 

Dry Cold Productions' The Addams Family runs at the Tom Hendry Warehouse until May 23.


The Arts

The Addams Family provides a nostalgic throwback for its Winnipeg debut
By: Kevin Prokosh

The Addams Family, the American chamber musical getting its Winnipeg debut by Dry Cold Productions, wastes little time in giving its audience what it already knows and wants.

Baby boomers wishing for a nostalgic return to the trash television of the ’60s are immediately assured they have come to the right place with the welcome appearance of Thing, the death-fixated clan’s disembodied pet hand, whose finger-snapping accompanies Vic Mazzy’s indelible theme music from the cult TV sitcom.

The opening number, When You’re an Addams, re-introduces the family headed by Gomez, who is exhilarated to be in a graveyard, where a man can feel bad to be alive. It’s an effective scene-setter; the audience gets to see the ghoulish brood in the flesh, deathly pallid as it may be.

There’s macabre matriarch Morticia, who speaks about her longing for "darkness, grief and unspeakable sorrow." Next to her is devil-child daughter Wednesday and cigar-smoking young son Pugsley. Rounding out the creepy household is bald-pated Uncle Fester (who jams a lightbulb in his mouth and it turns on), frightful Grandma and the grunting butler Lurch.

In this bizarre world, based on the magazine cartoons that Charles Addams debuted in the 1930s, screams are interchangeable with sentiment, torture is an act of sibling love and death is something to relish and share. It is these spooky, ooky freaks who are the loving models of family values.

In five minutes, the writing team of Marshall Brickman and Rick Elice have satisfied every viewer expectation, as their story is then outlined in the tune (We Have) A Problem.

Yes, we have a problem.

The plot arrives DOA, a bland cultural clash about lovers with mismatched parents. It’s one of the oldest stories in the book. Crossbow-wielding Wednesday’s heart has been pierced by one of Cupid’s arrows and she has become secretly engaged to a square named Lucas Beneike.

When the Addamses host a dinner party to meet Lucas and his emotionally constipated parents, she pleads with them to act normal. The wildly different lifestyles collide, generating plenty of laughs that were funny in the ’60s... and one from the ’50s (if you remember The Honeymooners).

That’s about all there is, because Brickman and Elice command little emotional investment from their audience.  The families sit down to eat as if at the Last Supper, setting the table for a post-meal entertainment called Full Disclosure that causes havoc.  Much of the second act is taken up repairing the damage.

Director Donna Fletcher has assembled a local cast of actors who not only have the right look for their iconic characters, but know how to play them with brio. Most entertaining is Kevin McIntyre, as the ever-romantic, Spanish-accented Gomez. His singing stands out among many just competent voices.

Stage vet Stan Lesk is compelling as hopeless romantic Uncle Fester, delivering a touching The Moon and Me. Brenda Gorlick brings appealing sepulchral charm to Morticia and supplies some choice dancing in Tango De Amor.

One disappointment is her dress, which is supposed to have a neckline that’s cut down to Venezuela but never ventures south of St. Vital.

Julie Lumsden is able to make Wednesday’s challenging shift from glowering teen to lovesick ingenue while singing a powerful Pulled.

The supporting cast is strong, led by the largest, John Anderson as Lurch, who is delightful. His 11th-hour smile looks as if it might shatter his face. Mackenzie Wojcik earns empathy as the pain junkie Pugsley, while Mariam Bernstein adds her usual comic flair to the role of Grandma. Naomi Forman’s Alice Beneike is the big winner during Full Disclosure.

Kudos are earned by the versatile Ancestors, the show’s chorus, the four-piece onstage band and the gruesome makeup of Post Mortem Productions.

 

Andrew Lippa’s pastiche tunes are, for the most part, unremarkable. You leave humming only The Addams Family famous TV theme, but none of the other tunes from the musical.