OREM — The act one finale of The Addams Family is called “Full Disclosure,” which is also the name of a game that the characters play in which they must tell the truth. So, in the spirit of full disclosure, I admit that The Addams Family is a fundamentally flawed show. But I must also confess that the show is still worth seeing, and that the cast and crew at the SCERA have created the best possible show with the material they had.
In this incarnation of The Addams Family, Wednesday Addams (Morgan Flandro) has fallen in love with Lucas Beineke (Brandon Haden), and it’s time for her to introduce her new fiancé and his parents to the Addamses. Because of all their quirks, Wednesday wants nothing more than a normal evening. Of course, that’s not what’s in store for her.
As Morticia, Shelly Stewart Truax is the strongest member of the cast. Her performance in “Death Is Just Around the Corner” was a shining moment in the show because of Truax’s clear voice and charisma. She also was enjoyable in her scenes with Gomez (Jack Stokes) because of the way her character subtly wielded the power in their relationship. Flandro was also a superb member of the cast, and I thought that her “Pulled” was the type of exciting moment that only live musical theatre can deliver. Flandro’s scene in the grotto with Pugsley (Mitch Bandley) was fun, but also displayed the characters’ unique sibling relationship. However, Stokes’s performance was nice (especially in the touching “Happy Sad”), but his inconsistent accent and lack of chemistry with his on-stage wife made the role lose some of its magic. Stokes and Truax also had to deal with the difficulty of playing roles that were so well defined in television and film that most professional actors would have difficulty making any performance their own.
Director and choreographer Shawn M. Mortensen wisely realized that beneath the jokes about death and the general weirdness of the Addamses, the show is really about family love and togetherness. The tender moment between Gomez and Wednesday in the first act as she convinces her father to keep a secret, for example, made this a family-focused show. This emphasis on emotion also helped show that the Addams family members were—at heart—like regular people. However, the choreography for the show was lackluster, especially in “Live Before We Die,” which was supposed to be a passionate tango, but was instead staid and unenergetic.
Another shortcoming with the show was the sitcom quality script (by Marshall Brickman and Rick Elice), which was telegraphic and predictable. It begins when the story is one-third over, meaning that the audience never sees Lucas and Wednesday fall in love with each other and all the tension that would accompany their relationship. As a result, the script now must stretch out a half-hour of story to last over two hours. The show also suffers from a superfluous ensemble (who play the ancestors of the Addams family), which do little more than move scenery and serve as backup dancers. I felt sorry for the talented actors who were forced to play characters that really aren’t needed to tell the story.
On the other hand, the technical artists at the SCERA have created a visually appealing show. When the curtain initially rises, it shows a creepy and irresistibly eye-catching graveyard scene. The combination of the set (designed by M’liss Tolman) and the eerie lighting (designed by Marianne Ohran) established a visual style for the show that was faithfully executed through the entire evening. Costume designer Deborah Bowman‘s prowess and talent were on full display in this show, which featured one of the most unified color palettes I have seen in a musical in recent years. The emphasis on white, black, and grey for the Addamses and their ancestors was a nice touch that both served to add to the creepy feel of the show while also recalling the 1960’s black-and-white TV series.
So, although the show suffers from inescapable script problems, the score (written by Andrew Lippa), the strong performances from the female leads, and the lavish visuals make The Addams Family a worthwhile production. As the first Halloween show of the year, it serves as a fun, family-friendly kickoff to the creepy, kooky and altogether ooky season.