STORY WRITTEN BY DANTE J.J. BEVILACQUA
Few properties have been mined as often as the world of Gomez and Morticia Addams, their children Wednesday and Pugsley, strange Uncle Fester and the rest of the macabre clan.
Introduced in 1938 through Charles Addams’ cartoons in the New Yorker, the ghoulish Addams family went on to star in a sitcom, movies and animated TV before inhabiting a Broadway musical in April 2010.
All the surprises come bubbling to the surface in this beautifully dressed “Addams Family,” the energetic, crowd-pleasing, musical comedy at The Media Theatre.
This creepy, kooky, mysteriously spooky, and all together ooky, Addams Family stars the ever-engaging Jeffrey Coon as patriarch Gomez Addams and Jennie Eisenhower as his beloved Morticia.
Mr. Coon slips into the role of the endearing eccentric as easily as Gomez might slip into a silk smoking jacket, and wears it as well as the slender and gracefully flexible Ms. Eisenhower wears Morticia’s neckline-plunging, body-hugging gown.
Skillfully directed by Jesse Cline, the Media’s “Addams Family” musical is a strikingly morbid tribute to pop culture’s most morbid clan, and it revels in the quirks that made the characters famous in the first place.
Written by the “Jersey Boys” team, Marshall Brickman and Rick Elice, the show features music and lyrics by Andrew Lippa.
Based on the bizarre and beloved characters created by Charles Addams, this Broadway musical finds the Addams clan put to the test when outsiders come to dinner, hurling Gomez, Morticia, Wednesday, Pugsley, Fester, Grandma and Lurch headlong into a night that will change the family forever.
Wednesday Addams has fallen in love with a ‘normal’ young man, Lucas and the plot machinations spring from the clashes between and within the two disparate families who come together for a meal in the Addams family home.
Her little brother Pugsley and their Grandma spark a fuse by inadvertently allowing a magic potion to fall into the wrong hands. When Morticia and Gomez insist on everyone playing the after-dinner game Full Disclosure, one relationship after another collapses by act one’s chaotic finale.
The show has undergone a rewrite from the Broadway version (all the better) allowing for more bounce and straight-through plot movement. This version succeeds on several levels.
The outrageous humor is still there; “Do you have a little girls room?” the mother asks. “We used to, but we let them all go,” Gomez replies. Grandma’s Acrimonium potion “takes the lid off the id,” and Matthew Miller’s strikingly visual scenic design is brilliantly matched by Xiachen Zhou’s amazing array of zany costumes. Dann Dunn’s scintillating choreography makes this show sparkle.
Best of all is this thoroughly enjoyable cast; each one a gem!
The handsome, dapper Mr. Coon is in fine voice and delivers a star trouper’s polish while brimming with juicy shtick and zaniness. His connection with Ms. Eisenhower ignites the passion of this famously enamored couple.
As Morticia, Ms. Eisenhower looks delicious in her décolletage-happy dress. She glides around the stage with grace and comes alive when she contemplates the many ways to die in “Just Around the Corner.”
Lauren Cupples is quite good as Wednesday, belting out her numbers with gusto and complete ease.
The roles of the Beinekes are also filled with unusual care. Paul Weagraff brings a solid parental uptightness to father Malcolm, and Kristine Fraelich cracks her character’s conservative façade in Broadway-diva style with her rafter-shredding solo “Waiting,” inspired by a little “Acrimonium” in her drink.
JD Triolo is the jealously twisted Pugsley and Susan Wefel is screeching perfection as the ancient Grandma who always seems to solve other people’s problems by making them worse. Nicholas Saverine has the pivotal role the beguiling mischief-maker Uncle Fester, who acts as narrator chatting and joking with the audience. Bill Vargus craftily lurches through the affair as the half-dead family butler.
Costume designer Xiachen Zhou, and hair and makeup artist K. Whitney Rogers fastidiously create the looks that make the characters immediately recognizable. The outfits for the Addams ancestors are especially inventive. Dann Dunn’s choreography works best within the jerky-spooky rhythms of the ghostly chorus of Addams ancestors.
Musical director Christopher Ertelt adeptly leads his band through many styles that reflect the eclectic characters: Spanish rhythms for Gomez, contemporary pop for Wednesday and Lucas, vaudeville tunes for Uncle Fester. Even Lurch delivers a bass vocal.
So what didn’t I like about this show? I loved it! Don’t deprive yourself; this is a Halloween treat you really should enjoy.
IF YOU GO
The Addams Family continues at the Media Theatre, 104 East State Street in Media through Nov. 2, 2014. Tickets: $25 – $42. Information: 610-891-0100 or mediatheatre.org