Crazy is underrated. Normal is an illusion. What’s normal for the spider is a calamity for the fly, and what’s crazy for normal folk is just the basic happenings of everyday life for the crazies, like the gloom and doom inside the mansion in central park. Closing out the 2015/2016 season, The Children’s Playhouse of Maryland delivers a creepy and kooky performance, with all of the iconic Charles Addams’ characters alive in their shades of gray on the lecture hall stage in The Addams Family musical. Directed by Liz Boyer Hunnicutt with Musical Direction by R. Christopher Rose, this mysterious and ooky stage show puts the ‘fun’ in dysfunctional and encourages audiences everywhere to embrace their inner darkness. With a talented and energetically enthusiastic cast, this show will have you snapping along with Thing (Meredith Egan) from the moment the lights go down!
The opportunity to cultivate young performers so that they can put down roots in the theatre world comes from a passionate and dedicated team of hard working adults at The Children’s Playhouse of Maryland. Scenic Artist Laura Miller paints all of the spooktacular misery into the Addams’ Family graveyard and scenic backdrop while Set Designer Diane M. Smith carves out the working gate for the ancestral crypt. Smith also serves as the show’s Lighting Designer and brings in all of the appropriately morose lighting tools to give the show that extra gush of gloom. Smith’s finest work is the red gobo projections on either side of the stage during “Tango de Amor.”
When you’re an Addams the standard answers don’t apply and Costume Coordinator Sharon Byrd is taking that advice to heart when it comes to outfitting the cast. Shying away from the traditional dark garb of the main family, Byrd has mused a bit and ditched the basic black in favor of richly saturated colors that help define these madcap characters— bloodthirsty blue for Wednesday, robust red for Gomez, passionate purple for Morticia. Byrd has the ancestors looking their absolute finest with over a dozen unique looks to fit each personality from the sassy Flapper (Olivia Aubele) to the weeping Bride (Eva Hellerbach.)
Director Liz Boyer Hunnicutt masterfully conceptualizes the entity of the ancestors giving them true purpose in this musical. As the stage show itself has undergone drastic revisions from its first incarnation on Broadway to the version currently presented, the collective group of ghoulish ghosts have varied in their importance and function. Hunnicutt incorporates these denizens of the dark into the show as sharp-eyed observers, ever present and focused upon the action that unfolds in front of them, as if the ongoing events in the Addams Family mansion are a fascinating melodramatic soap opera. Mindfully attentive but not distracting, each ancestor finds their place in the scenes, subtly shifting scenery about when a scene opens or closes, but even further than that, delivers a perfectly timed facial or gesticular reaction to everything happening around them. Take special note of the scene-stealing Flight Attendant Addams (Allison Mudd) who gives Uncle Fester the safety-plane seatbelt speech upon his departure at the show’s conclusion.
Hunnicutt infuses the performance with several unique Easter Eggs that show her directorial prowess of suiting the show to the cast, the most impressively profound being the fully incorporation of the ancestors in “Full Disclosure” dinner scene. As the scene freezes for Pugsley’s aside, the ancestors go into a panicked discussion among each other, frantically trying to find a solution to keep Wednesday from drinking from the sacred chalice. Their decision— watch Caveman Addams (Sam Patterson) closely— puts an exciting new twist on this turn of events. Other fantastically imaginative moments of detail include Pugsley’s coffin bed and the laser green arrow during “Crazier Than You.”
Stepping it up a notch, Choreographer Amanda Dickson really gets these young performers moving. One of the most visually striking moments of Dickson’s choreography occurs during “The Moon and Me” where pairs of ancestors twirl bright umbrellas like twinkling stars in the night sky before spinning themselves about the stage. The “Tango de Amor” is also well developed in regards to paired dancing. Dickson’s finest achievement, though “Secrets” (featuring Morticia and the female ancestors— Olivia Aubele, Angela Boeren, Eva Hellerbach, Allison Mudd, Allison Naglieri, Valerie Ziegler, and Catie Zimmer) is a close second it’s the opening night “When You’re an Addams” dance line that really showcases Dickson’s ability to translate music into movement. The gliding stepped kick-line seen at the end of “Just Around the Corner” (which features a fantastical soft-shoe routine with Morticia and Josh Robinson as The Grim Reaper) is equally impressive.
Sticking with the rigorous rigor mortis of a zombie butler, Alex DeWald delivers a few great comic punches, particularly when it comes to reacting with cheeky responses to Wednesday and Gomez. Keep an ear out for his surprising solo song during the show’s finale, “Move Toward the Darkness.” Precocious and obnoxious, Dylan Morrison takes to Pugsley Addams like an eel takes to electricity. Bratty but boisterous for his spoken lines leading into “Pulled”, Morrison really brings out the “little brother” notions of the character. With a sweet sound, he masters “What If?” and keeps the audience laughing all through this torturously delightful little ditty.
The Beineke Family— Lucas (Kevin Franiak) his mother Alice (Olivia Lang) and father Mal (Matt Byrd)— are as far from their swing state of Ohio as they can be when they wander into what was supposed to be one normal night with the Addams family. Franiak delivers Lucas as a quiet and milquetoast character, perfect for his response to Wednesday’s question of how long he’s lived in the shadows. Byrd, as the patronizing papa, is quite quick-witted with his comic timing and delivers a strong solid voice for his segment of “Crazier Than You” a quartet shared with the other two Beinekes and Wednesday. Lang gives the family a run for their money with her dippy and flighty personality but truly lays into the character’s transformation during “Waiting” bursting with a belt at the end of this number that really rattles the bats up in the Addams’ belfry.
Grandma Addams (Ava Correlli) is a comic little spitfire. Correlli lopes about the stage, crippled with her 102 years of age, and really gives the character voice her full attention. Uncle Fester (Will Foohey), who serves as a conductive medium between the ancestral spirits and the living members of the family, is a scene-stealing character that just pops electrically right off the stage. Between Foohey’s maniacal ghastly grin and his outrageous vocal affectation, there’s nothing about Fester that isn’t astonishing! Adding to his cleverly crafted comic timing and delivery, Foohey possesses an exceptional singing voice, featured most prominently in “The Moon and Me.”
An irrepressible bundle of malice is Wednesday Addams (Kelsey Feeney.) Delivering defiant deadpan with a darkness that eats its way out of her soul and through the front of her face, Feeney recreates the miasma that Krysta Rodriguez conceptualized when she originated the role on Broadway. With full spirit for “Pulled” and a vocal blast of epic proportions for “One Normal Night,” Feeney dominates the character both in performance and song.
The root doesn’t fall far from the tree in the Addams family so it’s no wonder that Rachel Miller, as Morticia Addams, delivers impressive talent in this maternal role. With the sassy and saucy charm that Morticia must possess, Miller handles each argumentative exchange with Gomez to perfection and gets a great many laughs from the audience. “Secrets” as well as “Just Around the Corner” give Miller the chance not only to showcase her vocal ability but her sensational dancing ability. Serving as the show’s Dance Captain with Amanda Dickson’s fine choreographic routines in tow, Miller delivers scintillating tango routines for “Tango de Amor”, exceptional tap-inspired and kick-line shuffled moves for “Just Around the Corner” and leads the women in a dance of divinity for “Secrets.”
Filling us with the darkest delight, Nathan Beyer is the epitome of an ardent Spanish lover with all of the zany quirks that best befit a Gomez Addams. From his zesty accent, to which he fully commits without ever faltering, to his wildly animated facial expressions, Beyer is a charming gift in the role of Gomez. A fluid mover when fencing with Lurch and dancing with Morticia, Beyer possesses a suave sensuality that makes you want to love Gomez even when he’s screwed up big time. Packing a powerful punch with his rich, radiant, and robust singing voice, numbers like “Trapped” and “Not Today” fill the house with exceptional sound, the latter having a mind-blowing belt at the end. “Happy/Sad” becomes the most touching moment in the show because of Beyer’s heartfelt interpretation. Truly a master of the macabre in his own zany way, Beyer embraces the darkness and makes the audience love every minute of it.
It’s family first, and family last— tell your friends, word of mouth is so important— and you won’t want to miss this family engagement, but hurry because it won’t last too terribly long!
Running Time: Approximately 2 hours and 20 minutes with one intermission
The Addams Family plays through May 22, 2016 at the Children’s Playhouse of Maryland in the Lecture Hall of the Administration Building at the Community College of Baltimore County Essex Campus— 7201 Rossville Boulevard in Baltimore, MD. For tickets call the box office at (443) 840-2426 or purchase them online.