Move toward the darkness.
Don’t avoid despair.
Creep into Silhouette Stages
And you’ll see what’s there!
They’ve got family first— and family last— and family through and through! They’ve got The Addams…and now they’re waiting just for you! After its run on the circuit of community and professional houses all over the tristate area, The Addams Family musical has risen from the dead in time for Halloween and is taking up a three-week residence at Silhouette Stages. Directed and Choreographed by Tommy Malek with Musical Direction by Rachel Sandler, this creepy and kooky, mysterious and spooky production has fathomless energy and hundreds of laughs to tickle your funny bone— be it still attached to your body or buried outback in the family crypt.
Appearing as if it’s about to fall down around itself, Alex Porter’s set is perfectly quaint and cozy for those kooky Addamses and all their undead-dead relatives. The crypt is a simple stone-washed front with an enormous letter ‘A’ painted on its face. The dead ivy fines crawling up the columns of the crypt entrance are a perfectly ghastly touch. Porter has crafted a two-tier set with stairs ascending and descending either side, to help the audience imagine the enormity of the spooktacular mansion sitting right in the center of Central Park. The wheel-on scenery to transition into the outskirts of Central Park is a nice comic touch, adding a nod of tribute to the original Charles Addams comic strip.
Wearing many heads— with and without hats— Tommy Malek serves as the show’s Costume Designer as well. Working closely with Makeup Creationist Parker Bailey Steven, the pair put together some gloriously ghastly couture for all of the ancestors who come rattling out of their crypt when summoned. The polar bear-skinned Caveman— complete with his furry slippers— is a personal favorite but the overall look on these ghostly ghouls is awash in whites that give you the willies, in a comic and humorous sense. Steven, who carefully fits a garish makeup plot to each of the Ancestor’s faces (among others of the living, dead, and undecided amidst the Addams’ clan) captures the essence of ghoulery in her looks, giving that extra spooky feel of individual spirits to each and every ancestor.
Malek’s vision of The Addams Family is fairly straight forward, though he does take a far livelier approach to the casting and overall energy of the show than most. Refusing to adhere to the somewhat static and almost formulaic characterizations of what Charles Addams penciled into his comics (and what various celebrity incarnations have manifested on the screen and stage since), Malek’s cast possesses a vivacious bombacity that creates that three-dimensional depth in these characters. This is evidenced in abundance with his choreography. Up-tempo, enthusiastic, and filled with routines that drive their rhythms to the beat, Malek infuses a life-force into the production that makes the experience of spending the night in the dead house a most electrifying one.
The Addams Family Ancestors (Derek Anderson, Atticus Boidy, Beth Cohen, Ty’Aira Johnson, Billy Luzier, Abby McDonough, Maggie Mellott, Justin Moe, Matt Sorak, Parker Bailey Steven) are the spiritual glue of the production. After the Broadway disaster, starring Nathan Lane and Bebe Neuwirth, and 90% of the script was rewritten to actually include a plot, the Ancestors became a more potent force in the production. Malek’s use of the aforementioned ten aligns to the show’s rewrites and keeps them bubbling in the background like zesty zips of potent poltergeists who are willing and able to help move scenes along as needed. Each of the ancestors develops their own unique personality fitted with their costume— keep eyes on Soldier Ancestor Justin Moe and his crooked-cockeyed walk as well as the drooling facial expressions of Caveman Ancestor Matt Sorak— and they all dance rather divinely with a well-heeled balance between the movements of the dead and the lively choreography which Malek provides.
Too precious for words with a maturity that is punchy and plucky ever so slightly beyond his years, Sammy Greenslit tackles the role of little brother Pugsley Addams* with great panache. Feisty in that pipsqueak fashion with a soaring vocal prowess, this junior actor measures up with a full performance in this production of The Addams Family. His rendition of “What If?” is the most adorably hilarious little lyrically dissonant song to be heard in the performance. With a crystal clear voice of a youthful boy, Greenslit hits that piercing high note at the end of the number with ease and clarity, earning him some much deserved applause.
In a war for show-stealing ham with Fester (Michael M. Crook) Grandma Addams (Caitlin Grant) is kookier than a cave full of bats on a blood moon. Grant masters the art of playing the ancient old woman at the ripe old age of 102 and does not let her naturally youthful existence as a person get in the way of creating a completely convincing physicality, totally believable vocal affectation and utterly delightful bonkers character. Grant, whose character’s musical numbers were stripped away after the post-Broadway rewrites, tags along in one of Fester’s “But Love” reprises in this production and has a screaming good time with it. There is a bouncy liveliness that Grant brings to the character that really cements the zany, whackadoodle, cracked-like-a-cuckoo-clock mentality of Grandma Addams into her performance. Grant is a sheer delight, with stellar comic delivery in her line-zingers, and a prime candidate for MVP of the show.
The aforementioned Fester is equally as loony and loopy. Michael M. Crook is a hoot in the narrative role, bullying the ancestors about with sugary malice and truly making the character his own unique fabrication. Watching Crook chew scenery in the background with his ridiculously expressive facial features is one of the Easter-egg style highlights of the show. His vocal affectation to the character is superb and really helps the audience laugh along with Fester as he guides everyone through the trials and tribulations of hysterical antics that are The Addams Family. With multiple little solos and comic timing that is on point, Crook is an irrepressible ball of bizarre, particularly when he croons and swoons his way through “The Moon & Me.”
While he doesn’t ring, he does shuffle something fierce. Zombie butler Lurch (Christopher Kabara) is one of the iconic picturesque captures from all incarnations of The Addams Family. Kabara’s physicality on top of his frozen dead facial features make the perfect combination of creepy for this production. There’s a great deal of humor that Kabara brings to the performance simply in the way he holds his facial muscles and in the way he grunts his responses. Watch him during “When You’re an Addams”; his twist will make you die laughing. Too much for words really. Without wanting to spoil too much of what goes on behind those Addams’ walls, Kabara does get a shot of vocal decadence somewhere in the musical, you’ll just have to perk up your ears and listen for when.
Every family has one. The Addams’ are about to have three; three individuals who just don’t quite fit their bill of normal. Of course, normal is an illusion and what’s normal for the Addamses is a calamity of The Beinekes! There’s Mal (Richard Greenslit) who is straight-laced and stuffy. There’s Alice (Ashley Gerhardt) who is so o’er-flowing with cheer it makes you want to puke. And there’s Lucas (Drew Sharpe) the young lover, the gooey-eyed ingénue sort who has fallen helplessly in love with the subversive Wednesday Addams and who wants to— *gasp* marry her! The Beinekes are in fact “normal” right up until they aren’t. When Greenslit finally break out of the Mal-mold and lets it all hang loose, it’s hilarious.
Gerhardt, whose character undergoes the biggest transformation of the show, is astonishing. From the shrill squeaky rhyming all through the first act, oft accompanied by ear-piercing nervous tittering giggles, to the sheer blindsiding shift that her character faces, Gerhardt handles the transition with a mastery that speaks volumes to her years of seasoned experience. What’s more impressive is the outrageous belting ferocity that explodes from her character during “Waiting.” Throwing her character all around the stage as she busts out of the buttercup yellow façade of fearful-happiness, Gerhardt all but belts the mansion to the ground with her rendition of this number and it’s both scary and deeply satisfying.
Holding his own in a cast full of talented performers, Drew Sharpe is no newbie to the stage and blends his talents accordingly into the production. With a smart and well-adjusted pitch, Sharpe really tackles his two segmented duets in the production. His verses of “One Normal Night” are the first glimmer of the character, outside of how Wednesday has described him. Sharpe truly shines in his little interactions with Gomez and Wednesday that lead into “Crazier Than You”, the duet he shares with Wednesday and here is where Sharpe gets a chance to showcase his vocal prowess.
Stoic, severe, and loaded with the deadpan, Heather Moe is Wednesday incarnate. Just to look at her you’d think someone peeled her figure up from the newspaper comic and popped it onto the stage. Masterfully conceptualizing the surprises that Wednesday experiences as she encounters love for the very first time, Moe is a vocal powerhouse and a true tumultuous force to be reckoned with when she starts belting her face off during “Pulled.” With vexation all but erupting from every pore in her body, Moe pummels the emotional crap out of that number with a belt that could easily wake any slumbering ancestor out back in the crypt. Displaying the same vocal excellence for “One Normal Night” and “Crazier Than You”, Moe is a walking wonder who keeps the darkness of her character well in tact despite the demonic rollercoaster of shenanigans that Wednesday rides all through the show.
Passion: the quality that both Vincent Musgrave and Santina Maiolatesi bring to the stage as Gomez and Morticia Addams. Right from their opening number, “When You’re an Addams”, you feel their fervent connection as ardent lovers. When everything flies to hell in a handbasket that passion drives the tensions between them to hysterical heights, all of which pushes the show forward in a most thrilling manner. Musgrave and Maiolatesi work seamlessly together, as if they were truly a long-standing married couple of 25 years who have kept no secrets from one another, understanding each other’s body language, verbal subtleties, and other intricacies of how they communicate with one another perfectly. When they sing together, it’s simply divine.
Maiolatesi is not afraid of her own racy sexuality which she doesn’t infuse but rather marinate Morticia in thoroughly. Vivacious and animated, though still maintaining the iconic Morticia mincing shuffle, Maiolatesi breaks the mold of Morticia whilst keeping her in the darkened lines of an Addams creation; she is truly morbidly marvelous. Her vocal prowess and overall execution is exactly what one expects from a Morticia when she lays into “Secrets”, the number that illustrates why no wife should ever keep secrets from her husband. With a fierce set of physical moves, Maiolatesi brings that same smoldering sensuality to her dance routines, particularly in “Tango de Amor” which treads upon the heels of “Live Before We Die.” Darkly delicious, Maiolatesi’s rendition of “Just Around the Corner” delivers all the deviously delights one could hope for.
Master of the house, Gomez Addams has truly become a second skin for Vincent Musgrave. Wearing Mr. Addams out for at least his third production, Musgrave presents an amalgamation of Gomez Addams that satisfies every incarnation to precede him. There’s a little Nathan Lane, there’s a little John Astin, a little Raul Julia, a little Tim Curry, and a little Vincent Musgrave all wrapped up in his portrayal. There’s a zany comic fortitude that Musgrave brings to the stage which really gives Gomez a comic gravity around which all others travel. With a robust and flavorful sound, both in the outrageously affected speaking voice and the boisterous and lively singing voice, Musgrave attends to each song as if it were a personal child of his own. Unearthing a human sentimentality in Gomez, numbers like “What If?” and “Happy/Sad” are truly touching and bring a bittersweet tear to the eye. A true stage treasure, there is no finer fit for Gomez Addams than Vincent Musgrave.
It’s time to move toward the darkness, welcome the unknown, lose your inhibitions, go and leave your home. Step into the theatre, see this victory, move toward the darkness…see The Addams Family.
Running Time: 2 hours and 20 minutes with one intermission
The Addams Family plays through October 28, 2018 at Silhouette Stages performing at Slayton House Theatre in Wilde Lake Village Center— 10400 Cross Fox Lane, in Columbia, MD. For tickets, call the box office at (410) 637-5289, or purchase them online.
*the role of Pugsley Addams is split between Sammy Greenslit and Chrysaetos Huza at alternating performances.