It’s just a simple dinner. What could go wrong? Famous last words by the delightfully unsuspecting, crazier-than-you Wednesday Addams right before chaos and calamity are unleashed upon her “meet-the-parents” style dinner. The story may be a familiar one, since there’s hardly a company left who hasn’t produced Andrew Lippa’s The Addams Family, unless of course they’re a brand new company. As it happens, the Hereford Community Theater is exactly that. In their inaugural debut, under the Direction and Musical Direction of Chris Rose, The Addams Family is creeping its way into northern Baltimore County, compliments of the 7th District Parks & Recreation Council. Playing out of the Hereford High School Auditorium, this zesty and spirited production has just two performances on Friday night August 16, 2019 and Saturday night August 17, 2019. Be sure not to miss them and support the newest community theatre in town.
Simple sets and costumes are a great way to go when you tackle your very first show as a brand new company, even if the company itself has been over two years in the making. And of course, The Addams Family is not a musical that provides simplicity in any of its aesthetic properties. Fortunately for Hereford Community Theater, every other company within earshot of Northern Baltimore County has produced The Addams Family sometime in the last five years. Ubiquitous Costume Designer Dickie Mahoney (with assistance from Jessie Zito) has gathered together a great many of the iconic outfits that audiences expect to see when they attend this character-specific production. The Ancestors (Greg Bennett, Katelyn Dixon, Kayvon Kaliush, Reza Kaliush, Alison Kay, Jennifer Larkin, Meghan Parker, Joshua Porta, Sue Spence, Joy Strouse, Lyla Strouse) have some of the more unique looks in the show— there’s even a Sailor Ancestor (Kayvon Kaliush) a Hippie Ancestor (Jennifer Larkin), a Gangster Ancestor (Reza Kaliush), and a Pageant Queen Ancestor (Sue Spence), whose pageantry sash reads “Miss Guided”, among others.
Skif Friese finds basic scenery that still works in the grander scheme of complexities that encompasses life inside The Addams Family. It’s fascinating what a talented cast can do to make you lose sight of the fact that this behemoth of a production practically cries out for intricately detailed and enormous set pieces. Friese does really go all out for “The Heretic’s Chair”, however, making it look quite the impressive and gloomy furnishing for the lone scene in which it appears. Friese gets clever and creative when it comes to some of the more challenging elements of the production; working alongside Director Chris Rose to craft a simple but beautiful encounter with the moon for Fester’s solo filler, “The Moon and Me”, the pair convince the audience that sometimes less really is more.
Chris Rose, wearing many hats as company founder, Director, Musical Director, and Pit Conductor, puts forth a strong sense of determination and sets it against a dedicated and talented cast to achieve a successful production. Some technical issues aside (predominantly microphone issues, and companies at the best of times fight and struggle with those, as well as pit-balancing issues, though not for a lack of intense effort on Rose’s part) the show is solid, standing stable on its feet, ready and desperate for audiences. The six-person orchestra pit (Nathan Hamidi on drums, Helen Schlaick on reeds, Eli and Nathan Shumaker on saxophone, Lindsey Duquette on keyboard, Joe Nappolillo on guitar) follows Rose meticulously; their ability, through his precision conducting skills, to keep the music in time with the singers on stage is well worthy of praise. Helen Schlaick in particular deserves an extra special nod for her sultry, clear sound on one of the saxophones during “Waiting” as it really sets the tone for the entire number.
Choreographers Katelyn Dixon and Lauren McKee focus on their strengths when bringing dance routines to the performance. Coordinated and clean, their uncomplicated routines are just the little bit of flare needed to properly pepper up some of these bigger musical numbers. There is a lot of swishy sashays and sensual shoulder tosses from the female ancestors all during “Secrets” and a celebratory, albeit macabre, verve that vibrates through “When You’re An Addams”, the show’s proper opening number. “Tango De Amor” also features the ancestors, moving fluidly around the stage in true tango fashion, with Gomez and Morticia at the head of Dixon and McKee’s choreographic work in this number.
Director Chris Rose has gathered together a talented cast, filled with strong singers, and humorous character actors to create this production of The Addams Family. No matter how many times you may have seen this musical or no matter how familiar you think you are with these characters, you’re bound to discover intricate nuances and unusual character choices aplenty in this production. Never in the seven years since The Addams Family has been touring and licensed out to regional, area, and community theatres, have I ever seen a more animated and livelier Lurch (Brandan Iversen.) Not like the films or the television character, and unlike any incarnation of the zombie-butler ever before presented on the stage, Iversen makes his own unique creation out of the role. He has giddy smirks, hilariously exasperating facial expressions, and even creates little moments of physical comedic shtick that far fall outside the expected realm of Lurch. They’re unusual but they blend well with the quirky gathering of characters in this production and fit the overall message of the show, “normal is an illusion, move toward the darkness, be who you are.”
Uncle Fester (Patrick Chaney) is bringing you a different type of Fester too. Rather than the squeaky and nasally vocal affectation which so often accompanies the odd little Addams Family relation, Chaney puts on this aloof air of a haughty British person, and matches the accent accordingly. This drags his character’s overall pacing to a sluggish crawl, and impedes that skippy, lilting pace of “But Love” and “Fester’s Manifesto”, but for all the difference it makes, it doesn’t detract from the overall production. Chaney has a dulcet, full sound which resonates beautifully for the filler number, “The Moon & Me”, and he wafts through it delicately, like a star drifting through the night sky.
The “Normies” as they have come to be known by TAF supporters, are exactly as you might expect, awkwardly normal and not all the type of folks one might associate with the doom and gloom of The Addams Family. Mal Beinecke (Scott Shumaker) is very straight-laced, stick-in-the-mud ordinary, though Shumaker’s voice is glorious, gorgeous, and powerful. You really hear it at its finest when he and Alice (Tiffany Walker Porta Burrows) join the duet for “Crazier Than You” and Shumaker hits the upper tenor harmony line in the final quartet blend of that song. Burrows, who has a quirky rhyming scheme delivered in a slight Ohioan accent for her portrayal of Alice, really belts it out during “Waiting” and gets the audience all invested in her inadvertent plight with this powerhouse singing performance.
Lucas Beineke (Tony Cabral), the son, the one in love with Wednesday? Is the perfect character adornment to Wednesday Addams (Marcy Ledvinka.) Cabral’s Lucas is impulsive, once he thinks about it! And when he tries to “handle” Pugsley (Davis Guyton) he makes a right proper fool of himself; it’s adorable. Davis Guyton, as the “younger brother” (despite looking a bit older and taller) of Wednesday is really perfect in the role as he somehow manages to defy physics and produce this cherubic falsetto sound to sing his way through “What If?” There is a sincerity to his plight despite all the comic antics that accompany Guyton’s character. Watch him chew scenery all during Wednesday’s opening speech that precedes “One Normal Night.” And when he gets into it with Grandma Addams (played by the perfectly vocally affected and physically discombobulated Erika Shook), there are some laughs and intrigue to be had.
Wednesday’s growing up— she’ll be Thursday by tomorrow! Marcy Ledvinka is a knockout in the role of the dour and dark daughter of Morticia and Gomez. With a lethal case of RBF, from the moment Ledvinka steps foot onto the stage, you know you’re in for one dark and distorted ride. Looking seriously deranged (and hilariously gormless when she starts expressing her initial feelings about Lucas), Ledvinka blows the audience away with her phenomenal belttress vocals, blasting her way through “Pulled” as a metamorphic transformation seizes her midway through the song. Barreling through “One Normal Night” and her portions of “Full Disclosure” and “Crazier Than You”, it is plain to see that Ledvinka is a force to be reckoned with, not only vocally but when it comes to living in the skin of this creepy and kooky Wednesday Addams character.
With so many incarnations of Gomez and Morticia Addams before them, Greg and Michele Guyton find nods of homage to many of the characters’ origins while still making the spooky couple an entity all their own. Michele Guyton finds an unusually pleasing balance between the stoic deadpan (both in textual delivery and physical & facial animation) and the livelier mischief of Morticia. With a powerhouse belt, which could readily lead you to believe that she and Ledvinka were actually mother and daughter (and ironically enough she and Davis Guyton, playing Pugsley, are mother and son) Michele Guyton explodes her way through “Secrets” and really slays “Just Around the Corner”; her final note in that number is stellar. Greg Guyton, as the quirky and eccentric Gomez, brings a humbling sincerity to his portrayal of the Addams Family patriarch. You can see he is fraught with worry and vexation during “Trapped” and “Not Today.” There is over-the-top comedic intention behind Greg Guyton’s Gomez, but sincere heart whenever he sings. This curious balance creates a refreshing rendering of the character that is not often experience. (And to bring it on home to Baltimore, he creates the physique of looking a bit like a young, spry John Waters trying to play the part.)
So get your fingers together, *snapsnap* and head out to the newest theatrical offering in Baltimore County. Hereford Community Theater has only two performances of their inaugural production and you won’t want to miss their The Addams Family this summer.
Running Time: Approximately2 hours and 20 minutes with one intermission
The Addams Family plays through August 18, 2019 with Hereford Community Theater in the auditorium of Hereford High School— 17301 York Road in Parkton, MD. Tickets are available at the door or in advance online.