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ARTS & ENTERTAINMENT

NAILING IT: ‘The Addams Family’ musical is a surprising treat

It can be goofy and silly, but it has a lot of heart. And our local talent just nails it in “The Addams Family.”

TANGO TO DEATH: Morticia and Gomez Addams (Maggie Miller and Dave Doumeng) get saucy during 'Live Before We Die/Tango De Amor' with their ensemble of dead relatives in 'The Addams Family' musical. Photo by Mark Steelman

To be frank: I just didn’t expect “The Addams Family” to be as much fun as it is. Don’t get me wrong; I love the little oddball bunch and would consistently watch the TV show reruns as a child. Their otherworldly views on life were enough to pique any child’s interest into the world of the macabre. But when I found out it became a Broadway musical and was premiering locally, I wasn’t sure if it could sustain my attention for two hours. I don’t mind when I’m proven wrong—especially in the name of entertainment.

TANGO TO DEATH: Morticia and Gomez Addams (Maggie Miller and Dave Doumeng) get saucy during 'Live Before We Die/Tango De Amor' with their ensemble of dead relatives in 'The Addams Family' musical. Photo by Mark Steelman

TANGO TO DEATH: Morticia and Gomez Addams (Maggie Miller and Dave Doumeng) get saucy during ‘Live Before We Die/Tango De Amor’ with their ensemble of dead relatives in ‘The Addams Family’ musical. Photo by Mark Steelman

The show is very simple in its plot: Wednesday Addams has fallen in love with a “normal” boy. The Addams family decides to throw a dinner party to meet this “normal” family. Things go awry to open up the plot for a dissertation on relationships and marriage, and what it means to compromise for your loved ones, as well as betray them.

The music in this production is quite wonderful and brilliantly led by music director Amanda Hunter. I adore the score, and even told my theatre companion upon our exit that I could probably buy the soundtrack and be happy listening to it outside of the production. (His response: “I can’t ever imagine listening to a theatre soundtrack.” Me: “Not even to ‘Rent?’” Him: “OK, maybe to ‘Rent’; I did see it on Broadway.”) The songs have all the things that grasp my undivided attention: 1) super instrumentals, from strings to keys, bells to whistles, even ukuleles; 2) funny lyrics that add to the show and paint its characters—like when Wednesday sings in “Pulled,” “I don’t have a sunny disposition/I’m not known for being too amused/My demeanor’s locked in one position/See my face? I’m enthused”; 3) a mix of music genres, from  calypso and tribal beats to Spanish instrumentals (“Tango de Amor”), to soft and wonderful, tongue-in-cheek ballads (“The Moon and Me”).

The performances in “The Addams Family” are also applaudable—especially in the handsomely debonair and suave sweet-talkings of Dave Doumeng’s Gomez Addams. Doumeng plays Gomez with a thick Spanish accent, a large heft of passion, and a lot of quirk and quips. He reminded me of a sometimes morose Ricky Ricardo from “I Love Lucy.” His natural charm and charisma really take over the stage during all of his scenes.

Hunter Wyatt as Wednesday Addams is a perfect fit for a young woman finding love for the first time. Although, sometimes her whining really grates the nerves when complaining/manipulating her father, it’s also indicative of the immaturity we all experience in young adulthood: fighting for what we want when we can’t have it the way we want it. But Wyatt’s most enjoyable to watch when she shows off her beautiful and powerful voice (“One Normal Nights”) and shares the stage with her adorable brother, Pugsley. Played by a lovable Max Iapalucci, he really steals the show with his wild-child heckles and schemes to stop Wednesday from getting married. Yet, when he shows he’s wrought with sadness of possibly losing his sister, the audience reacts with fond adoration, despite his dynamite explosive hijinks.

Maggie Miller as Morticia has that stone-cold demeanor down pat. She’s sexy, she’s intimidating, and she’s unbreakable. Or is she? Miller’s version of Morticia most certainly supersedes normal—or as she says, “What’s normal for the spider is a calamity for the fly.” She plays it hard the majority of the show. Even in the final scenes of reconciling with Gomez, she shows very little vulnerability. It’s mesmerizing.

While our main characters for which the plot centers carry the majority of the show, the side-note family members, like Fester, Grandma, Lurch, and the dead ancestors add fanciful drama and humor tenfold. Jordan Hathaway as Fester is perfect in every way. From his wobbly stature, to his bumbling verbiage, to his indespinsable likeability, he is awesome. His number in the second act, “The Moon and Me,” is my favorite scene by far; it’s a beauty to look at and the choreography with the Chinese lanterns is dreamy.

Michelle Reiff as Grandma insists on commanding laughter each time she hits the stage. Aside from the fact she’s enjoyable to merely look at in her frazzled costume and fizzled attitude, she injects whimsy into the show to greater heights.

As for Lurch: Wow! Just wait for it. The finale had us all looking at each other in sheer surprise when he finally opened his mouth.

The set design of the show, courtesy of Terry Collins, seamlessly moves in the midst of action without a problem. Thanks to director Mike Thompson, there’s a flow and rhythm that keeps the audience constantly immersed in the action onstage. Its pacing really helps “The Addams Family” excel, especially in all the comedic lines written throughout. Sometimes they’re easy jokes, which can be rudimentary and predictable. And sometimes the script’s writing can be completely too simple. Yet, all is forgiven because everything else works (even in the throes of one too many sexual innuendos).

It can be goofy and silly, but it has a lot of heart. And our local talent just nails it in “The Addams Family.” Catch it this weekend only at Thalian Hall.

DETAILS:
The Addams Family
Through Oct. 4, Thurs.-Sat., 7:30 p.m.
Sun, 3 p.m.
Tickets: $15-$30
Thalian Hall • 310 Chestnut St.
(910) 632-2285 • www.thalianhall.com

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