Reviewed by Kathleen Kirby
Fans of the wacky, weird 1960s TV sitcom featuring Gomez and his refined yet chilling wife Morticia will find nostalgia and delight in the Fenton Village Players new Marshall Brickman, Rick Elice, and Andrew Lippa musical version, The Addams Family.
The whole gang is here but the show begins with a somewhat odd version of Uncle Fester as emcee. Daniel Ragan is garbed to appear hefty and his head is covered to simulate baldness. It’s his blotchy white makeup that confuses – is he dead? Almost dead? There are a lot of dead people (Ancestors) in this show, so it was hard to tell just where he fit in. Nevertheless, Ragan does a good job of introducing the story and moving it along.
Of course the mainstays of this show are parents Gomez (Jonathan Smith) and Morticia (Amber Fullmer). Smith sets the tempo and the tone throughout. His timing is wonderful and his small asides are a hoot! Fullmer makes a memorable debut on the FVP stage with her velvety portrayal. She is sensual and slightly creepy at the same time; in other words, perfect.
It’s daughter Wednesday who is causing the struggle. She has fallen in love with and agreed to marry a normal boy, Lucas Beineke (Austin Foster). Oh, the shame! Isabelle Birt does a credible job with this up and down character – one minute sweet and the next sour. Her plea to Gomez to keep the engagement a secret until after the Beineke family comes to dinner sets everyone reeling.
Younger brother Pugsley (Griffin Grabowski) worries most that his sister will be no longer there to torture him – for real! Their scene in the electrical torture chamber is curiously comical as she sings about being “Pulled” in a new direction. Grabowski is a little tall to be the younger brother, but he has terrific facial mobility and projects this mischievous character nicely.
The night of the dinner finds the whole Beineke family (Dan Maldonado, Carla Feamster, & Foster) arriving and greeted by the zombie-like Lurch – played hysterically by Nick Carter. Grunts and a slow gait plus a total deadpan demeanor cause Carter to stand out in this crowd.
Insisting they play a “traditional” family party game where everyone must tell a secret truth, Pugsley tries to slip a potion to his sister to make her reveal her true nature to Lucas. Oops! It goes to Mrs. Beineke instead causing Feamster to unleash her character’s pent up inhibitions and frustrations in the hilarious “Full Disclosure”.
Throughout the play, the ragtag dead Ancestors move in and out but unseen by the “normal” folks. They are a unique ensemble, dressed in period costumes and with understandably unhealthy complexions. They complete the chorus in big numbers such as the opening “When You’re An Addams” and the finale, “Move Toward Darkness”.
As for songs, our favorite was the sweet ballad “Happy Sad” sung by Smith as Gomez comes to terms with his daughter’s marriage. Another favorite opened act two with Fullmer’s Morticia singing “Just Around the Corner” with help from the Ancestors.
The music for this show follows a growing trend in the area by using a recorded track rather than live musicians. It worked well Thursday even if it was now and then a bit overpowering. Congratulations to Rafeal D. McDaniel as music director for bringing this group along so nicely.
Director Stevie Visser is also to be congratulated. His staging is well handled. There were a couple of slow transitions Thursday perhaps due to the canned music but generally these are things easily remedied. We liked the scrim effect and the dead Ancestors moving about in the “firmament”.
Most of all, this is a comical and entertaining show. It may be just a bit spicy in spite of its G rating, but laughter definitely ruled the roost opening night as the large audience hooted and applauded readily.
The Addams Family continues at 7 PM Fridays and Saturdays and at 2 PM Sundays through August 23 at Fenton Village Playhouse, 14197 Torrey Rd., Fenton, MI 48430. For more info and tickets contact the box office – 810-750-7700.