At first I thought, “Oh, this is going to be like ‘Hamilton,’ only about both the second and fourth presidents of the United States. Interesting. But wait, there are two D’s?! Oh, ‘The Addams Family.’ ”
The cartoon series, created by the famous cartoonist Charles Addams and subsequently turned into a TV series and later a film, has been a musical since it was adapted to stage in 2010 by writers Rick Elice, Marshall Brickman and Andrew Lippa. Now presented by Woodstock Musical Theatre Company, it’s at the Woodstock Opera House through Oct. 22.
However, this is not a simple reprise of the great TV series or the bland film, it’s a much better story. Wednesday Addams (Haley Gustafson is a dynamic force) secretly is engaged to her love, Luke Beineke (Matthew Lennon Stewart). The ludicrously charming couple wants to have both families meet for approval, so they bring Luke’s parents to the Addams family abode, where a simple dinner turns into so much more due to the gloriously misguided plans of Uncle Fester (played so well by Jeff Cook) and Pugsley Addams (the screamingly good Matthew Savas).
The poor Mal Beineke (Travis Greuel, appropriately pronounced like “ghoul”) and his seemingly scatterbrained rhyming wife, Alice (Hannah Shepherd), are thrust into the Addams family’s bizarre world, co-captained so well by Gomez’s Spanish bravado (a passionate Matthew Leptich) and Morticia’s cool-hearted control (the domicile, dominating Elizabeth Zimmerman).
Do you have to “know” the TV series or movie in order for the musical to make sense? No, because nothing makes sense, for the traditional form of normalcy never exists in the first place. That, my musical theatregoers, is what makes “The Addams Family” so gloriously fun. For the love of everything hilariously weird, you will find yourself rooting for really creepy characters, including the oddball Uncle Fester declaring his love for the moon.
It’s a ghoulish comedy musical with the emphasis on comedy. The actors play for a lot of laughs and deservedly get them. The opening night audience thoroughly was entertained throughout both acts, including during Grandma Addams’ (Kathie Comella) laugh-yourself-to-tears solo.
The set perfectly is wretched, as it should be, although it is a bit cumbersome for a couple set changes took some time. However, kudos must be sent out to both artistic director Shannon Lee-Day and choreographer/scenic designer Billy Seger for working hard to make the macabre magical.
Regarding the choreography, Seger really put together some great numbers. The opening number to introduce “The Addams Family” is super strong, bringing to light their unique oddness. Both cast and ensemble (aka “the ancestors”) must have put in a lot of hours practicing. It shows in their very nice footwork. Even the tall and stiff Lurch (Tim Vance) does some “dancing” purely for laughs. Lurch also… well, he brings out quite the surprise during the musical’s finale.
Singing voices overall are very strong, but seem to battle with the orchestra. While the orchestra does great work and really brings it in the dance numbers, at times, the instruments tend to bury the voices. Nonetheless, this is no reason to miss this production.
When you go, and I recommend you should, if you do not laugh at all you may in fact be like Lurch – undecidedly dead.
• Rick Copper is a writer, photographer, storyteller, part-time actor and comedian with a framed master’s degree from the Northwestern Medill School of Journalism and a loose Certificate of Completion sheet of paper from Second City’s Improv program. Published works include “Crystal Lake: incorporation of a city 1914-2014.”
“THE ADDAMS FAMILY”
WHEN: Through Oct. 22
WHERE: Woodstock Opera House, 121 W. Van Buren St., Woodstock
COST & INFO: Presented by the Woodstock Musical Theatre Company. Wednesday Addams has fallen in love with a young man from a respectable family her parents have never met. Gomez Addams decides to keep the secret from Morticia. Everything will change when her “normal” boyfriend and his parents come for dinner. Schedule: 8 p.m. Oct. 13-14, 20-21; 2 p.m. Oct. 15, 22. Tickets: $24 adults, $21 seniors and students. Tickets and information: 815-338-5300 or http://woodstockoperahouse.com.