Within 10 minutes of the start of this show I was
thinking “I’ve got to find a way to see this again. Who can I bring?”
What impressed me so much were the creative touches, the fact that all
the performers were outstanding actors and singers, and the hilarious
dialog and lyrics. Indeed, the laughs were almost nonstop, especially for the first
half of the show.
One of the creative touches — something not in the
rented script — was a “reality television” feature with which the show
actually began. There was a screen at stage right that swung out, and on
it was a video interview first of Grandma and then Gomez and Morticia.
That started the "nonstop" laughter in the audience. Then they
sang in the video, and while I was marveling at how well the band was
coordinating with the recording, the curtain opened with the live actors
singing the same song — with choreography that involved the whole cast.
It was brilliantly executed and had a dazzling effect on the audience.
At several points throughout the evening there were other prerecorded
“interviews” with comments on what was taking place on the stage — and
they were all simply hilarious.
To me, The Addams Family is fundamentally a
parade of outrageous — and outrageously funny — characters. And the
acting, the animation of these wonderful characters, is superb in this
show. Patty Lewis was the feisty Grandma, and her antics were simply
over-the-top. And where did she get that voice? I have to say the same
for Colton Archey who gave an inspired performance as Uncle Fester. I’ve
seen him play comic characters before, but his personification of screwy
Uncle Fester was a delight and perhaps my favorite (so far) of his
roles. I have seen Ryan Adame in quite a few roles in recent years, and
I have become a big fan. Watching him for two hours confirmed my
conviction that he is an actor par excellence, and I was
constantly admiring the nuance he built into his character. No wonder he
is identified as the one cast member who has achieved the professional
status of a member of the actor’s union, the Actors’ Equity Association.
Jessica McKillican was a perfectly cool and detached
Morticia, and Kyleigh Cerro was a standout as the alternately brooding
and passionate Wednesday. Brett Young was convincing as the young
psycho, Pugsley, and Doug Coleman was a consistently inscrutable Lurch,
with surprising singing toward the end of the show. Fundamentally, the
“normal” Beinekes are foils to the Addamses, so they don’t have to be
quite as outrageous in their characterizations, but Spencer Peterson as
Lucas and Ken Duisenberg as Mal gave solid performances. Christi Axelson
as Alice Beineke was something else. Axelson, like Adame, is another
whose performances I would not want to miss. She has a wonderful comic
sensibility that she turns loose in this show. And her big number
(“Waiting”) was so well done that the audience rewarded it with extended
applause and cheers.
Each of the eleven “dead ancestors” was creatively
costumed, and it seemed to me that they each assumed a distinct
character which they maintained through the show, even when they were
acting as stage hands in repositioning props. It seemed to me that there
weren’t a lot of big numbers that highlighted the ensemble cast, but I
really enjoyed those that involved the “ancestors” with their quirky
choreography (the bunny hop and the twist?).
The live band was a big plus in this production. I was
conscious of their good playing at first, and maybe the best thing I
could add is that I wasn’t conscious of them at all through the rest of
the show: they played so well that they were complete unobtrusive. It’s
hard for me to recall specific melodies, but I think the music from this
show is very listenable and amazingly varied, from fairly serious,
gentle songs (“But Love”), to raucous productions (“Full Disclosure”),
to darkly funny numbers (“Death Is Just Around the Corner”). And these
songs were well delivered. I can recall moments thinking that the
ensemble singing was very strong. But it was the individual voices that
emphasized the high standard of music quality in the show.
I wasn’t conscious of a single weak voice, and I
thought exceptionally strong singing performances were turned in by
Adame, Peterson, Archey, Axelson, Young, Duisenberg and Coleman. But the
two whose singing I remember best are McKillican (Morticia) and Cerro
(Wednesday). To me, they displayed professional quality, trained voices,
and it was a special pleasure to hear them.
I feel I need to warn parents that there was a fair
amount of sexual innuendo in the show. I saw a lot of kids in the
audience the night I attended, and I’m sure most of questionable (but
very funny) content went over their heads. Still, I would rate the show
I saw another production of The Addams Family
last year, and enjoyed it immensely, too. But this production was so
innovative that I think they must have used the script just as a
framework from which to take various flights of fancy. When you see a
show only from the audience’s perspective, you don’t really have a sense
of how much influence the director has on what you’re experiencing, and
how much is the native talent of the performers or the contributions of
the choreographer, music director, costumer, etc. My guess is that it’s
director Ryan Adame who is primarily responsible (no doubt with input
from actors and crew) for all the subtle creative touches that were so
abundant in this show. It’s the little things that transform a good
musical comedy — as this is — into something really special.
Bottom line? The Roseville Theatre Arts Academy has
built a reputation for consistent high quality in its Mainstage
Productions. This show is part of that tradition. As I write this,
The Addams Family has three more weeks to run. Don't miss
it. You don't want to have to listen to friends and neighbors
telling you — after it has closed — what a great show it was.