The Placer Performance Calendar


Great Local Shows - Theatrical Reviews

Title The Addams Family
Organization Stand Out Talent
Date(s) of show December 5-21, 2014
Reviewer Dick Frantzreb

I’ll confess I don’t remember much of “The Addams Family” TV series (1964-66), and I didn’t see the 1991 movie.  Still, I think that Stand Out Talent’s production of this new musical was perfectly cast.  And with perfect casting, you’re well on your way to a great production.  Let’s start with Steve Campbell as Gomez.  I’ve seen Steve in a couple other SOT shows, and I don’t know his theatrical history, but surely this was a break-out role for him.  He played it with a Spanish accent and speech pattern that was consistent, and with spirit and a warmth that created a realistic character in this unrealistic setting.  In the intimacy of the Tower Theatre, surrounding the actors on 3 sides, you can see more than you can across the proscenium of the traditional theater.  And watching Steve, I noticed subtle gestures and facial expressions that showed how deeply into his part he was.  But the biggest surprise he delivered was his singing.  He was the focus of several musical numbers in the second half of the show, and in all he demonstrated a rich, accurate, expressive voice that was easy to listen to.

And what could be more perfect casting than J. Cranmer as Morticia:  tall, slender, sexy, slinky, aloof.  But what was it about her?  It took me several minutes to figure out that “she” is a “he,” and I had to persuade a startled friend of that fact during intermission.  He’s listed as “J. Cranmer” in the playbill to preserve the ambiguity, but he’s really Jonathan Cranmer, a versatile young actor.  And however many times I may see this show in the future, he will always be the perfect Morticia.  The way he walked, stood, moved and spoke said “of course, that’s a woman.”  He was even able to pitch his speaking voice high enough to preserve the illusion.  Rounding out his perfection in the role was his excellent singing voice and high-energy dancing – in high heels!

Uncle Fester was another surprise to me.  J. Scott Moore played him as a sympathetic, gentle soul, and it worked — despite the black lipstick and eye shadow, bald head and neck-to-ankle leather coat.  He was the featured voice in several musical numbers, and sang beautifully.  One of those songs, “The Moon and Me,” was strange and disarming.  He was professing his love for the moon, so it was silly.  But it was also very sweet and exceptionally well sung and well delivered.

I say “delivered” because in musical theatre it’s not only the vocal quality you produce, but how you perform it in your role, how you “sell” the song.  And so the other characters – sweet and spooky Wednesday (Carli Meyer), sinister and pitiful Pugsley (Joey Carlsen), feisty Grandma (Haley Buckmaster), passionate and conflicted Lucas (Zach Van Ysseldyk), and assertive and repentant Mal (Andy McCollum) all delivered their songs with energy, humor and feeling — whatever was required.  And let’s not overlook Lurch (Craig Plageman).  He lurched is way through the show and was a key part of many great comic bits.  But he didn’t sing, until one single low note toward the end of the show:  C2, I think it was, which would put it 2 octaves below middle C.  Delivered with power and good tone, it was a stunner.  Then there’s Jennifer Bortz as Alice.  Different from any of the many other roles I’ve seen her in, she was convincingly ingenuous until she takes the special potion that brings out her assertiveness, leading to her big number, which showed what a strong singer she is.

Jennifer was also the choreographer of this show, which included so many impressive dance numbers.  There were big production numbers, like the opening “When You’re an Addams” or “Live Before We Die,” but several other musical numbers also featured complex, interesting and often funny choreography that was clearly a highlight of the evening.  The 12 dead ancestors (8 women and 4 men) had appropriately outrageous costumes and make-up, and they brought off all those dance routines with style and were fun to watch.  They weren’t individually miked, and I’m not sure the ensemble singing matched the quality of the solo voices.  But there were at least a couple of outstanding singers among these “dead ancestors” who kept the ensemble more or less in tune.  Of course, the instrumentals were provided by a recorded track, but Music Director Nic Valdez, who I could see directing from the booth behind the larger part of the audience, deserves a lot of credit for making the “music” of this musical work so well.

There were so many excellences in this show that I’m worried about overlooking some important ones.  One example is the sharp images that were projected on the large screen behind the stage.  They gave a detailed picture of a scene’s setting (a room in the house, the garden, etc.) that helped us better understand the action in front of us by giving us a sense of place.  Speaking of the screen, the show began with a very short, but very funny animated video.  No, actually, it began with Co-director Jason Bortz warming the audience up with what really amounted to a high-energy stand-up routine that had us laughing almost constantly.

I’ve seen nearly all of Stand Out Talent’s shows over the past 3 years, and this was clearly one of the most impressive — and most fun.  I liked it so much that I came back to see it a second time because I wanted to share it with my family.  In this production Director Jennifer Bortz and husband Jason outdid themselves, bringing together a “perfect storm” of excellence in casting, acting, choreography, singing, props, and costumes that really did justice to what is, by itself, a funny, imaginative and entertaining show.  “The Addams Family” as an outstanding musical – who would have imagined it 50 years ago?

 Reviews Home    Organizations    Shows