Crazy for “The Addams Family” at Warner Theatre

It was anything but a normal night as “The Addams Family” brought a Halloween in August feel to the Warner Theatre main stage for closing weekend of the relatively new musical comedy.

But one normal night is all Wednesday Addams (Sydney Weiser) wants when her normal fiancé Lucas Beineke (Jonathan Zalaski) and his normal parents, Mal (James M. Wood) and Alice (Dianna Waller) come for dinner to meet her not so normal family. But as an Addams, her relationship is put to the test as she finds out whether she and Lucas have a love worth dying for, quite literally when she shoots an arrow at an apple on his head while blindfolded.

The Addams clan is mysterious and spooky and all together ooky. Wednesday is gothic, morbid and an avid hunter, but when her true love’s family comes a knocking on the door, she puts on her yellow dress instead of her usual black garb. She is much more at the forefront in the musical than the TV show and love pries the enthusiasm and emotion out of her otherwise serious exterior. Weiser is only a junior in high school, but she carries herself with maturity in acting and vocals. She had one of the most impressive voices in the production in tonality and power. All of her songs were my favorites in the show from “One Normal Night” and “Pulled” to her “Crazier Than You” duet with Zalaski.

Colby Morkan plays Wednesday’s mischievous little brother, Pugsley (Colby Morkan), who loves to be tortured on a pulling apparatus and who will stop at nothing to ensure he won’t lose his dark, tough sister, even if it means attempting to essentially drug her with an evil potion.

Her parents, Gomez (John Farias and Morticia (Katherine Ray) are lovers of the macabre, but passionate at the core. Farias has an Antonio Banderas air about him with his accent and has a very powerful voice. He’s also a master of playing up the comedy at the right moments both intentionally and in subtext, particularly when he’s forced to choose between keeping his daughter’s secret about her engagement and lying to his wife who thinks he tells her everything. Ray’s demeanor, posture and stunning black lace dress gives Morticia layers of grace, control and honesty intertwined with her biting stare and morbid outlook. The two smolder the most during “Tango De Amor,” which brings out their youthful, playful side as a stage couple.

Josh Newey is unrecognizable as Wednesday’s lunatic, moon-loving Uncle Fester, who serves as our narrator in a way and utilizes ghostly pale ancestors from the Addams crypt to help ensure his niece finds her happy ending. As infantile and unintelligent as Fester can sometimes seem, he is also a behind-the-scenes string puller and will do what he can to help his family. Newey is not only a strong singer, but he also excels at expression and mannerisms, from maintaining an eery smile for the majority of the show to vocal inflection. He brings out the eccentricity of Fester with ease. His character was a standout role in this production. He even threw in a dig at Donald Trump’s run for president in 2016 that was just one way the production weaved the contemporary era into the story to make it relatable.

The ancestors were a highlight in this production with their elegant, white, ghostly costumes and phenomenal make-up. The ensemble in this show was sheer artistry in every movement and dance. Kaitlyn Anthony, Jake Finch, Kramer Krawlik, Kenneth Lautz, Kelsey Morris, Michael Newman, Patricia Pagnucci, Jeanine Pray and Sophie Rundhaug all played ancestors. They were choreographed by director Foster Evans Reese, who also makes a cameo as an ancestor. Renee C. Purdy and Lesley Neilson Bowman co-designed the costumes at the Warner. The costumes, wigs and make-up, all by Purdy and Bowman were spiritually fantastic. All are available as rentals!

Musically, the sound was very full and layered, and that was partially thanks to the enhanced sound a choir in the pit added to the casts’ talented voices.

Chinchilla Theatricals designed an ornately beautiful, but eery set. Kevin Hales and Steve Houk served as master carpenter and so many others helped with the technical execution of the production.

The show was riddled with references to pop culture, like “To the moon, Alice!” from “The Honeymooners” and other shows, bringing the audience in on the joke, particularly when referencing standard theater techniques.

Saturday night had a very interactive audience that clapped during the right moments when the orchestra, conducted by musical director Dan Porri, played the “Addams Family” theme song. The crowd applauded, laughed and verbally reacted to key moments. The theater-goers also seemed to love it when producer Sharon Wilcox took a picture of us from the stage before the show so that people could tag themselves in the picture on Facebook and the selfie challenge to possibly win Warner Theatre tickets.

Susan Hackel brings humorous candor to Grandma, who neither Morticia nor Gomez seem to claim as their own mother, practicing the art of making potions and, shall we say, herbal remedies. She is a sorceress of comedy.

Peter Bard was another standout as Lurch, barely speaking, but saying so much with his grunts and groans. His version of running is hysterical as he pumps his forearms fast while slowly skulking though the room. He had the crowd-pleasing role as the character who says nothing the whole show and finally speaks at the end, bringing about great applause. And eureka, he can sing with fervor!

The audience also loved a brief cameo by the hairy Cousin It, who I wished could have stayed for longer!

Despite the unusual quirks of the Addams family, they are more normal than you’d think, protecting their family, valuing love and ultimately wanting happiness as much as they seem like they want misery and appear to live as opposites to the conventional.

Conventionality, on the other hand, is what the Beinekes struggle with in the story. Wood played an austere, traditional father who holds a lot of his emotions in and Waller played his a lovable, seemingly overly happy, rhyming wife. The contrast of Wood’s seriousness and her quaint, poetic, happy-go-lucky nature contrast, manifesting as a husband annoyed with his wife and creating subtle tension between in communication lapses. They’ve lost sight of who they were when they fell in love. But regardless, the two had a strong stage chemistry. It may have helped that the two actors are a couple in real life and it was a pleasure to see them on stage together.

Zalaski paired well with Weiser and they played as an adorable, nerdy couple beneath her guarded, spooky toughness and his put-together, polite goodness.

The Game, Full Disclosure, does cast troubles on the two families. While Wednesday doesn’t want to play it for fear of her mother finding out she’s engaged and ruining everything, the game ultimately saves everyone because it brings out the truth. And the truth sets them free and not only reminds them of who they are but gets them to accept it in themselves and each other. Ah, the game of love.

As Wilcox said her introductory words, it’s a family production. There’s truth in that. “The Addams Family” might not be normal. But how many of our families completely are?

I was crazy for “The Addams Family” and was dying of laughter until the end.

John Dressel – keyboard 1
AJ Bunel – keyboard 2
Jean Conner – violin
Julie Hassle – cello
Kellyann Chester- Ouellette – reed 1
Eric DeAngelis (7/25), Kyle Saulnier (7/26-8/2) – reed 2
Tony Leone – trumpet
Jordan Marchand (7/25), Scott Minnerly (7/26-8/2) – trombone
Matt Stevens – guitar
Meric Martin – bass guitar
Scott Kellog – drums
Seth Kellog – percussion
Quinton Lautz, Sara Mitnik, Kennedy Morris, Kerri Morris and Payton Turpin

Watch the behind-the-scenes of the production on the Warner Theatre’s YouTube channel.