by marilyn jozwik
PUBLISHED Oct. 19, 2015
Who'd ever think that you'd encounter such charming looks at love — and lust! — in "The Addams Family?"
That's exactly what you can expect from Sunset Playhouse when it presents the musical based on Charles Addams' New Yorker cartoons — the same cartoons on which the popular TV show was also based.
It would have been easy for the theme to have gotten lost in all the quirky characters and comedy, easy just to sit back and laugh like we did at John Astin, Carolyn Jones, Jackie Coogan and all the others in the TV show.
But along the way this show, under the direction of Adam Steffan, found its heart. And the audience not only laughed at the lines, but empathized with the characters. Not an easy feat to accomplish, when you have a 10-year-old who likes to be tortured, a teen who brings her crossbow to Central Park, parents who delight in the macabre, an uncle in love with the moon and a grandma who has potions to achieve wicked results.
The story focuses on Wednesday (Katie Katschke), daughter of Morticia (Sarah Briana Morris) and Gomez Addams (Nicholas Callan Haubner), who has fallen in love and wants to marry a "normal" boy from Ohio, Lucas (Dominic Schiro). Wednesday is dreading Lucas' family meeting her wacky family, yet confides her marriage plans to her father. But there's a catch: He's not to tell Wednesday's mother, which leads to a whole other theme of keeping secrets.
When Lucas' staid Midwestern parents, Mal and Alice (Cory Klein and Heather Reynolds-Coonen), arrive at the Addams mansion, they are greeted by the zombie butler, Lurch (Todd Herdt). They are shocked by the spider web-laden home, but think their hosts are simply avant-garde.
Act 1 ends with the after-dinner party game Full Disclosure. The game culminates with Alice baring her innermost feelings, in perhaps the wildest scene of the show, thanks to the all-out crowd-pleasing antics of Reynolds-Coonen.
Act 2 brings all the lovers together to sort things out Morticia and Gomez, Wednesday and Lucas, Fester and the Moon — plus Pugsley (Calaway Swanson), with Grandma's (Michele White) help, learning to adjust to his life's changes.
Act 2's highlight, "Crazier Than You," is a delightful, hummable tune I couldn't get out of my head all the way home. Also unforgettable was Klein's sincere rendering of Lucas' dad as he tapped into his crazy side to please his wife. There was a genuine quality to the scene, played to perfection by Klein and Reynolds-Coonen, with the young lovers (Wednesday and Lucas) echoing their sentiments.
Haubner as Gomez is the center of the show, totally in command of a role that has him at one moment being the Latin lover, at the next trying to please both daughter and wife. He is comfortably engaged with his character and the audience, providing moments of comedy and pathos and everything in between in his delightfully nuanced performance.
Morris' Morticia is wonderfully cool and detached, long and lean, with a stream of jet black hair. Before she uttered a line, you could see she has the right stern look and regal bearing for this pivotal role. She and Haubner really connect and create sparks with their characters plus contribute some strong vocals to their tunes.
Dean's Fester is high energy, bouncy and lots of fun to watch cavorting all over the stage, a nice contrast to Herdt's towering Lurch character (thanks to several inches of platform shoes) who nails the zombie's slow, deliberate actions, looks and grunts. Katsche's Wednesday and Swallow's Pugsley are also well done, both characters having pleasant voices.
I also loved White's Grandma, a delightful rendering with her scratchy voice and hunched demeanor.
All performers were fully invested in the humanity of their family characters and not just their peccadilloes, which gives the show another layer to enjoy.
With music directed by Mark Mrozek, this show has some pleasant melodies and a fine, full-sounding orchestra to handle it. The ghostly ancestors added an ethereal quality, nice harmonies and fine choreography (Nancy Visintainer-Armstrong) to all the ensemble numbers.
This show also had a challenge in creating all the costumes, wigs and makeup of the family members and ghoulish ancestor ensemble, which were well-done, with a suitably set backdrop of the creepy Addams home.
A bit of a blip on opening night was a spotlight that seemed to have a little trouble landing on some of the characters, just a minor distraction in this delightful foray into the twisted world of the Addams Family, whose mantra in the opening tune is "When you're an Addams, you do what Addams do, or die."
If you go
WHO: Sunset Playhouse
WHAT: "The Addams Family"
WHEN:Through Nov. 8
WHERE: 800 Elm Grove Road, Elm Grove
TICKETS/INFO: (262) 782-4430; www.sunsetplayhouse.com