“When you face your nightmares, then you’ll know what’s real; Move toward the darkness…and feel!”
—The Addams Family
O.K. Fun-seekers! Let’s not talk about anything else but “Gomez”, “Morticia”, “Uncle Fester”, Wednesday”, “Pugsley”, “Grandma” and “Lurch”–along with all the other gruesomely great characters (“the living, the dead…the undecided”) who compromise “The Addams Family”! Now, 3-D Theatricals—Southern California’s multi-award-winning production company has ‘moved toward the darkness’, preparing a grand, gag-filled ghoul-ash of tricks, treats and tremendous talent that’s just the thing to ring in this “frightfully festive” time of year as they present the musical based on this comically creepy, cold-blooded, catacomb-crawling, clan. Drawn from the characters made famous by Charles Addams—initiating with sepulchral-humored cartoons featured in “The New Yorker” magazine, then in the iconic sitcom and blockbuster movies of the same name, the music and lyrics are by Andrew Lippa, while the book—much of it significantly reworked, tightened and improved from the Broadway original–is provided by Marshall Brickman and Rick Ellis, who also took the opportunity to introduce several great new numbers as well. Having opened at Fullerton California’s landmark “Plummer ‘Odd-itorium’ on Saturday, October 10th 2015, it will play through October 25th before moving to “The Redondo Beach Performing Arts Center” in Redondo Beach California, where it will play for an additional six performances starting on Halloween Night itself, October 31st!
A genuine sense of awe pervades the theater as the gothic red-velvet curtains rise to reveal the titular tribe in a mist-shrouded cemetery calling forth the ghosts of their dearly-departed ancestors with “When You’re An Addams” (complete with the appropriate ‘snapping fingers’) making for an opening number to beat ALL opening numbers. Trick is, after summoning them all “Fester” fixes it so they cannot return to the great beyond until all is right with the family in terms of everyone’s matters of the heart. He may be onto something because we soon learn that when you are an “Addams” life is anything but a snap—particularly for Papa Gomez who’s faced with a problem daunting enough to cut him to the bone (–more than usual, that is!) Having just turned eighteen, his “little princess of darkness”, “Wednesday” announces that she’s fallen in love with a boy named “Lucas Beineke” and that they plan to marry; however until she can break it to the rest of the relatives (especially her mother, “Morticia”) she urges him to keep the news just between them. This means Gomez will have to do something he’s never done before—keep a secret from his beloved wife! Add to it, Wednesday asks that they have Lucas and his parents, “Alice” and “Mal” (–who aren’t exactly the “Brady Bunch” themselves) over for “one normal night” of dinner and family togetherness (“Normal is an illusion Darling,” Morticia reminds her daughter “…what’s normal for the spider is a calamity for the fly!”) If that’s not bizarre enough for them, Fester himself makes it known that he too, is deeply in love—having fallen head over heels with “The MOON” (–yes, that same large Orb that circles the Earth!) This time around, young “Pugsley” (largely overlooked in the big-screen versions) also plays an integral part in all the goings-on when, fearing he’ll miss the way his older sister tortures him (–literally), he tries to disrupt the wedding plans to hilariously unanticipated results! In fact, this is perhaps the only depiction of the infamous family where most all the relationships are explored (–even that terminally furry little crowd-pleaser, “Cousin It” puts in a quick appearance!)
The direction is by 3-D Theatricals’ own T.J. Dawson with Choreography by Dana Solimando, and salient contributions of both combine for a top-notch offering that’s in keeping with the high level of production values the company has become famous for. Dawson keeps the action fluid—slowing things down ever-so-slightly at turns to make the most of this newer, better-fitted, book, then allows the musical sequences (large or small) to thoroughly burst forth—often unexpectedly—making each far more effective. Meanwhile, Ms. Solimando’s choreography serves as auspicious punctuation to every one of these musical segments—running the rhythmic gamut from snippets of classical Ballet and 20’s era modern, to some good old-fashioned “Vaudeville” inspired steps, and a smoldering tango thrown in to remarkable effect! (This is one of the few shows you’re likely to see where the act break alone warrants a standing ovation!) After intermission, the songs come fast, furious and fun—and even the curtain call is a stone (cold) groove!
Broadway’s Rachel York stars as “Morticia” opposite Bronson Pinchot—renowned from the popular 80’s sitcom “Perfect Strangers” as well as from such notable films as “Beverly Hills Cop” and “Risky Business”–as her ‘husband’ “Gomez”. Pinchot paints “Gomez” as sharp as nails and very much devoted to his wife and family while still seething conspicuous charm.
He may not get all the best dialogue but he certainly gets his share, and he does a laudable and seemingly effortless job integrating several songs that have been added apropos to Gomez’s new ‘conundrum’. These include “Wednesday’s Growing Up” and “Trapped” early on; it’s later though, that he really demonstrates what a consummate musical theater lead he is with the surprisingly touching “Happy/Sad” (wherein he ponders every parent’s mixed feelings concerning the joy of their child’s growing up at the cost of their striking out on their own.) Likewise, York is a Gold-Medal performer with a Gold-Medal voice to match, and her first act duet, titled “Secrets” is also a newer addition to the score sung with “Alice” as Morticia reveals to her future in-law the key to a good marriage—Addams-style. Yet another A-Plus post-Broadway inclusion, it soon gives rise to a ‘spirited’ dance interlude with all the female ancestors, and gives us our first substantial taste of Ms. York’s truly exceptional talent. Later, the second act’s opener–the merrily morbid (–or the morbidly merry, take your pick–) “Death Is Just Around The Corner” also rates as an all-out showstopper (complete with encore) as “Morticia” is backed by a kick-line of phantoms! Jointly, York and Pinchot make “Let’s Live Before We Die” and the sultry, “Tango De Amor” (that sees Gomez and Morticia reconciling at last in true Musical Theater fashion) a rare “dual” pair of stunning 11 o’clock numbers: “Forgive me with a song,” he entreats her; “And a dance!” She replies.
Of course, the finest aspects of this show lay in all the wickedly wonderful characters who enliven it, and everybody gets their time in the spotlight with plenty of crisp, crackling one-liners and dazzling musical intermezzos! As “Wednesday”, Micaela Martinez has a dynamic high-powered voice that easily fills the theater, and she puts it to excellent use in her first act declaration “New Direction”, in which she confesses that her new-found affection for this boy Lucas has her (–gasp–) turning her thoughts to the bright side. Shortly after, when she comes downstairs dressed all in bright yellow and sans her trademark pigtails, her alarmed father blurts out “You look like a crime-scene!” She similarly impresses with her part in “Crazier Than You” when Lucas, to assuage Wednesday’s fear the pair are too different, blindfolds his ladylove and dares her to shoot an apple off his head with her crossbow ala “William Tell”. “I eat scared for breakfast Honey!” she proclaims in successfully accepting his challenge, thus proving they’re both indeed “crazy” for each other. As her ‘intended’ “Lucas Beineke”, Dino Nicandros is an equally venerable vocal force, investing Lucas with a more contemporary sound and phrasing with which he makes the most of during his parts in “One Normal Night” and “Crazier Than You”.
Anthony Gruppuso as “Uncle Fester”, also delivers awesome support, serving as our narrator and guide to all the macabre proceedings. He has several momentous melodious moments to shine—commencing with the bubbly “Let’s Not Talk About Anything Else But Love” which effectively paves the way for all the romantic madness, mayhem and misunderstandings to follow. After intermission, he shines with the lush and lyrical “The Moon And Me”. A starry-eyed tone-poem to his adored satellite, this also features some amazing special-effects as Fester, backed by a chorus of luminous “Stars” observes that love can make you feel lighter than air (–then goes onto prove it!) Furthermore, Tracy Rowe Mutz as “Alice Beineke” achieves an utterly delightful and winning portrayal, supplying some of the best, most laughter-inducing minutes on stage, as “Alice”, a would-be poetess and all-around frustrated house-wife, mistakenly drinks a hostility-inducing potion called “Acrimonium” that Pugsley had intended for his sister. (“Wow–that was too dark even for us!” Gomez exclaims after her complete melt-down.)
Dustin Ceithamer is also an incredible presence to behold as the family’s behemoth butler, “Lurch”, garnering huge cheers and plaudits practically every time he lumbers on stage! (“That man looks dead” Alice observes guilelessly as Lurch escorts the visitors into the mansion’s decaying main hall.) Candi Milo also adds immensely to the show’s over-all enjoyment-quotient as “Grandma”–the family matriarch (whose mother she is, no one–including herself–can quite remember!) More an over-the-hill Hippie than the witchy crone of previous versions, she also rates thunderous applause with every appearance. Not to be overlooked either is young Dante Marenco who breathes terrific new life into this retelling’s ‘youngest’ Addams: the stogie-chomping, munitions-loving and mischief-causing “Pugsley”. After all, “Pugsley” is probably the only kid who’s afraid a monster’s NOT hiding under his bed (and one is—making for one of the best sight gags in the entire show!)
They’ll tickle your funny bone while sending chills down your spine (either way, you’ll be entertained!) Performances for the Fullerton engagement are Fridays and Saturdays at 8:00 PM with Sunday matinees at 2:00 PM with special added performances on Thursday, October 22nd at 8:00 PM and an additional Saturday matinée on October 24th at 2:00 PM. “The Plummer Auditorium” is located at 201 E. Chapman Avenue, in Fullerton, California. Performances at “The Redondo Beach Performing Arts Center” begin on Saturday, October 31st at 8:00 PM and run through Sunday, November 8th with show-times on Friday and Saturday evenings at 8:00 PM with Sunday matinees at 2:00 PM; an added Saturday matinée will also be held on November 7th at 2:00 PM as well. “The Redondo Beach Performing Arts Center” is located at 1935 E. Manhattan Blvd. in Redondo Beach, California. Tickets for both engagements may be obtained by calling (714) 589-2770, Ext. 1, between the hours of 11:00 AM through 5:00 PM Monday – Friday; Saturdays 12:00 PM – 4:00 PM, or by visiting www.3dtshows.com ; tickets may also be purchased two hours prior to performances at each theater (Group and Student discounts are also available for both locations.)
Production Stills By Isaac James Creative (www.IsaacJamesCreative.com) Courtesy Of Michael Sterling & Associates (www.msapr.net) and “3-D Theatricals”; Special Thanks (And “Happy Halloween”) To Michael Sterling, T.J. Dawson, Jeanette Dawson, Gretchen Dawson, Daniel Dawson–And To The Cast And Crew Of “3-D Theatricals” “The Addams Family” For Making This Story Possible.