Regional Reviews: San Diego
Like always, the wealthy and totally eccentric family, headed by Gomez Addams (David Engel) and his wife Morticia (Terra C. MacLeod), live an enjoyably bizarre yet terrifying, to most outside the clan, existence. When daughter Wednesday (Lindsay Joan) reveals that she is in love with a normal college student, Lucas Beineke (Nick Eiter), Gomez wants to honor her wishes to not have anything crazy occur in the house. Unfortunately for Lucas and his parents Mal (Corky Loupe) and Alice Beineke (Eileen Bowman), the night ends up being stranger than anyone could have anticipated.
Vasquez' first staging at the outdoor space contains specific nods to the source material, while also offering plenty of fresh details for a novice viewing audience. Visually, the story looks like it came right out of Charles Addams' drawings. The set and costumes from 3-D Theatricals draw a fine line between humorous and otherworldly. Even Jim Zadai's audio uses sound effects, like the Addams' doorbell, that pay nostalgic homage to the fictional universe.
Julie Lamoureux conducts the orchestra during Andrew Lippa's farcical musical numbers. Lamoureux and the band immediately get the audience to snap their fingers along to the TV series' famous opening theme. Members, including drummer Steve Wright, trombonist Andrew Moreau, and trumpeter Bob Worthington, add to the comical energy in songs like "Full Disclosure" and "Just Around the Corner." Their musicianship gives certain sequences and lines extra punch. Lippa's tunes are fun to listen to, but are even more effective upon reflection. In his own quirky way, Lippa gives theatregoers insight into the unusual minds of almost all of the members of the Addams family.
Practically every main performer channels the personalities that Charles Addams created many years ago. Engel, MacLeod, Randall Hickman, Samantha Wynn Greenstone, Ryan Singer, and Dustin Ceithamaer put fresh spins on the beloved members of the household. The one character who deviates the most from previous Addams' lore is Wednesday. Older than earlier depictions of the dark girl, Lippa and librettists Marshall Brickman and Rick Elice make sure not to soften the sadistic daughter too much. Joan's sprightly singing and twisted line readings add to the appeal of the intimidating young adult.
Providing a Greek chorus of sorts are deceased ancestors played by artists who include Katie Whalley Banville, Danny Hansen, and Eric Michael Parker. Frequently dancing to Karl Warden's playful choreography, the ghosts are the life of the party when they appear onstage.
The evening revolves around laughter, but the plot also appeals to the heartstrings. A particularly effective serious number, "Happy/Sad," sung by Gomez, deals with contradictions encountered in life. Engel brings pathos to a role that has not always been associated with overt sentimentality.
The Addams Family does not include ruthless villains and a dangerously high stakes plot. Yet Brickman and Elice set the entire narrative around the Central Park casa and never throw in a contrived antagonist. They wisely chose to not turn Mal and Alice into evil enemies. Instead, the two only want what's best for their son, which Loupe and Bowman express in hilariously contrasting ways.
Parents should know that in spite of the all ages nature of the small screen program, The Addams Family is not aimed at kids. Brickman and Elice were able to sneak in some raunchy innuendo, drug references, and occasional PG-13-esque profanity. Younger viewers will likely have a blast, but guardians need to make sure they're comfortable bringing children to the eerie mansion.
Moonlight Stage Productions ends the latest season on a high note thanks to Vasquez's treatment of the "mysterious and spooky" household. Dress warmly and enjoy the whimsical misadventures of Gomez and company.
Moonlight Stage Productions presents The Addams Family through October 1, 2016. Performs Sundays through Saturdays at 1200 Vale Terrace Dr, Vista. Tickets start at $10.00 and can be purchased online at www.moonlightstage.com or by phone at 1-760-724-2110.