Yes, they're creepy, mysterious, and altogether ooky, but they’re also delightful in the context of musical comedy. “The Addams Family” brought classic characters to life with an imaginative cast and musical prowess, with a tale that’s a gleeful spin on the typically strictly ghoulish crew.
The Columbia Music Theater Society presented the musical comedy “The Addams Family,” written by Marshall Brickman and Rick Elice, with music and lyrics by Andrew Lippa, on Nov. 15 and 16 in Roone Arledge Auditorium. The performances were directed by Nina Lam, BC ’19, and were produced by Quinn Jackson, BC ’20, with musical direction by Aimee Toner, BC ’20.
Based on the conjunction of Charles Addams’s original New Yorker cartoons, a television show from the 1960s, and two early nineties films, The Addams Family depicts the typical nuclear family ideal flipped on its head, swathed in a shade of darkness with injections of the odd, bizarre, and even frightening.
In this musical depiction, we find the Addamses navigating their daughter Wednesday’s, played by Joanna Berkowitz, BC ’22, emergence into adulthood. Alongside her parents Morticia, Chantel Woo BC’ 20, and Gomez, Wesley Schmidt CC ’22, with brother Pugsley, Sandy (Sahar) Gooen BC fall ’18, uncle Fester, Emily Liberatore BC ’21, butler Lurch, Emma Gometz CC ’21, and Grandmama, Olivia English, BC ’22, in tow, Wednesday attempts to shepherd her family away from their offbeat ghoulishness for a chance for “one normal night.” However, as her macabre clan collides with boyfriend Lucas Beineke’s, Ethan Woo, CC ’20, decidedly more traditional family—from Ohio, on top of it—for the first time, everything erupts into uncertainties and antics.
Certainly, this spirited storyline is less delightfully dismal than the original Addams tales. However, CMTS’ production was splendidly realized: the bittersweet replacing the brutal, and the enjoyable ousting the eerie.
As strains of the overture began, audiences readily chimed in for the iconic “ba-da-da-dum” with choruses of “snap snap.” These buoyant orchestrations, conducted by music director Toner, continued with expert vibrancy throughout the tale.
A cast of distinctive characters, each more eccentrically actualized than the last, was the foundation of this whimsical tale. Leading ladies Woo and Berkowitz, as mother Morticia and daughter Wednesday, respectively, were amusingly dramatic and vocally superb in their solo numbers. Morticia’s song “Just Around the Corner” (or coroner, perhaps) was darkly droll, and Wednesday’s “Pulled” was equally charming and entertaining. “Crazier than You” was another electric high point, with Wednesday and Lucas tangled in a spirited lover’s duet.
However, the musical’s zeniths came in the form of supporting roles, most notably through Lucas’ mother Alice Beineke, Maura Ward, BC ’21. She transitioned from a demure, poetic homemaker to, with the help of Pugsley’s potion, dark and brutally honest, reflected in the musical turn from the spirited full-company number “Full Disclosure” to her ominous solo, “Waiting.” Ward’s vocal gymnastics were stellar, and her number was show-stopping. Her poetic quips, and later, frank one-liners, were equally comical high points.
Liberatore as Fester, another side role, was equitably scene-stealing. With overly jazz-infused vocals, showcased in the repeated “Let’s Not Talk About Anything Else But Love,” and an effervescent physicality, her onstage moments were replete with hilarity.
A charismatic, ghostly ensemble of Addams ancestors completed the haunting equation.
Fluidly integrated throughout the show as stoic setpieces, swaying forest branches, or backing dancers, they dually manifested individual and collective personality. They also repeatedly showcased Lydia Paris’s, BC ’21, well-designed, lively choreography.
Unfortunately, the construction of the theatrical space lacked the same mastery and vigor of acted elements. Roone was transformed into a sort of “dinner theater” space, a cluster of round tables that proved dynamic on the few instances where characters jaunted past, but for the most part was awkward and underutilized.
The onstage set was usefully dynamic, moving to to meld the space to differing Addams abode chambers, but the pieces themselves proved sparsely decorated, draped lazily with monotonous bedsheet-looking fabrics. The space could have been made more darkly haunting, and decidedly Addams, with more eclectically and eerily ornate furnishings.
Despite these spacial shortcomings, as well as sporadic microphone issues—seemingly a curse repeatedly afflicting productions staged in Roone—the production was comprehensively comedic. Of course, when the Addams are involved, there is always more room for the somber, but “cheesy” must not always be equated with lacking. The musical was a delight in general—a resonant, amusing, and heartwarming comedic delight.