In A Director’s Viewpoint of Arizona Broadway Theatre’s production of The Addams Family: A New Musical

by Jay Horne

History

The Addams Family is a musical comedy with music and lyrics by Andrew Lippa and the book by Marshall Brickman and Rick Elice. The show is based upon The Addams Family characters created by Charles Addams in his single-panel gag cartoons, which depict a ghoulish American family with an affinity for all things macabre. Although numerous film and television adaptations of Addams’ cartoons exist, the musical is the first stage show based on the characters. The Addams Family is also the first show produced by Elephant Eye Theatricals. After a tryout in Chicago in 2009, the musical opened on Broadway at the Lunt Fontaine Theatre on April 8, 2010. The original cast featured Nathan Lane as Gomez and Bebe Neuwirth as Morticia. The production closed on December 31, 2011. The production closed on December 31, 2011. It was nominated for two Tony Awards, including Best Original Score. It was also nominated for eight Drama Desk Awards, winning one; two Drama League Awards; and five Outer Critics Circle Awards, winning one.

The Addams Family (L-R Barbara McBain, Jasmine Bassham, Brad York, Nicholas Dana Rylands, Renee Kathleen Koher, Lionel Ruland, Aaron McCaskill

I start my review with some very interesting remarks by Director Danny Gorman as to why he undertook this very hysterical musical.

They’re creepy and they’re kooky. Mysterious and spooky. They’re all together ooky. They’re probably…YOUR family! 

“Now, I’m not suggesting your family is keen to darkness and the macabre (hey, maybe they are!), but I am willing to bet that you fundamentally share a lot in common with the Addams Family. Have you ever fallen for someone amidst your family’s disapproval? Maybe you’ve hidden something from a loved one in hopes of protecting them? Does the idea of change make you anxious? Are you afraid of losing those you hold dearest to your heart? 

“Then you’re an Addams! *snap snap*

“We have embraced the Addams Family and their oddball outlook on life for over 80 years because when we peel away their morbid surface, we see that our foundation is the same: we want the best for those we love. We are not without our eccentricities, and some are more potent than others, but I believe that all families strive to encourage one another and keep each other safe. (I should point out this not only goes for our blood families but for our chosen families as well.) 

“I find The Addams Family to be an unassumingly special musical because it reminds us to see the humanity (or in the Addams’s case, the mortality) in those around us. We have so much to learn from those who are different than us, and sometimes that can be a little scary. We feel safe in the familiar and would prefer to live in the ease of black-and-white. We must remember that to be vulnerable is courageous, and to be a willing agent of change will only make this life – and perhaps the afterlife – a little more colorful.”  ~Danny Gorman, Director

Thank you, Danny, a most humorous and very prolific statement regarding The Addams Family: A New Musical and life in general. Hopefully it will mean a lot to people when they see this wonderful production.

Let me give you a short synopsis of The Addams Family: A New Musical. The ghoulish Addams family is visiting the graveyard for the annual gathering of family members (“living, dead, and undecided”) to celebrate what it is to be an Addams (“When You’re an Addams”). Uncle Fester stops the ancestors return to their graves to enlist their help. He explains that Wednesday, under protest, has invited her new (normal) boyfriend, Lucas Beineke, and his parents Mal and Alice to dinner. While torturing Pugsley (her brother) on a rack, Wednesday admits that love is pulling her in a new direction. Meanwhile, Morticia and Gomez worry about her changing ways. As the Beinekes arrive, Wednesday and Lucas instruct their families to act normal so they can all enjoy a simple dinner. But the moment Lurch ushers the Beinekes into the mansion, tensions begin to mount. What follows, my future audience, you don’t want to miss!

The set, or sets, were outstanding, done by drops and the Ensemble (ancestors) moving them on. Mainly colored in drab gray, they went from a cemetery to the Addams mansion, woods, and a miniature torture chamber as well as various outdoor areas, all done smoothly and quickly. Something you always expect in an ABT production – it’s professional!

The lighting was superb, whether it was to cover a mood and song or sky backgrounds. The music was very lively with such numbers as “When You’re an Addams,” “Secrets,” Gomez’s “What If,” “The Moon and Me,” “Tango d’Amour,” and so many other very exciting musical scenes. The costumes by Savana Leveille and the costumer people at ABT were very impressive, particularly the Ensemble’s dead ancestors, covering from the caveman period to Western, dancers, and the Napoleonic era.

There are ten leads and supporting roles as well as ten Ensemble ancestors. Every actor and actress were truly in perfect characterization, whether they were vocalizing or dancing, and they were in perfect sync with each other. As far as showstopping numbers, there were many, such as “Full Disclosure” and “When You’re an Addams” in Act I done by the company, and in Act II “Crazier Than You” by Wednesday, Lucas, Mal, and Alice. Also, “Tango d’Amour” by Gomez and Morticia.

The choreography by this entire cast was cohesive and exciting. In other words, folks, there is not a single dull moment from start to finish. The audience responded enthusiastically with laughter and loud applause as well as a standing ovation at the end of the show, showing this cast it’s appreciation of a very exciting and fun-filled time at seeing ABT’s production of The Addams Family: A New Musical.

At this time, I would like to acknowledge those that contributed to this wonderful production.

Brad York (Gomez Addams) – I have missed you, my friend, in seeing you on stage at ABT. Now I know why a truly great performance, character, vocals, particularly with you and Wednesday in Act II “Happy/Sad” very moving. Congrats on a performance well done!

Renée Kathleen Koher (Morticia Addams) – Welcome back to ABT. Once more you have given an outstanding portrayal of your character and your vocalizations, with cast members and by you particularly your “Tango d’Amour” with Gomez!

Lionel Ruland (Uncle Fester) – Welcome to ABT, an excellent performance in all aspects. Loved you in “But Love,” “The Moon and Me,” and just your professional performance. Well done!

Jasmine Bassham (Wednesday Addams) – A very perfect characterization, a very moving moment with Gomez in “Happy/Sad”.

Aaron McCaskill (Pugsley Addams) – Welcome back, young man, to ABT. Your characterization was perfect, you WERE Pugsley!

Barbara McBain (Grandma Addams) – Again, welcome back to ABT. Your pugnacious performance was a delight to see, enjoyed you in “What If” with Pugsley. You are a true performer.

Nicholas Dana Rylands (Lurch) – Welcome to ABT, you were Lurch in every aspect, enjoyed your vocal at the end of the show!

Lynzee Foreman (Alice Beineke) – Welcome back to ABT. Enjoyed all previous performances at ABT, but this one was outstanding, particularly in “Crazier Than You.” Great performance.

Mark Woodard (Mal Beineke) – Welcome to ABT. Very believable character, enjoyed you as well in “Crazier Than You.”

The entire Ensemble of ancestors (Kiara Adams, Danny Durr, Liz Fallon, Kristina Leopold Jarvis, Nicholas Kuhn, Alexia Lorch, Cesar Razza, Samantha Ross, Jake Sokoloff, and Brady Wurr) – Your performances as the ancestors was a great, professional performance.

Peggy Inchausti – I want to thank you for being a wonderful tablemate! Peggy said, “the show was funny, a great performance, loved the musical numbers by all,” particularly her granddaughter Kiara Adams as one of the ancestor Ensemble. Hope I see you again, Peggy, at another ABT opening show.

Danny Gorman (Director) – Welcome to ABT. Congratulations on a very great and professional job in bringing this outstanding Addams Family to a perfect, well done, exciting fruition.

Nate Bertone (Scenic Design) – Great job, one of the best sets I’ve seen in many a play.

Savana Leveille (Costume Design) – This is one of the best costuming I’ve seen in many a show, congrats to you and your helpers.

Zach Blane (Lighting Design) – Welcome to ABT. Just a superb job, well done, thank you!

Amanda Gran (Wig and Makeup Design) – Super job, made all the characters very believable!

Adam Berger (Music Direction) – Great job by you and all your musicians in the pit backing up this performance.

Kurtis Overby (Choreography) – They say if a show has fair or average choreography it might succeed. But that doesn’t apply to you, my friend. Once again, a great job as you make a show a real success. Thank you.

Kiel and Cassandra Klaphake (Executive Producer and Casting Director/Artistic Producer) – Never imagined this show as a musical. I saw the movie, watched the TV shows, but once again you both, and all your help, wave the magic wand of professional to take on a show that other theatres are timid to do and present another great production. I and the audience thank you for another entertaining performance!

In a Director’s Viewpoint, as Director Danny Gorman said, “it’s creepy and kooky, mysterious and spooky,” but ABT’s production of The Addams Family: A New Musical is a great way to spend an evening or matinee as you will be well rewarded with great entertainment. I highly recommend people, young and older, see this show. It is not to be missed!

In closing, I say, “Goodnight, Vivian, my love, always.”

Jay

Reviewed: Opening Night, Friday, June 7, 2019

When: Now through July 6, 2019

Where: Arizona Broadway Theatre, 7701 W Paradise Ln, Peoria 85382

Tickets: $65 plus, including dinner; $45 plus, show only (subject to demand pricing)

Details/Ticket Reservations:   For information, call the Box Office at 623-776-8400 or visit azbroadway.org