By Tina Arth
I have seen The Addams Family musical three times in the past few years – once as a youth production, once in community theater, and last Friday at Broadway Rose’s stunning professional staging. Each version was lively and entertaining, each (predictably) well cast for the level of the company, and (less predictable by far) each presented me with a different vision of who is the real star of the show. The book (by Marshall Brickman and Rick Elice) and music/lyrics (by Andrew Lippa) leave ample room for the director and principals to play with the material, and Broadway Rose director Peggy Taphorn and cast are having a great deal of fun doing just that.
The story adheres to a familiar format for comic adaptations – two very different groups (in this case, the dark and eerie Addams clan and the disturbingly cheerful Middle-American Beineke family) are brought together by a Guess Who’s Coming To Dinner? type romantic mismatch. A twist on tradition is a key plot point – Gomez knows about daughter Wednesday’s engagement to the seemingly unsuitable Lucas Beineke, but swears not to tell Morticia, setting up the crisis of a man trapped between love for his wife and love for his daughter. The script is fraught with light-hearted tension and ultimately resolves in a series of classic “love conquers all” moments extending not only to the young couple but to both sets of parents (Gomez and Morticia Addams, Mal and Alice Beineke) and to the most unlikely of Lotharios, Uncle Fester.
Both the breadth and depth of talent on stage are truly impressive. The twelve Addams Ancestors, representing earlier generations of the family, provide a solid choral background, lively and athletic dance ensemble, and plenty of comic moments - Christopher Sweet’s ghostly conquistador is positively unforgettable. Emily Windler’s “Grandma” is really quite lovable in a stunted, twisted way, and she brings a razor-sharp wit to her work with Pugsley (Karsten George) in the “What If” scene. George shows a fine grasp of physical comedy in “Pulled,” and his vocals and timing are spot-on throughout. Isaac Lamb’s incurably romantic “Uncle Fester” moves from the campy “Fester’s Manifesto” (complete with ukulele) to the utterly enchanting “The Moon and Me” – a perfect example of this show’s ability to meld the absurd with genuinely lovely ballads.
Joe Theissen (Gomez) and LisaMarie Harrison (Morticia) get some of the show’s finest numbers – Theissen’s “Happy Sad” captures the spirit of any father dealing with the pride and heartbreak of a growing daughter, and he conveys his passion for Morticia with just the right note of Latin lover in numbers like “Live Before We Die.” Like the rest of the Addams clan, Harrison”s “Morticia” is playfully dark, but she reveals her soft underbelly in flashes of maternal devotion and wifely love that transcend mere passion. At her lowest moment, Harrison reminds us subtly of Tevye’s conundrum, then (with the help of the Ancestors) does a spectacular job of cheering herself up in the classically Broadway-style “Just Around the Corner.” Molly Duddleston is charming – perhaps a little too much so – as Wednesday Addams. Her voice is lovely, but she’s just too cute to completely sell the hostile, depressed side of her character, giving us a bit too much ingénue and not quite enough Goth.
The role of Alice Beineke was a bit of a throwaway in the first two Addams Family productions I saw, but Amy Jo Halliday quite simply steals the show at Broadway Rose. Her trip across the tabletop in “Waiting” (so reminiscent of Bye Bye Birdie’s Rose Alvarez) is an absolute showstopper – nothing less than the full ensemble rendition of “Full Disclosure” could have followed it to end Act I. The combination of her vocal power and utter lack of inhibition sets a dauntingly high bar for the rest of the cast, moving the show from “really fun” to absolute dynamite.
Alan D. Lytle and his orchestra keep the show moving at a rapid pace, and the elaborate sets are engineered to eliminate even slight delays for scene changes. Director Taphorn has injected the script with several crowd-pleasing contemporary quips, and her choreography is dynamic, precise and imaginative, particularly in ensemble numbers with the Ancestors. Broadway Rose’s first big summer offering for 2017 is well worth a trip to Tigard for fine acting, great vocals, and a full evening of laughter.
Broadway Rose’s The Addams Family runs through July 23d at Tigard High School’s Deb Fennell Auditorium.