|Beth Noelle (Morticia), Jason Taylor (Gomez), and Olivia Noelle (Wednesday) with Ancestors in background.|
By Tina Arth
Beaverton Civic Theatre’s 2016 season is still going strong with their current production of The Addams Family - A New Musical, a truly hilarious send-up in the tradition of the classic Addams Family cartoons, television series, and movies. Marshall Brickman and Rick Elice (book) and Andrew Lippa (music and lyrics) have created a surprisingly adult comedy – still silly, of course, but with lots of funny stuff aimed way over the heads of younger audiences, plus a challenging musical score. Directors Josh Pounders and Melissa Riley utilize a blend of BCT regulars and newcomers to treat Washington County audiences to a remarkable theatrical experience – including some of the best solo, duet, and ensemble vocal work I’ve heard in recent years.
While some cartoon characters have the luxury of staying the same age forever, it is not surprising that Wednesday Addams is growing up – but shockingly, she has fallen in love with Lucas Beineke, a nice boy from an uptight middle class Ohio family. The time has come for the two families to meet, and Wednesday is understandably nervous about the intersection of Lucas’ parents with Morticia, Gomez, and the rest of the somewhat unusual Addams family. Wednesday swears her father to silence about the scariest bit – that she and Lucas plan to announce their engagement that evening. In addition to the usual cast of characters (including Pugsley, Grandma, Uncle Fester, and Lurch) the clan is aided by a troupe of Addams ancestors, barred by Uncle Fester from returning to their graves until the situation is resolved. By the end of Act II, both the Addams and Beineke families have gone through some growth and all looks suitably bleak (the Addams equivalent of any other family’s “rosy”) – a fairly standard story of young love’s triumph delivered with enough twists, comedy, and song to keep the audience more than satisfied.
The entire cast does a credible job throughout, including some really nice work by the younger players (Olivia Noelle, Riley Suzuki, and Austin Peters). However, the evening really belongs to three people: Jason Taylor (Gomez), Beth Noelle (Morticia), and James VanEaton (Lurch). Taylor’s performance is simply superb – his powerful baritone seems to flow effortlessly (and flawlessly), and even during his most challenging songs he never allows his acting to take a back seat to the singing. He is alternately charming, graceful, strong, timid, passionate, terrified – and always very, very funny. Taylor is a wonderful addition to the BCT family who will, I hope, appear regularly on Washington County stages. Beth Noelle could not have been better as his steely, dominant helpmate Morticia. Her duets with Taylor are magic, and she somehow manages to turn her eyes into black marbles of pure fury when she’s angry. VanEaton’s strength is not his powerful pipes (although he does have one droll audience-pleaser of a song) – it is his incredibly lanky body and absolute mastery of Lurch’s wooden affect. The few times that he shows us a hint of human emotion are quite spectacular, and his commanding rigidity sometimes makes it hard to watch any one else for fear of missing a subtle (and hilarious) wisp of life.
Stan Yeend is physically perfect as Fester, and he gives the character a surprisingly playful and lovable tone, nicely setting the stage for his ultimate declaration of love for a well-known lunar body. The ancestors are fun, and provide a stunning choral ensemble in support of the main characters. My ears were especially drawn to the dead housewife, an astonishingly clear and strong soprano – at intermission I read the program and realized that it was Erin Zelazny, an accomplished veteran of both community and professional theater.
Costume designer Sue Woodbury, set designers Alex Woodard and David Smith, and technical director Jenny Cyphers did a beautiful job of setting the scene for this loving tribute to Charles Addams’ creepy clan. Josh Pounders and Melissa Riley definitely got this one right, and the opening weekend audiences repaid them with full houses and standing ovations that will undoubtedly persist for the rest of the run.
Note – the show should be viewed as PG 13, rather than G-rated, due to mature themes, language, and darned funny innuendo that might puzzle the little ones.
The Addams Family runs through Saturday, October 15th at the Beaverton City Library Auditorium, 12375 SW Fifth Street, Beaverton, with performances at 7:30 p.m. on Fridays and Saturdays and 2:00 p.m. on Sundays.