Review of The Addams Family at The Alpha Players

    I have always felt luke-warm toward the musical The Addams Family, even before I first saw it. How could anyone else, in whatever format, hope to match the ever-unfolding ghoulish wit of Charles Addams’ cartoons in The New Yorker. So I was prejudiced. The TV show, for all its cleverness, did not give me much hope. And when I saw the musical, it confirmed my prejudices. After the opening number, which uses the theme from the TV show, Andrew Lippa’s music and lyrics don’t thrill me or elicit more than a giggle. And I’ve always felt that the main plot, about Gomez keeping Wednesday’s secret from Morticia, was something book writers Marshall Brickman and Rick Elice used as a place-holder while they developed the show, to be replaced when they found something better.

    I have to do some reevaluation now that I’ve seen the delightful production currently at The Alpha Players of Florissant. I thoroughly enjoyed it. It somehow managed to subdue the things I don’t like about the show and make splendid theatre of the things I do like.

    I assume that director Stephen Chamineak cast the actors. If so, he or whoever did found actors who were exactly right for their roles. The noble Spanish blood of Tanner Garren’s Gomer Addams is ever eager for a challenge, but always wise and intelligent. (Someday, someone must explain to me how the Spanish noble family has the last name Addams; I’m sure there is a good joke there somewhere.) Tanya Burns’ Morticia Addams is his ever graceful companion, also wise and intelligent, and forgiving, wearing Morticia’s ankle-length gowns with exquisite style. They both sing well too.

    Their children have not fallen far from the tree. Teen-age daughter Wednesday complicates matters by falling in love with a young man from normal people, and Tori Shea Cole makes her determined to keep him, even with the help of her crossbow. Ephraim Plotzke’s younger brother Pugsley screams with joy – or is it pain? – when Wednesday tortures him.

    Completing the family are Grandma, perfectly portrayed by Pamela Gepppert. And Uncle Fester, also just right as played by Jordan Dennis, who sings touching love songs to the moon. Cousin Itt is played by Deb Alcorn. Austin Cloyd, the tallest, most perfectly correct person in the room, is Lurch, the Addams’ butler. Xavier Garrett and Leavy Collins handle Thing, and Ron Burns is the Monster.

    But the family has more. The  musical takes place on the annual day of the gathering of all family members, living, dead, undecided. Uncle Fester unlocks the family vault to welcome the ancestors, who join in celebrating what it means to be an Addams. Uncle Fester persuades them to stick around and help with the dinner that evening for the family of Wednesday’s boyfriend. And they do. Though the guests can’t see them, we can, clad mostly in ghostly white by costume designer Barbara Langa and director Chamineak, with a few in black. With help from choreographer Stefanie Kluba, they enrich the performance and help make the evening with the normal family a success, eventually. Among the ancestors, Gabriell Maupin is a Prince, Colton Clark a Pilgrim, Melissa D. Williams a Cavewoman, Maggie Canizales a Bride, Chloe Anne Marie a Flapper, Nikita Gahr a Greek, Andee Wolfe a Nurse, Ben Canizales a Caveman, and Mercadez Whitehead a Pilot. Keep your eye on them. You never know what they might do next.

    The family of Wednesday’s boyfriend, from Ohio, get lost in Central Park, trying to find the Addams’ home there. When they do, they have quite an adventurous time, played beautifully and hilariously by Cody Cole as Lucas Beineke, the boyfriend; Rebecca Passsley as Alice Beineke, his mother; and Bradley Fritz as Mal Beineke, his father. They are put through the wringer, and emerge all the better for it.

    Music Director Talya Perry cultivated the fine sound of the cast, individually and collectively. Director Chamineak and Lighting Designer created striking settings for the many scenes, which moved readily into place under Stage Manager Blake Barnes. The set’s sky-blue drop even had clouds that blew across it and a tree whose leaves danced in the wind. Jared Collins handled the Sound Design, Blake Barnes and Chris Parker the Props, and Emilee Sabatino the considerable and crucial makeup.

    My thanks to The Alpha Players of Florissant for helping me to enjoy The Addams Family.

    —Bob Wilcox

    Photo by Sharon Cotner