They’re creepy. They’re kooky. They’re mysterious. They’re spooky. And down Vista way, they sing, dance, and above all entertain like their deaths depended on it as Moonlight Stages treats SoCal audiences to the Broadway treat that is (snap, snap) The Addams Family.
From the darkly humorous single-panel cartoons appearing in the New Yorker from 1938 on, to the black-and-white sitcom of the mid-1960s, to the ‘73 or ‘92 animated series, to the ’91 film adaptation (or either of its two sequels), to the 2010 Broadway musical bearing their name, the Charles Addams creations better known as The Addams Family have been bewitching the world for nearly eighty years.
Marshall Brickman and Rick Elice center their tweaked-for-the-tour book around daughter Wednesday’s insistence that her parents (David Engel as Gomez and Terra C. MacLeod as Morticia) and the rest of the Addams clan give her decidedly un-ghoulish boyfriend Lucas and his parents “One Normal Night” at an Addams Family dinner.
Unfortunately, not even the out-of-character canary yellow dress that Wednesday (Lindsay Joan) dons or her family’s promise to try to behave normally can hide the fact that the Addamses (Randall Hickman as Uncle Fester, Samantha Wynn Greenstone as Grandma, Ryan Singer as Pugsly, and Dustin Ceithamer as butler Lurch) resemble no one whom Lucas (Nick Eiter) or his parents Mal and Alice Beineke (Corky Loupé and Eileen Bowman) have ever met before.
After all, how many families have parents who do swordplay as foreplay, a son who worries that his gone-normal older sister won’t be torturing him anymore, or an uncle who confesses to being in love with the moon?
Then comes the moment when the young lovers announce some life-altering plans and, with a sudden change in the weather preventing the Beinekes from taking their disapproving leave, theatergoers have more than enough reason to stick around for Act Two.
Composer/lyricist Andrew Lippa’s melodies are catchy and his lyrics as clever as can be. As for Brickman and Elice’s book, it couldn’t be more delightfully campy, with delicious pop culture references (Simone Biles, Pokemon Go, etc) as recent as today’s news feed.
Making his Moonlight directorial debut, San Diego star James Vázquez put the emphasis not just on laughter but on love, delivering an Addams brood as likely to tug at your heartstrings as they are to tickle your ribs. No wonder then that when Pugsly, fearful about his sister’s budding romance with Lucas, sings a plaintive “What if she never tortures me anymore?—you may find a tear streaming down your cheek even as you chuckle at the outrageousness of it all.
Leading man extraordinaire Engel sizzles like never before, from Gomez’s Latin élan to his Fernando Lamas accent to his Broadway pipes to the dance pizzazz that has helped win Engel six Ovation awards.
As for Gomez’s leading lady in life, Moonlight could not have made a more inspired choice than 2014’s Scenie-winning National Tour Performer Of The Year MacLeod, giving Morticia an added dose of delicious to rival the Broadway triple-threat’s decade-long run as Chicago’s Velma Kelly.
Eiter’s lovestruck Lucas could hardly be more winning opposite the stardom-bound Joan, who captures Wednesday’s deadpan delivery, then belts to the stars above.
Hickman’s Fester proves a lovably loopy scene-stealer, 20something Greenstone vanishes inside a deliciously ditzy gray-haired Grandma, pintsized charmer Singer shows off the vocal chops and comedic timing of a seasoned pro as Pugsly, and Ceithamer once again makes Lurch his grunting, towering, eleventh-hour surprise-hiding own.
As for the Beinekes, performers don’t get any more fabulous than San Diego treasure Bowman as Ohio housewife-gone-wild Alice and the ever versatile Loupé, giving Mal’s prim-and-proper Missus every reason to go out of control.
And then there are The Addams Ancestors, raised from their graves in a variety of ingenious ghostly white guises spanning from prehistoric to 20th Century times, and brought to highly individualized “life” by ten of the most terrific song and dance star around town: Katie Whalley Banville (Flight Attendant), Amy Beth (Saloon Girl), Drew Bradford (Caveman), Chaz Feuerstine (Gambler), Danny Hansen (Puritan), Missy Marion (Bride), Gabriel Navarro (Conquistador), Joy Newbegin (Indian), Eric Michael Parker (Soldier), and Kim Taylor (Flapper).
Karl Warden’s choreography dazzles throughout, and never more so than in a great big opening number that has the entire Addams clan line dancing, doing the bunny hop and the twist, and even “dancing” the rigor mortis as only the dead, dying, and motion-challenged can do.
Musical director Randi Ellen Rudolph has elicited topnotch vocals from her entire cast, Julie Lamoureux conducts Moonlight’s pitch-perfect pit orchestra, and Jim Zadai provides a crystal-clear sound design mix and Halloween-ready effects..
The Addams Family looks fabulous too, thanks to lighting designer Jean-Yves Tessier, makeup designer Kathleen Kenna, wig designer Peter Herman, and above all to the original Broadway design team’s National Tour sets and costumes (provided by 3-D Theatricals).
Roslyn Lehman, Renetta Lloyd, and Carlotta Malone (costume coordination and execution) and Bonnie Durben (properties coordinator) share additional program credit.
Stanley D. Cohen is stage manager and Nathan Harper is assistant stage manager. Sue Givens is production assistant.
Moonlight Stage Productions’s The Addams Family gives musical theater lovers ample reason to spend an evening under the Vista stars, concluding Moonlight’s 2016 summer season on a delightfully dark note, which for Gomez and Morticia is the highest praise any reviewer can bestow.
Moonlight Amphitheatre, 1200 Vale Terrace Drive, Vista.
September 24, 22106
Photos: Ken Jacques