The Addams Family, Book by Rick Elice and Marshall Brickman, music and lyrics by Andrew Lippa. Directed by Bert Bernardi. Reviewed by J. Peter Bergman.
"In every heaven you'll find some hell."
Victoria Weinberg and Jimmy Johansmeyer; photo: provided
In the middle of Central Park a family from Ohio arrive for dinner at the home of those typical "New Yorkers" the Addams Family. Born from a series of cartoons created for The New Yorker magazine by Charles Addams between 1938 and 1988 this unique family has been amusing us in many forms for years. Now, on stage at the Theater Barn in New Lebanon, New York they are before us, live and in person, and they are more than merely amusing. They are downright funny, fun and funereal all at the same time.
The show opened on Broadway with Nathan Lane as Gomez and Bebe Neuwirth as Morticia (followed by Roger Rees and Brooke Shields) and the well-loved TV show of the 1960s starred John Astin and Carolyn Jones. There has also been a film with Raul Julia and Angelica Huston in the leading roles. Clearly, The Addams Family is not going away any time soon and for those lucky enough to be in the NY Capital District or The Berkshires of Western Massachusetts this is reason enough to celebrate. The show in New Lebanon is a non-stop joy.
The plot: Wednesday Addams, teenage daughter of Gomez and Morticia, is in love with Lucas Beinecke and wants to marry him. She invites his family from Ohio to dinner to meet her family just at the time the Addams family tomb is irrevocably opened and ancestors are released. Her uncle Fester has fallen in love with the moon. Her Grandma is discovered to not be related to her. Her brother Pugsley approaches a typical Addams life-cycle change called puberty. What follows is musical chaos. Delicious, just like dead bird, unprepared.
Sound bizarre? It is. In the hands of director Bert Bernardi and a wonderful cast of company regulars and newcomers it is more than merely that. It is amazingly humorous. It is remarkably musical. It is worth every kopek it costs to see it and each yen it cost to mount it. You will leave the theater completely hooked on Addams humor and overwhelmingly happy you spent your precious hours to experience it. In short. It's a hit. Go see it.
Jimmy Johansmeyer is a neatly perfect Gomez Addams. With never a hair out of place on his well-oiled scalp, dressed to an idealized perfection, his acting (with Spanish accent), his singing (with Spanish accent) and his dancing (with Spanish accent) never varies and remains a picture of that perfection as conceived by the artist. Victoria Weinberg as his wife Morticia handles the hobble-skirting dress with train as though it was an everyday affair for any woman of substance. She makes emotional correctness into an art and her performance of songs such as "Secrets" and "Just Around the Corner" (I won't reveal the joke in that one) will remain highpoints in this season's best productions around the region.
Theresa Whitt's performance as the suddenly maturing Wednesday is remarkable ("She'll be Thursday before you know it" says her father). Andrew Berlin's rendition of Uncle Fester is easily her match on this stage. Amy Fiebke is hilarious as Grandma and as her pugnacious grandson Pugsley young Adam Salerno makes a definite hit. Lurch, the butler, is played with grotesquerie humor by Will Boyajian.
The three Beineckes are played with special flair by Tony Pallone (father Mal), Kimberly Suskind (mother Al) and Stephanos Bacon (son Lucas). Suskind's incessant rhyming is played so naturally that she is instantly believable and in her section of the first act finale "Full Disclosure" she comes close to making herself indelible.
Much of the success of the performance goes to those ghostly ancestors played by Maclain Dassatti, Justin Rugg, Andrea Pane, Katrina Gnatek, Caitlin Lester-Sams and Jerielle Morwitz (why she is not a Broadway star is something I do not understand - even in whiteface, standing still, she is the most memorable and eye-catching performer on this stage).
Johansmeyer is also the costume designer for this production and his work is outstanding (with a Spanish accent). Allen E. Phelps lighting is resourceful and revealing; Abe Phelps set is as much fun as the show itself. Mason Griffin leads his little band with flair.
Overall, to repeat the above, this is a hit one must devour with relish. If you don't, you never know, the Addams family may simply devour you.
Amy Fiebke and Adam Salerno; photo: provided
The Addams Family plays at the Theater Barn, located at 654 Route 20 in New Lebanon, NY through August 31. For information and tickets, call the box office at 518-794-8989 or go on line to www.theaterbarn.com.