by Terrance Mc Arthur
Gomez and Morticia, singing and dancing?
It must be The Addams Family musical, back onstage in the Good Company Players production at Roger Rocka’s Music Hall through November 7.
For the first GCP full-cast (25 bodies onstage, plus a few of the mechanical and animated kind) musical of the Covid+ era, director Elizabeth Fiester stacks the deck with a half-dozen major characters with the same performers as the 2014 production, and they are frightfully good.
Based on the macabre cartoons by Charles Addams, rather than the TV series or the popular movies, the musical has songs by Andrew Lippa, who also penned the songs for the musicals Big Fish, The Wild Party and the revision of You’re a Good Man, Charlie Brown, as well as being the long-time musical director for Kristen Chenowith. The script was co-written by Marshall Brickman and Rick Elice, a team who also co-wrote Jersey Boys.
Cool and liquid are good descriptions of Paige Parker as Morticia Addams, a striking vision in black, who busts loose for a rousing rendition of “Just Around the Corner,” a gleeful tribute to what will happen to us all. Morticia’s suspicions of secrets being kept unleashes a firestorm from her chilly character.
The source of those secrets is a grown-up Wednesday Addams (Kindle Lynn Cowger), who entrusts her father, Gomez (Lex Martin) with why the visit of her boyfriend’s parents is so important. Her scenes of tormenting her brother Pugsley (Zachary Taylor) are delightful to anyone whoever had a younger brother, and her fight with her boyfriend (Jeremy Marks) reveals a spitfire in embryo.
I find Martin’s Gomez to be closer to my concept of the source cartoons’ character than any of the live-action movies or TV shows I have seen. The strength and precision of the “Tango de Amor” with Parker is dazzling, and his reactions as the husband/father caught between wife and daughter are to be cherished.
Steve Souza is a jolly, elfin Uncle Fester, leading the audience through the plot turns. (Yes, he makes light bulbs turn on in his mouth.) His over-water underwater ballet is a highlight of the “The Moon and Me” number, aided by misdirection.
Marks resembles a 90210-vintage Luke Perry (or is it Jason Priestley? Is there a difference?) as Lucas, Wednesday’s boyfriend. He is the typical Prince Charming-yuppie character, but he breaks out of the nice-guy mold in “Crazier Than You” with Cowger.
Gordon Moore and Jessica Sarkisian work like a well-oiled machine as Mal and Alice Beineke, Lucas’s parents. Both with oodles of GCP shows behind them, she gets to shine on “Waiting,” where Alice reveals her darkest frustrations (thanks to a mis-aimed potion). The always-enjoyable Moore goes nose-to-nose with Sarkisian in their version of “Crazier Than You.”
Brian Rhea is tall and thin. He plays Lurch. That’s all you need to know, except…..he sings!
Taylor is scheming and crafty as Pugsley, who doesn’t want to lose the torment and torture he receives from Wednesday. Tracy Jones is a lively Grandma, a mystery to the family.
The chorus of the show is made up of The Addams Ancestors, dead apparitions that represent generations from the Neolithic to the Roaring 20s, who onlook, observe, and interact with the present generations, because they can’t leave until love triumphs. Emily Pessano’s makeup designs are so good, in some cases, their own families couldn’t recognize them. David Pierce’s sets make you believe there could be a spooky mansion in the middle of a city park. Ginger Kay Lewis-Reed’s costumes mix ghostly and ghastly with the familiar.
So…grab a witch’s shawl on, a broomstick you can crawl on, we’re going to pay a call on…The Addams Family, snap, snap! (The TV tune by Vic Mizzy shows up from time to time, and the audience snaps or claps along with the music, although the clappers tend to drown out the snappers.) The Addams Family plays through November 7 at Roger Rocka’s Dinner Theater, 1226 N. Wishon, in Fresno. Tickets can be purchased on their website or by calling the box office at (559)266-9494.
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