If you need a friendly reminder, the season of Halloween is upon us. It's a festive time in which usually ordinary, ho-hum folks break out of their usual ho-hum routines and throw lots of money at costume rental shops and dressing up their yards with all manner of stuff intended both to delight and scare. Also part of festivities: elaborate parties featuring orange and purple, uh, finger food. The season used to be about kids getting dressed up and roaming neighborhoods trick-or-treating, which meant collecting loads of candy from well-stocked neighbors. That still happens to a degree, but adults have really appropriated the festivities. I have my theories about what that's about, but I digress.
We're here to pay our respects for a delightfully rendered production of the musical The Addams Family from the UA Arizona Repertory Company. Let's say this first. Thanks to a really good cast and musicians, great production values and a surprisingly good score, it's a really fun show. Then we have to add that the script, or book, is as thin as cheap toilet paper.
The show's story is as old as storytelling. Children from wildly diverse backgrounds fall in love and want to marry. There must, of course, be a meeting of the families. Here, it's a dinner party at the Addams' pad located in the middle of Central Park, where weirdness abounds. In a wonderfully wrought scene with a terrific musical number, the dinner gets out of hand in a surprising sort of way. Lines are drawn. But things get shaken up enough that the path for a happy coupling of the kids is revealed. Love prevails, overriding differences.
Yep. That story.
The twist here, of course, is the bizarre world of the Addams crew. But it's a benign sort of bizarre. Here, the dark side of life is celebrated, and what's deemed bright and colorful for the larger population is turned upside down. The dark—death, torture, potions and that awful phenomenon, being different—is embraced and celebrated. So yeah, it's dark, but it's hardly evil.
And here, of course, it's way fun.
Director Danny Gurwin has gathered a gaggle of BFA students—and one faculty member—who give the story great energy and the song-and-dance numbers an impressive level of skill.
Leading the gang is Gomez (Alex Gossard) and the passionate paramour of his love, Morticia (Nicole Knox). With a fine voice and a twinkle in his eye, he seduces us as thoroughly as he does his lover. He leads us through the story, conflicted by his utter devotion for Morticia and his fatherly love for his daughter, Wednesday, growing up much too fast ("She's almost Thursday.") When Wednesday (Rachel Franke) confides she wishes to marry, she enlists his help to pave the path to her mother's acceptance, who she knows will be against the mating. And, indeed she is, when she coaxes the secret from her husband. Franke and Knox both offer strong voices and fun characterizations, although Morticia's role is not a well-written one.
Pugsley, Wednesday's little brother, is given a wonderful embodiment by Allisonn O'Neill. He is afraid that losing Wednesday's big-sister style of torturing little brothers will leave him lonely, and he plots to create a scene to embarrass her to her future in-laws. He takes a potion from his Grandma (Tyler West) to administer to Sis at the dinner where the two families meet, but the potion is mistakenly administered to the mother of the groom-to-be, Alice (Kailyn Toussaint). A demure woman who speaks in impromptu poetry (and the Addams are weird?!) downs the drink, designed, says Grandma, to remove the "lid on your id," and is transformed into a wild woman. Toussaint is hilarious in really the most fun female role in the show, and the act-ending number, "Full Disclosure" is terrific.
But the dinner results in the families' further alienation, causing a rift between Wednesday and Lucas (Alex Williams). Can Lucas convince Wednesday that he loves her no matter what? Can her parents accept their childrens' love? Can Lucas' father Mal (Matthew Osvog) embrace his own re-connection with his wilder side?
Oooh. Burning questions. Well, here they are, although they are really merely story devices. No, we are spared new insights into serious matters, because that is not the show's purpose. Although, the idea of embracing who you are and allowing others the same, even in the midst of what seems like impossible differences, is not a bad thing to remember these days.
The show's intention is to entertain, and that it does. From the ghostly ancestors who serve as the chorus overseeing the action, to faculty member Monte Ralstin's Uncle Fester (Ralstin is also the musical director), to Daniel James Lopez's Lurch, the cast has got it going on. And choreographer Christie Kerr, costume designer Patrick Holt, scenic designer Bruce Brockman and conductor Mike R. Padilla all contribute to making sure that entertainment is delivered. So, now that you have an accessible chance to partake of this fun, you should do it. It's not something you would really go out of your way to see; with its lame script it's just not that great a musical.
But the folks at ART have done a really good and impressive job, and it's fine and fun entertainment at this bewitching time of the year.