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'Addams Family Musical' Haunts the Halls of Segerstrom Center

Santa poses with the cast on Dec. 19 at Segerstrom Center

The Addams Family Musical
Segerstrom Center for the Arts
600 Town Center Dr., Costa Mesa
Through December 30, 2012
Tuesday-Friday at 7:30 p.m.;
Saturday at 2 and 7:30 p.m.;
Sunday at 1 and 6:30 p.m.
Reservations: 714.556.2787
:: scfta.org

OK… I must give a full disclosure to you all before I begin: I have an obsession, if you will, with the spooky and the ooky… The Nightmare Before Christmas is my favorite film, I grew up viewing monster movies with my father and spent many an afternoon watching the passionate and quirky couple portrayed by John Astin and Carolyn Jones in "The Addams Family" television series. So you can understand how excited I was when the musical opened on Broadway and I happily donned the black outfit to see it in previews back in 2010.

I again wore my black to see the touring production of The Addams Family Musical, which will conclude its national tour at Segerstrom Center for the Arts on December 30. This production differs greatly from the Broadway show, which many may remember was slammed by critics and the cast was snubbed at the 2010 Tony Awards. Critics be damned, as the Broadway show was a huge crowd-pleaser and financially successful, grossing over $65 million when it closed in December 2011.

Producers, however, could not ignore the criticism, and brought in four-time Tony-winning Director Jerry Zaks to work with writers Marshall Brickman and Rick Elice, tweaking the story to create what they believed, a more universal plot. Zaks has collaborated on this show from its preview days in Chicago in 2009, and kept working on revisions of the touring production up until its opening in New Orleans last fall. From The Windy City to the Great White Way to the road, this production has seen new storylines, new songs and reworked dance numbers. Music by Andrew Lippa and choreography by Sergio Trujillo - all were fine-tuned or re-mastered for this tour.

The premise of the story generally is the same from the Broadway production: Wednesday Addams (Cortney Wolfson) has fallen in love with Lucas Beineke (Curtis Holbrook), a “normal” boy and has invited his parents to dinner. She implores her family to be on their best behavior and try to act “normal” for the evening. (Plotline sound familiar? La Cage anyone?) A new twist was added for the reworked production - Wednesday confides in her father, Gomez (Douglas Sills), that Lucas has asked her to marry him and she begs him not to tell her mother, Morticia (Sara Gettelfinger), thus creating a conflict for this husband/father, who never keeps secrets from his wife. New songs and dialog support this plotline and give the show more intention and purpose for the entire cast.

The cast is solid in this production, with the focus being on the relationship between Morticia and Gomez, much like the cartoon the story is based on. Sills does a wonderful job as the head of this kooky family, and delivers his rather campy dialog with vigor. Gettelfinger’s Morticia is intentionally not as deadpan as Bebe Neuwirth’s Broadway interpretation. In fact, all the characters have been livened up a bit on this tour, even those that have risen from the grave. Noteworthy performances from Uncle Fester (Blake Hammond), who acts somewhat like a narrator guiding us through the story, as well as performing his touching love song “The Moon and Me” beautifully. Grandma (Pippa Pearthree) has some great one-liners, but is considerably less naughty than her Broadway counterpart played by Abby Hoffman. Little brother Pugsley (Patrick Kennedy) enjoys being tortured by Wednesday and is very concerned that she has gone soft with her newfound love and stirs up some tonic and controversy at the dinner table with Lucas’ parents Mal and Alice Beineke (Martin Vidnovic and Gaelen Gilliland). Gilliland’s scene-stealing number in “Full Disclosure” is performed with some torch, and we realize that these square parents from Ohio have some secrets of their own to share.

A noteworthy writing rework that benefited a character was for the faithful zombie-esque butler, Lurch (Tom Corbeil), who was given some great physical comedy nods and his deadpan baritone is not to be missed.

The Addams Family ensemble of ancestors is crucial to this tale; wonderful contrasting costumes in apparition - ranging from a caveman, to a flapper, to a Shakespearean dandy to jilted bride. They all play a part in keeping the story going,  with a mission to keep the love “alive” between Wednesday and Lucas, Morticia and Gomez and Mal and Alice, so they may return to their ancestral crypt and rest in peace. Along with their great costuming created by Julian Crouch and Phelim McDermott, these undead dancers share the original choreography of Trujillo and add to the overall shenanigans as only your dead ancestors can do.

Crouch and McDermott are also credited with the dark and gothic sets and the original direction of the show, and they deserve kudos for the macabre vision and deliciously creepy ambiance. The blood red curtain is a character of its own - creating vignettes within scenes, framing much like the cell of a cartoon. Even the curtain tassel has a bit, along with Pugsley’s bed and his personal torture chamber. The audience is even treated with a brief visit from Thing and Cousin It! All of these elements add to the overall fun and endearing silliness of The Addams Family.

The show is kid-friendly, however, there are a few provocative references for Mom and Dad to chuckle at, and Morticia’s plunging neckline might be a bit much for some… personally I couldn’t help but wonder what kind of black magic kept that dress from wardrobe malfunction during the entire performance… Either way, it is a safe show for all ages, and once again, Segerstrom Center has made the pre-show engaging, with photo opportunities in the foyer and an overall lively ambiance.

This holiday season is a perfect opportunity for your kin to make some memories with the offbeat and loveable Addams clan. Hopefully Santa will slip some theater tickets in your stocking!

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