The following review is based on the Friday, October 14th opening-night performance.
5-Star Theatricals ends its fabulous 2021-22 season with finger snaps aplenty thanks to its marvelous production of The Addams Family, the musical, which runs through only Sunday, October 23rd at the Bank of America Performing Arts Center in Thousand Oaks, Calif.
Desperate Housewives star Teri Hatcher headlines the musical in what marks her return to the live stage for the first time in over 20 years. She is surrounded by a terrific cast who works diligently to realize director Kirsten Chandler’s vision, which aligns with the musical many know and love, but also contemporizes itself with topical references that brings the Addams clan firmly into 2022. Along with Darby Epperson’s quirky but always graceful choreography, Ryan O’Connell’s musical stewardship in the pit, Jared A. Sayeg’s luxuriant lighting, and an atmospheric set provided by 3-D Theatricals, The Addams Family is another surefire winner for 5-Star Theatricals.
Upon being brought to life by cartoonist Charles Addams in 1938, the morbid but mischievously wacky Addams Family has become an international institution, spawning comic books, a 1960’s sitcom, live-action and animated films and, not to mention, a musical with music/lyrics by Andrew Lippa and book by Marshall Brickman and Rick Elice. Not every pop-culture phenomenon is meant to be a musical, but it’s a natural fit for The Addams Family whose hammy fiendishness and ghoulish idiosyncrasies are better conveyed via song and dance.
The premise examines a sequence of events that transpires when the pig-tailed Wednesday reveals to her father, Gomez, that she is in love with a comparatively ordinary boy, Lucas Beineke, who doesn’t share the Addams’ macabre values. However, Uncle Fester, a matchmaker at heart, enlists the Addams’ long-dead ancestors to ensure that the couple’s love “triumphs.” When Lucas and his folks Alice and Mal arrive at the Addams residence, questions about secrets arise, culminating in a game of “Full Disclosure” that sees not only Lucas and Wednesday’s relationship at stake, but that of their respective parents as well. It is a story that celebrates differences but also notes commonalities such as trust, respect, and the intrinsic need to be understood.
Besides the source material, Hatcher is, of course, the main attraction. She is a big get for 5-Star, which has successfully procured relatively big names in recent years, like Adam Pascal and Susan Egan. And like the aforesaid two, Hatcher doesn’t just rely on her drawing power; she immerses herself in her character, Morticia, and vocally holds her own — a skill of hers that has mostly gone under the radar. And despite an uncooperative dress in opening night’s Act II — ad-libbed as “opening-night skirt jitters” — Hatcher is beguiling in her black and purple ensemble, carrying herself as a Morticia who is mature, confident, and comfortable in her own skin. In addition, Hatcher maintains a veteran’s poise throughout, moving elegantly on stage, and singing with purpose in “Secrets” and “Just Around the Corner.” She isn’t afraid to be silly, either, and exhibits excellent timing when delivering puns about death.
Hatcher’s stage partner is played by Edward Staudenmayer, who imbues his Gomez with unrelenting passion and vitality. Whether he’s putting on his gloriously thick Spanish accent, swashbucklingly entering a scene with his trusty sword, looking sheepishly at Hatcher’s Morticia, explaining the rich history of his family to the Beinekes, or describing the hilariously absurd “fox in the box” during “Full Disclosure,” Staudenmayer knows when to be zestfully theatrical or pull back when necessary. Staudenmayer is also adept at harnessing a weighty resonance in his voice that comes through in “Trapped” and “Not Today,” giving both numbers, and others, an extra layer of panache.
Andrew Metzger is the lovable, bald, banjo-playing, and smoky-eyed Fester. Because it is a character that has the best interests of his onstage family and the audience in mind, Fester is one of the very few who can get away with breaking the fourth wall. Metzger is spectacular in finding Fester’s voice and disposition — slightly high-pitched and frenzied with some sexual ambiguity to match. The persona’s amorous feelings are directed at not any one person, but the moon, highlighted by a number (“The Moon and Me”) that sees a magical levitating act that is both whimsical and touching.
As previously mentioned, the story’s conflict arises with an unexpected declaration made by Wednesday, who is portrayed by Janelle Villas. The recent Chicago transplant realizes Wednesday’s angst and frustration in having to keep her marriage plans with Tristan Turner’s Lucas Beineke a secret. When Villas isn’t perfectly hitting high notes in “Pulled” and “Crazier Than You,” she scores laughs in scenes with her happily tortured brother in the musical, Pugsley, depicted by the precocious Leander Lewis. Turner, too, has a nice moment with Lewis, notably when Lucas hysterically tries to relate to the much younger Pugsley, who is none too impressed.
Lucas’s parents, Mal and Alice, who also represent an important counterpoint to the eccentric Addams brood, are played by Benjamin Perez and Trisha Rapier. Perez’s Mal is the epitome of a man who has lost his sense of adventure, becoming boringly staid before experiencing a resurgence. Rapier’s repressed and rhyming Alice also has new life breathed into her, but it is a much more radical transformation. For instance, in “Waiting,” Rapier belts out the most searingly mellifluent lines in the show, climbing over the Addams’ dinner table and erupting into a burst of ardor — which had hitherto eluded her character. With not a dull moment that can be attributed to her, Rapier might be the most talented among her accomplished castmates.
Furthermore, Samantha Wynn Greenstone’s Grandma is just as devilishly unpredictable and funny as one can imagine, sporting larger-than-life eyebrows that have clearly never stopped growing in her 100-plus years. Rounding out the Addams Family members is Aaron LaPlante’s Lurch, which is the best take on the towering and laconic character this reviewer has seen. LaPlante holds the crowd in the palm of his hand by not only getting Lurch’s characterizations just right, but also leaning into the ambling mannerisms and befuddled expressions while uttering nonsensical, guttural sounds. Beneath the growls, though, is a splendiferous bass that audiences will be excited to hear.
Overall, beyond their grim and grisly interests, the Addams household is, deep down, just like the rest of us in wanting to nurture platonic and romantic relationships. That said, what the Addams have over others is a propensity for being a little untamed, which is something most can learn from as it certainly keeps things interesting. When Hatcher’s Morticia and Staudenmayer’s Gomez engage in their spicy “Tango De Amor” — alongside the underrated ensemble as the Addams Ancestors — we’re reminded that sometimes it can behoove us to be moderately wild. 5-Star Theatricals’ rendition of The Addams Family serves as that inspiration and is well worth experiencing. If audiences don’t have grave epiphanies, they’ll at the very least be dying of laughter.
For more information about 5-Star Theatricals’ production of The Addams Family, and to purchase tickets, please visit: 5StarTheatricals.com