Theater & Dance
Review
"The Addams Family"

By: Marshall Brickman & Rick Elice, with music and lyrics by Andrew Lippa, based on the cartoon characters created by Charles Addams
Produced by: Palo Alto Players
Featuring: Doug Santana as Gomez, Betsy Kruse Craig as Morticia, Joey McDaniel as Uncle Fester, Linda Piccone as Grandma, Catherine Gloria as Wednesday, Leo Jergovic as Pugsley, David Murphy as Lurch, Kennan Blehm as Mal Beineke, Jen Wheatonfox as Alice Beineke, and Adam Cotugno as Lucas Beineke. The male ensemble includes Juan Castro, Zendrex Llado, Jomar Martinez, Shahil Patel, and Michael Saenz. The female ensemble includes Jessica Ellithorpe, Yuliya Eydelnant, Jennifer Gorgulho, Danielle Mendoza, Devin Smith, and Jennifer Young.
Directed and choreographed by: Janie Scott
Musical direction by: Matthew Mattei
Running time: 150 minutes, one intermission
When: April 24 through May 10, 2015
Where: Lucie Stern Theater, 1305 Middlefield Road, Palo Alto, California
Tickets: $34-$48. Call 650-329-0891 or visit www.paplayers.org

Read John Orr's interview with set designer Ron Gasparinetti in Regarding Arts.

Read John Orr's interview with director/choreographer Janie Scott in The Daily News.

Read John Orr's interview with singer/actor Joey McDaniel in The Daily News.

Santana, Kruse Craig, McDaniel
Joyce Goldschmid / Palo Alto Players
Doug Santana as Gomez Addams tries to make time with Betsy Kruse Craig as Morticia, under the watchful eyes of Joey McDaniel as Uncle Fester in "The Addams Family," produced by Palo Alto Players. The show runs April 24 through May 10, 2015, at the Lucie Stern Theatre.
Wildly funny 'The Addams Family' a crowd-pleaser
Cast, production team at Palo Alto Players overcome weak material to create a memorable musical comedy
April 26, 2015

Palo Alto Players pretty much works a miracle with "The Addams Family," taking a mediocre, disjointed and uneven musical and turning it into a thrilling, hilarious show that makes for a joyous couple of hours in the theater.

In a way, it's easy to understand the problems faced by writers Marshall Brickman and Rick Elice, and lyricist Andrew Lippa. They wanted to make a show based on the darkly humorous and macabre, one-panel cartoons of Charles Addams, but probably didn't want just a series of set-pieces.

They wanted a story, apparently, so wrote one about love and how to maintain it in life.

At its best, "The Addams Family" is wildly funny and often surprising. At its worst, it's a sugary, trite treatise on being honest with your life partner and staying in love.

Director and choreographer Janie Scott has taken an excellent cast and a fine production team and staged a show that is so successful in the parts that work that it is worth yawning through the parts that don't work.

And let me be clear: The parts that don't work are the fault of Brickman, Elice and Lippa, not this production.

The plot: Wednesday Addams, the original Goth girl, has fallen in love with a normal guy, plans to marry him, and wants his Midwest straight parents to come to the Addams mansion for dinner, to meet her macabre parents and family — Gomez, Morticia, Uncle Fester, Pugsley, Grandma and Lurch. Fester, who is all about love in this show, forces the Addams family ancestors to stay out of their graves and help make love work. Complications ensue.

It's a funny show, with a certain amount of slapstick fun, but most of the humor comes in dialogue, and had the opening night audience laughing and applauding with relish.

One of the tricks with humor in dialogue is that some performers just don't understand timing. That was a problem in the Palo Alto Players production of "Young Frankenstein" in 2014, for instance.

But in this show, Broadway veteran and performance teacher Scott has her cast operating with razor-sharp timing, giving each gag just enough time to develop before hitting the punch line for the best laugh. The audience was delighted.

Doug Santana, a road-show vet, makes a fine Gomez, with an fascinating and amusing perhaps Spanish accent. He has a lot of comedy to deliver, as he gets caught between his daughter Wednesday and his wife, Morticia.

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As Morticia, Betsy Kruse Craig is absolutely delicious, the requisite few inches taller than Gomez and with cheekbones that could cut paper, generally with a charming smirk on her face.

Catherine Gloria is a fine Wednesday, all young anger and angst, proud of having shot a duck with her crossbow for the big dinner. She's dressed all in black, of course, till it's time to meet her possible in-laws, when she wears a yellow dress that horrifies her parents. "You look like a crime scene!" Gomez tells her.

Leo Jergovic is a fabulous surprise as Pugsley. Sure, he loves to blow stuff up and be tortured, and snuggle with the monster under his bed, but what an amazing voice! A young guy, wearing a fat suit under his shirt for the role, he performs some outstanding vocal gymnastics.

Joey McDaniel is another fabulous singer, who in addition to performing his songs extremely well, has some bits that get laughs because they are such impressive vocal changes. As Uncle Fester, he gets a lot of the funniest physical gags, too, including his trip to the moon. He is wonderful in the role.

The always great Linda Piccone is very funny as Grandma, although she's not even on stage when the best joke about Grandma is delivered.

Long tall David Murphy, with sparse bangs hanging down, is a fine Lurch, slowly doing that zombie walk across the stage. He has a couple of the show's best surprises and biggest laughs.

Wheatonfox, McDaniel
Joyce Goldschmid / Palo Alto Players
Jen Wheatonfox (red hair) as Alice Beineke, left, and Joey McDaniel as Uncle Fester are both brilliant in "The Addams Family."

Jen Wheatonfox, as Alice Beineke, mother of the young man Wednesday wants to marry, has my favorite bit in the show, when Pugsley accidentally slips a potion into her drink that makes her change from vapid Midwest poetry mom into a redhot mama who is unhappy in her dull marriage.

I've seen Wheatonfox in a few roles, but never have seen her better than in this scene, which includes some very aggressive dancing and powerful vocals. Wowsers.

It was electrifying, the best scene in the show, with pretty much the entire cast getting involved in a roadhouse melee. Hilarious.

Adam Cotugno, who is always handsome, solid and in good voice, plays Lucas, Wednesday's love interest.

Kennan Blehm has the almost thankless job of playing Lucas' stiff father, but takes that character through some true steps, and makes a good goofy hippie once he transforms.

The ensemble cast was excellent. All singing, all dancing, usually as the ghosts of Addams ancestors.

Please, may we have a round of applause for costume designer Shannon Maxham? She nailed the signature Addams family clothing, from Morticia's body-clinging black gown to Uncle Fester's whatever that thing is, with the big collar. And all those ghosts! From hotsy totsy showgirl to caveman, their costumes were delightful.

Kudos also to lighting designer Carolyn A. Foot, who had a very deep set to deal with, and did great work with it. Ron Gasparinetti designed that set, which served many purposes in many ways.

Shiboune Thill rose to the weird occasion for hair and makeup design, from Fester's bald pate to Alice Beineke's shocking red hair. One possible hitch: Betsy Kruse Craig seemed to be struggling to keep Morticia's hair in place after Alice Beineke's wild meltdown scene.

I was unhappy that I often couldn't hear the vocals over the pit orchestra conducted by Matthew Mattei. That was probably because of where I was seated, in the third row. At the Lucie Stern Theatre these days, the best sound is probably about halfway back in the auditorium.

Hats off to director and choreographer Janie Scott. The acting, the singing were first-rate, and her choreography for many dance scenes and other bits was a lot of fun.

Email John Orr at johnorr@regardingarts.com

Gloria, Jergovic
Joyce Goldschmid / Palo Alto Players
Catherine Gloria as Wednesday Addams, left, tortures Leo Jergovic as Pugsley in "The Addams Family," produced by Palo Alto Players.
The Addams Family
Joyce Goldschmid / Palo Alto Players
Be careful what you drink at dinner in "The Addams Family" mansion. From left are Jen Wheatonfox (red hair) as Alice Beineke, Joey McDaniel as Uncle Fester, Kennan Blehm as Mal Beineke, Catherine Gloria as Wednesday Addams, Adam Cotugno (blue shirt) as Lucas Beineke, and Doug Santana as Gomez Addams. This scene brings down the curtain on Act I.
Joey McDaniel, ancestors
Joyce Goldschmid / Palo Alto Players
Addams Family ancestors give heed to Uncle Fester's words in "The Addams Family." From left are Yuliya Eydelnant, Jomar Martinez, Jennifer Gorgulho, Joey McDaniel as Uncle Fester, Michael Saenz, Jessica Ellithorpe, Danielle Mendoza, and Jennifer Young.
Santana, Murphy
Joyce Goldschmid / Palo Alto Players
Doug Santana as Gomez Addams gets the point from David Murphy as Lurch in "The Addams Family," produced by Palo Alto Players. The show runs April 24 through May 10, 2015, at the Lucie Stern Theatre. Jessica Ellithorpe is the Ancestor in the picture frame.


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