by Beki Pineda

THE ADDAMS FAMILY – Book by Marshall Brickman and Rick Elise; Music and Lyrics by Andrew Lippa; Directed by Kelly McAllister. Produced by Parker Arts (School House Theatre, 19650 Main Street, Parker) through November 20. Tickets available at 303-805-6800 or ParkerArts.org.

This tale of thwarted lovers whose families are too different to meld peacefully has been played for drama (ROMEO AND JULIET) and comedy (LA CAGE). THE ADDAMS FAMILY walks right down the middle of that path by playing the story with a lot of sight gags and schtick while infusing it with a healthy dash of pathos and touching family relationships. While identified as “spooky” and “ooky,” it’s way too lighthearted and self-parodying to lend itself to “ghoulish.” The music is catchy, the dancing is delightful, the cast is talented and well-schooled, the set and dressing are spectacular . . . what’s not to like.

It’s most likely that some time in your life you’ve seen one of the TV versions or the movie of the family’s antics. Mom and Dad Addams, Morticia and Gomez, have a household that includes daughter Wednesday who wanders Central Park pinning down the pigeons with her crossbow; a son Pugsley who gets off on pain; Uncle Fester who has a romantic relationship with the Moon (don’t ask!); Grandma – although whose Grandma we never learn; and Lurch, a basso profundo butler. into this menagerie wanders the innocent Lucas fascinated by the unconventional Wednesday. They decide the parents should meet before they announce their engagement so a dinner is organized. Mel and Alice are a white bread couple from Ohio who have no idea what they are getting into. Chaos ensues but because this is a musical comedy and we all know that family trumps everything, it all ends triumphantly.

It’s important that in an iconic script like this that the actors playing the familiar characters have the look (at least somewhat) of the originals as drawn by Charles Addams in the 40’s and 50’s. This cast succeeds in identifying themselves in look and mannerisms. Cooper Kaminsky with glued down hair and tiny mustache has the same sad eyes and devilish grin as their predecessors – John Astin and Raul Julia. Tracy Denver is a combination of Carolyn Jones and Anjelica Huston with a touch of Cher thrown in for good measure. With her long dark hair, low cut gown and flashing legs, she is the epitome of Morticia with attitude. Jennasea Pearce brings a belligerent attitude and self-confidence to Wednesday showing that she has learned self-determination and womanly wiles well from her mother. Pugsley is played by the young and astonishingly talented Nolan McDowell whose voice will surprise you. We can’t forget the bald and beautiful (kind of) Uncle Fester whose machinations with the Addams Ancestors help solve this family situation. The role is in the capable hands of Kevin Eksterowicz. You have to see his trip to the moon to believe it. The older generation is represented by Grandma (Alicia Pope) who in her fright wig teaches Pugsley how to use all those herbs and potions she’s cooked up. And, of course, the ever present Lurch is always there with whatever you need from fencing partner to butler and is played gigantically by Nathan Smith.

The normal folk, Matt Wessel and Amy Condon are the perfect innocent bystanders flung into the tornado of the Addams troupe. To watch them come apart and then find themselves again is a great part of the fun. Their wilder-than-you-thought son Lucas is played by Gunnar Bettis. Six beautifully costumed and talented dancers play the Addams Ancestors who rise from the dead to help the family through this crisis – because that’s what families do – and dance their way back to their crypt.

This set including the family crypt which opens up to become the interior of their Central Park mansion is a wonder to behold. Look carefully and you will see two shields on the wall that are from the movie BEN HUR. Several of those portraits on the walls are the kind that turn from normal to scary as you walk past. There’s a torture rack and a long dining room table that materializes out of nowhere. August Stoten who is the managing half of the Sasquatch team always does a truly amazing job in designing the sets and unusual props for their shows. Kelly McAllister, the other half of the team, shows a sure and confident hand with the directing bit. They are bolstered by the talents of Heather Westenskow as choreographer and Tanner Kelly as Music Director with additional help from Jessie Page’s costumes.

This family friendly production plays well in the intimate space of the Schoolhouse Theatre. But it also means that shows are selling out quickly. Grab a ticket or two while you can.

A WOW factor of 9!!

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