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Saturday, February 14, 2015

A Crazy 'Addams Family' Delights at Toby's

Creepy, kooky, mysterious and spooky—that surely defines that ooky Addams family.  You can add hilarious and goofy to the mix and you have the recipe for a delicious, zany production of The Addams Family currently playing at Toby’s the Dinner Theatre of Columbia.

The Addams Family cast.  Photo: Jeri Tidwell
Not many musicals include potions to provoke one’s inner dark side, torture apparatus, and de-blooming of flowers but The Addams Family has all that and more.  Toby’s production also includes an incredibly well-cast ensemble under the precise direction of Mark Minnick who also handled the choreography.
This is not a knock-off of the loveable and popular TV series The Addams Family of mid-60’s yore with Baltimore native John Astin and Carolyn Jones as the leads.  Instead, the musical whose music and lyrics by Andrew Lippa and book by Marshall Brickman and Rick Elice, was patterned after the ghoulish, comical characters in Charles Addams’ cartoons.  

The Addams Family opened on Broadway in March 2010 and ended its run on December 31, 2011 after over 700 performances.  The show failed to capture any of the eight Tony Award nominations in 2010, even with Nathan Lane in the lead, but did receive a Drama Desk Award for Outstanding Set Design.  Despite less than stellar reviews and the lack of accolades, The Addams Family did well financially on Broadway and spawned numerous regional and touring productions both in the U.S. and internationally.
Toby’s presentation is more similar to the touring production than the Broadway original. The storyline centers on the morbid and crazy Addams family—Gomez, Morticia, Uncle Fester, Grandma, Wednesday, Pugsley and Lurch—whose preoccupation with death and darkness provides most of the humor in the show.  They are visited by the straight-laced Beineke family from Ohio—a swing state as bellowed by Gomez—whereby the son Lucas, the beau of Wednesday, brings his parents Mal and Alice to meet the Addamses in a what-can-possibly-go-wrong scenario. 

Fortunately, a lot does go wrong, which forms the essence of the story and the ensuing hilarity.  The hijinks, nuttiness and zingers, however, are largely packed into the first act, which sets up the show.  The second act lacks that same comedic punch and pace with the characters turning to sentimentality and reconciliation, but it is still enjoyable.  In the end, the Addams clan realizes it’s too crazy, and the Beinekes acknowledge they’re not crazy enough.
"The Addams Family at Toby’s is led by its exceptional cast. "
Musically, Lippa’s score does not contain the tuneful melodies that will leave you humming as you exit the theater.  Nonetheless, his lyrics are potently funny, and in the manner of Sondheim, the lyrics will get your attention.  #hocoarts

Those songs that stand out include, “When You’re an Addams,” “Trapped,” “Pulled,” “One Normal Night,” “Full Disclosure,” “Crazier Than You,” and “Live Before We Die.” Ross Scott Rawlings and his six-piece orchestra do a fine job as always backing up the vocalists.
It’s not just the songs and dialogue that will keep you chuckling.  The set, designed by David A. Hopkins, is detailed to the core with 19th century Gothic furniture and other accoutrements including gas lamps encased by spider webs and a Spanish Inquisition chair that is bound to get a response from a person sitting on it.  Even "Thing "and "Cousin Itt" make brief appearances through Mr. Hopkins’ creativity.

Credit Costume Coordinator Lawrence B. Munsey and Lighting Designer Coleen M. Foley for adding the appropriate spookiness to the production.
The Addams Family at Toby’s is led by its exceptional cast.  In such a campy production, the temptation is for the performers to go overboard, but under Mark Minnick’s guiding hand, the performers exhibit the right amount of restraint without sacrificing the comedy.

Lawrence B. Munsey turns in yet another masterful performance.  He sparkled in recent Toby’s productions playing Javert in Les Misérables and King Arthur in Spamalot, and as Gomez Addams, he continues that solid streak. 
Mr. Munsey’s commands the stage with his well-timed rejoinders, gestures and a rich baritone voice. He is particularly strong in singing “Trapped” and “Live Before We Die.”  Gomez is challenged to placate Morticia because he kept a certain secret from her (she abhors secrecy) and is one of the major plotlines. 

Morticia is played by another Toby’s veteran, the lovely Priscilla Cuellar.  Her stellar singing voice shined in Spamalot, and she brought that vocal prowess to Addams in “Secrets” and “Just Around the Corner.”  Morticia gave a lot of grief to Gomez and was convincing in doing so. Their onstage repartee is excellent.
Wednesday Addams, played by MaryKate Brouillet, did a fine job conveying her sadism towards  her younger brother Pugsley, and her desire to marry Lucas (played well with exuberance and earnestness by AJ Whittenberger). 

Gomez (Lawrence B. Munsey) kisses Morticia's (Priscilla Cuellar) hand
Photo: Jeri Tidwell
She performed nicely in a duet with Jace Franco as Pugsley for the performance reviewed in “Pulled.” (Gavin Willard also plays Pugsley in other performances.)  Ms. Brouillet possesses a powerful singing voice as does the young Mr. Franco.  The latter commands a good range and comedic instincts, which bodes well for his future in musical theatre.
Cross-gender cast as the centenarian Grandma is David James who is funny at every turn. You can laugh simply by looking at him/her.  

Rounding out the Addamses are Shawn Kettering as Uncle Fester who discovered he is in love with the moon and David Bosley-Reynolds as the near silent, methodically plodding Lurch.  Both played their respective characters to the hilt.
Darren McDonnell as Mal Beineke, Lucas’ father, excels as a control-freak whose marriage was about to collapse from deceit and other maladies.  He needed to be crazier, and where would be a better place to start other than the Addams’ mansion in the middle of Central Park?

His wife Alice, played energetically by Elizabeth Rayca, is seemingly victimized by Mel’s bland personality had turned to random rhymes for solace. The marital problems seem to work out at the end. 
The remainder of the company included ten living, dead and undecided Addams’ ancestors, and they did a splendid job of supporting the principals in song and dance.

The Addams Family at Toby’s is guaranteed to keep you laughing, and you will count your blessings that you’re not a relative of that kooky but loveable family.
Running time: Two hours and thirty minutes with an intermission.

The Addams Family runs through April 19 at Toby’s the Dinner Theatre of Columbia, 5900 Symphony Wood Rd., Columbia, MD 21044.  To purchase tickets call 410-730-8311 or visit online.

1 comment:

Barb said...

I couldn't have said it better myself!!