The summer theatre season gets off to a boisterous start with The Addams Family, the first of this year's musical productions from Cabrillo Stage.
Although it seems odd to apply words like "lively" and "exuberant" to characters so famous for their morbidity and ghoulishness, you can expect to have an, er, spirited time at this handsomely produced, enormously good-hearted, family-friendly show.
|Crook and Saucedo: darkly funny|
The classic TV sitcom from the 1960s, and a couple of more recent theatrical films, have kept these characters in the public eye since then, but the writers here cook up an original storyline that mostly takes its cues from the cartoons.
Director Bobby Marchessault gets us in the mood right off, inviting us to feast our eyes on William "Skip" Epperson's splendid proscenium arch decorated with skulls, dagger-shaped supports, and cobwebs above a row of headstones.
Fittingly enough, the show begins in a graveyard, where the entire Addams clan — led by proud patriarch, Gomez (Adam Saucedo) and his slinky wife, Morticia (a seductively deadpan Danielle Crook) — arrives for its annual celebration of the dear departed.
Calling forth various ghosts of Addamses past, from different eras (a flapper, a conquistador, etc.) they all sing a funny paean to their ghoulish life in "When You're An Addams." (These silvery-grey ghosts, called Ancestors, in cheeky but elaborate historical costumes by Chiara Cola, also serve as chorus line and stagehands throughout the rest of the show.)
|Wednesday, Gomez, as Chas Addams drew them|
Filloux makes droll teen angst out of her struggle to reconcile the joys of love with the family credo of gloom. The problem is, her boyfriend, Lucas (Ryland Gordon), is "normal."
But, of course, the point of the show is observing the Addamses at play. John G. Bridges all but steals the show as a delightfully sweet and goofy Uncle Fester. (Fasten your seatbelts for the funky, yet utterly beguiling bit of stagecraft when he flies up to cavort with the moon.)
t's a running gag that Wednesday routinely tortures kid brother, Pugsley (Michael Navarro), on a rack — and how much he loves it. Deborah McArthur can't do much with the underwritten part of screechy, witchy Grandma.
|Astin as Gomez: Latin lover|
Lippa's songs are consistently clever, and the book is very funny. ("Wednesday's growing up," sighs Gomez. "She'll be Thursday before you know it!")
I'm pretty sure the concept of Gomez as a Latin lover originated with the delightful John Astin in the TV show (ably continued by Raul Julia in the movies) — beginning with that name.
(In Addams' cartoons, the characters are unnamed. If the patriarch, as drawn, resembles anybody, it's Peter Lorre, or, possibly, the Hunchback of Notre Dame.)
But whatever the character's origins, Saucedo plays Gomez with gusto, geniality, and a terrific singing voice. He couldn't be any better.
(Read more in this week's Good Times.)