Cartoonist Charles Addams started it all with a few odd characters. Consider his single-panel of a gothic family peering out the window, savoring the gloom and rain. The caption reads, “Just the kind of day that makes you feel good.” The Addams Family characters didn’t have names originally. Some cartoons didn’t have captions. They didn’t need any.
Those macabre characters inspired the 1960s sitcom, and that should have been the end, but Grrr, there was the reheated Addams Family film.
The Addams Family – A New Musical Comedy at the Moonlight Amphitheater is a cloying, satirical stew about honesty, love, and kooky families – with enough life lessons and silly gags to gag a goat. A strong cast scares the normals and makes the torture worthwhile.
The book by Marshall Brickman and Rick Elice is a campy clunker with no logical thread to tie things together. It’s all about Wednesday and her love drama. No more braids. She’s all grown up. For her Moonlight stage debut, vocal powerhouse Lindsay Joan nails every booming song with a style that rises to yell-singing.
A brooding and sadistic daughter, she likes to shoot small animals with a crossbow and torture her little brother on a rotating rack. He begs her to do it again. Pugsley is still pudgy in a striped shirt, and Ryan Singer in the role tugs at heart strings in “What If,” about missing his sister when she leaves.
Gomez doesn’t want his daughter to marry young Lucas Beineke, played by Nick Eiter, who seems especially normal in jeans and hoodie.
David Engel, who played Harold Hill in The Music Man at Moonlight, gives Gomez a horny yet warm personality. Suave and instantly likeable, he delivers lines at warp speed with a deliberately fake Latin accent and tells outrageous stories about his lineage.
“..this dinner puts me in mind of my great ancestor Hector Fernando Escondido Chimichanga a man hated by the church but clever with a quip. In fact upon being burned alive he said to the priest he’d be pink in the middle, a little crispy on the outside!”
Terra MacLeod’s Morticia is a devoted and demented mother poured into a clinging dress with a plunging neckline that runs to Venezuela. She prefers the stems of flowers over the blooms and soothes Pugsley by saying, “Life is a tightrope walk, and the end is a coffin.”
MacLeod played Velma Kelly in the Broadway musical Chicago and brings seductive charm to Moonlight. She and her Gomez heat up the stage in a leggy “Tango de Amor.” Their comedic timing is spot on, and both have pleasing voices.
There’s plenty of star power and Broadway value. Director James Vasquez keeps the cast moving from the graveyard to the mansion. Dead ancestors provide a welcome change in dynamic, very much alive as a powdery white chorus in song and dance numbers. They even do a ghostly tap dance, (choreography by Karl Warden).
Randall Hickman, a San Diego and Moonlight theater favorite who played the monster in Young Frankenstein, breaks the creep meter as man-child half monk Uncle Fester. He lights up a light bulb with his mouth and giggles with a sinister quiver like the actor Peter Loree. “The Moon and Me” sequence is one of the oddest things ever done on stage. He dances with flowers and flirts with the moon, levitating into bizarre leg contortions, thanks to puppet magic.
When Morticia reads to Pugsley, a monster protrudes from under the bed, which is another puppet treat.
While it all sounds like a kid show, one could rethink that. Our favorite gothic clan is obsessed with honesty and sadism, lovemaking and hallucinogens. The whole gang raises eye brows and questions about judgement. You may question why you didn’t take the kids to see the mundane Peter Pan instead, but that show raises questions too. Why don’t they have a guy play Peter? What’s up with Wendy playing their mom?
There are plenty of zingers in the Addams musical. There are jokes about Ohio, a Swing State, and how kids text too much. Crazy hippie Grandma (played by a youthful Samantha Wynn Greenstone) hauls a wagon of potions and makes jokes about weed. She threatens to cut off Pugsley’s arm. Wednesday wants to cut her boy toy Lucas.
Still, S&M jokes aside, the Addams clan is loyal and caring. Gomez struggles to lie to his wife. His wife stays with him, which doesn’t make a nail-biter story. The heart of the production is love and acceptance. Gomez is a loving dad and Engel delivers genuine hugs.
And don’t forget the normal Beineke parents struggling to make sense of it all. Turns out they have baggage too. In his normal raincoat and shiny bald head, Corky Loupe plays Mal the dad with hilarious deadpan. Eileen Bowman as his wife Alice, who loves yellow and can only speak in rhyme, nearly steals the show in the overblown duet “In the Arms.”
Sets and costumes evoke Addams’ sketches, especially the house and wrought iron gates.
Musical director Randi Ellen Rudolph directs more than a dozen songs from the pit. That infectious ba da da da –snap snap from the 1960s TV series is only a blood droplet in the overture.
Memorable elements also include billowing red velvet draperies and Lurch’s long legs. Dustin Ceithamer as the giant mumbling butler surprises everyone with his deep, melodious voice.
The Addams Family – A New Musical Comedy runs through Oct. 1. Box Office: 760-724-2110; Web: http://www.moonlightstage.com/