Review: 'The Addams Family' at Warner Theatre

Nancy Sasso Janis

“They’re creepy and they’re kooky, mysterious and spooky. They’re all together ooky, the Addams Family.” And the audience responded,”SNAP SNAP.”

 This eccentric family who delight in everything macabre is on the magnificent Warner stage in Torrington and oddly enough somehow seem to be right at home. ‘The Addams Family A New Musical Comedy’ is of course based on the characters created by Charles Addams in his New Yorker magazine cartoons. Then there was the black and white television series with it’s zany satire that only ran for two seasons, followed by the 90’s movies. This musical picks up a bit later when the daughter Wednesday has grown into dark young womanhood. The book was written by Marshall Brickman and Rick Elice with music and lyrics by Andrew Lippa. 

Photos of the cast of 'Addams Family'  Photos by Mandi Martini and Luke Haughwout ©The Warner Theatre 2015

Photos of the cast of 'Addams Family'  Photos by Mandi Martini and Luke Haughwout ©The Warner Theatre 2015

 I have previously felt that the plot of the show is a little forced considering the characters and I thought that the second act dragged a bit. However, I was so wrapped up in the Warner Stage Company’s version that perhaps I didn’t have time to notice these criticisms. I know for sure that the classic members of the Addams clan have been perfectly cast and their ancestor ghosts are a very strong small ensemble of fine dancers. Director/Choreographer Foster Evans Reese has gleefully directed their movements and even appeared as a Spanish conquistador ancestor. ‘Addams Family’ marks the third musical he has directed at the Warner, but two productions that he has directed at Watertown High School have earned Halo Awards for Best Musical, this year’s wonderful  ‘Leader of the Pack’ and ‘Once on this Island’ in 2009. 

 I enjoyed all of the entertaining dance numbers and the few sly pop culture references. The chemistry between Morticia (Katherine Ray) and Gomez (John Farias) was as delicious as the consternation between Mal and Alice Beineke played by James M. Wood and Dianna Waller. Ms. Ray looked amazing in her tight black gown cut down to Venezuela and was a formidable Morticia. Mr. Farias, who I immediately remembered as Che in the Warner’s ‘Evita,’ used his wonderful singing voice and accented speaking voice to embody the suave Gomez who wants nothing more than to keep his wife and daughter (un)happy. As for Mr. Wood and Ms. Waller, I can’t think of a better pair to play the parents of Wednesday’s boyfriend Lucas. They were wonderful.

 The audience roots for the odd romance between Wednesday (sung beautifully by Sydney Weiser) and her “normal” boyfriend Lucas earnestly played by Jonathan Zalaski. Ms. Weiser is a rising junior at Hall High School and Greater Hartford Academy of the Arts and a fellow of the Ensign-Darling Vocal Fellowship at the Bushnell in Hartford. She is definitely on my list of young performers to watch. The talented Mr. Zalaski attends CCSU for a degree in musical theatre and recently directed Theatre at TCC’s production of ‘Roald Dahl’s Willy Wonka.’

 Simsbury HS freshman Colby Morkan was (appropriately) slightly scary as her younger brother Pugsley who isn’t ready to give up his sister. Susan Hackel was a riot as the oddest Grandma on the planet; Ms. Haskel called this her dream role because she has enjoyed doing character voices her whole life. Josh Newey was the loveable Uncle Fester who is in love with the moon. Peter Bard made us laugh as the zombie butler Lurch who didn’t say much until he got to sing so well in the final scene. Don’t miss his reaction when he is called upon to do something quickly by his employer.

 The amazing ancestors were played by Kaitlyn Anthony, Jake Finch, Kramer Kwalick, Kenneth Lautz, Kelsey Morris, Michael Newman in his Warner debut, Patricia Paganucci, Sophie Rundhaug and Mr. Reese. 

 The huge sets designed and executed by Chinchilla Theatricals, Inc. looked very impressive on the massive Warner stage and I could not stop admiring the costumes designed by Lesley Neilson Bowman and Renee C. Purdy and the ancestor makeup by Lauren Jacobs, Lana Peck and Dan C. Willey. Lighting designed by David Zahacewski was spectacular and the sound by Chris LaPlante was as flawless as it usually is. Dan Porri conducted the talented musicians and pit singers in the pit below the stage as they worked their way through this pretty challenging score.

At the Sunday matinee,  Ms Jasmine Mattiello won the right to have a walk on as Cousin It but on opening night that honor went the Kennedy Morris.   I recommend this production of ‘The Addams Family’ as a family show because it really is all about “family first and family last and family by and by! When you’re an Addams, the standard answers don’t apply.” It runs on the Warner mainstage through Aug. 2 and tickets are available at the box office or online at warnertheatre.org.

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