Thunder Bay takes us back to the cemetery with Addams Family
ALPENA, Mich.–For those who have not seen the revised Addams Family musical since it was re-tooled following a ghastly reception on Broadway in 2010, it still may not feel much like the beloved 1960s TV series or even hold the spirit of the Charles Addams cartoon on which it is based.
In any case, the production mounted by Thunder Bay Theatre is a crowd pleaser, and captures well the humanity that Addams infused his goth family with when he penned them decades ago. [Fun fact: Addams lived in my hometown of Westfield, NJ when he created the Addams Family.]
There is Gomez (Kevin Stoffel) and Morticia (Erica Werner), their two children, Wednesday (Madison Deadman) and Pugsley (Logan DenBleyker), along with butler Lurch (Riley McManus), Uncle Fester (Adrian Rochelle) and Grandmama (Emily Samuelson). Wednesday is enamored with Lucas Beineke (Caleb Richards), and, like the TV series, conflict and comedy arises when a “normal” family is thrust upon the peculiar and spooky Addamses.
The arc of the story is that Wednesday and Lucas want to get married. She confides this to Gomez, and they both conspire to keep Morticia from learning of it. Meantime, Lucas’s mother, Alice (Kiko Laureano) drinks a potion prepared by Pugsley and intended for Wednesday that makes her tell the truth and she ends up letting her hair down a bit with husband Mal (Dylan Goike).
The plot is a bit thin. Yes. And some of the score seems a bit over-manufactured by creators Andrew Lippa, who wrote the music and lyrics, and Marshall Brickman and Rick Elice, who wrote the book. At times, it feels so far away from Charles Addams’ original creation that it feels like they just appropriated the equity in the characters and title to do a show. But there are genuinely funny and even raucous hoots–like when the Addams family members try to appear normal for the Beinekes where Fester dons a wig, and Wednesday wears a yellow dress that appalls her mother.
The story really centers on Wednesday, and Madison Deadman has the strongest and brightest singing voice in the cast. Erica Werner, too, is delicious at Morticia and her cleavage is practically a character in the story as she purposefully showcases it for the benefit of the comedy. The writers have made Uncle Fester practically a dancing gay bear, and Adrian Rochelle is delightful to watch carry it off, sing his songs and prance lovingly through the story.
The script must not be tightly regulated by its rights holder as there have been some new lines added, like a reference to an email server clearly aimed at Hillary Clinton, and another to healthcare coverage.
The songs are not terribly memorable, but the Thunder Bay troupe makes the show as a whole greater than the sum of its parts and a very fun evening indeed.