Encore Michigan

The Addams Family Musical is all together fun at Detroit Mercy

Review April 04, 2022 David Kiley

DETROIT, Mich.–The Addams Family Musical presented by Detroit Mercy Theatre Company is billed as a “Dramatic Concert Version.” But it feels more like a hybrid than a true concert performance–somewhere half way between concert and production.

The premise of the show is familiar for anyone who grew up with The Addams Family or The Munsters TV show. In the case of this show, daughter Wednesday (Olivia Swad) is in love with a boy, Lucas (Jacob Yasso) who is not of a goth death-centric family or ilk. Lucas is “normal,” with “normal” parents, Alice (Kirsten Renas) and Mal (Jeremy St. Martin). In fact, there is a song in the show titled “One Normal Night.” This was always a frequent theme in these shows that led to a number of story lines about a collision between the goth Addams and the non-goth world around them.

For those not familiar, the Addams family is comprised of: Gomez (Adam El-Zein), the patriarch; Morticia (Katherine Mutschler), wife and mother of Pugsley and Wednesday; Uncle Fester (Luke Adamkiewicz); Grandmama (Elise Panneman); Lurch, the butler(Elizabeth Breger). There are other characters who do not appear in this show, but were fixtures ion the TV show and movies–The disembodied hand in a box, known as Thing, and Cousin It, who is a five-foot tall cascade of hair.

El Zein’s Gomez is suave, Latin, nattily-attired and very devoted to Morticia, who is a goth ornament of a woman who you can’t really imagine in the kitchen with an apron, or working as an executive. In her skin-clinging black dress and long hair, she is the apple of Gomez’s Latin-lover eye. Adamkiewicz plays Fester with great sweetness, while also bringing the funny in just the right way, for this oddball bachelor uncle known for only wearing a fur-collared cassock, and he has a very promising singing voice for playing character actors in musicals. The only knock on his performance is not his doing–a really terrible skin-head he dons in the show (surely there must be a make-up person who could do it better as it is bad enough now to be distracting). Another bright spot in the cast is Renas, who has terrific singing pipes and vamps through a number in Act 2 that is a show-stopper.

There are many attempts to modernize the story through the songs with a lyric mention of “Fauci” and “vaccine” and other contemporary nods, while keeping the “spookie” of the Addams family and home. The character of the mumbling, groaning zombie Lurch can be tricky to cast as the character was first established by 7-foot tall actor Ted Cassidy in the 60s. This was handled by cleverly and comedically giving Breger a set of steps to climb up with a front covering of a painting of pants to provide an imagined height.

Directed by Greg Grobis–with sound design by Ms. Swad, lighting by Seth Amadei, a very versatile set designed by Alan Devlin, and costumes by Mary Liz Valesano–this “concert version” does not feel at all like a short-change for the audience. Indeed, if it was not billed as such, I doubt the audience would have known. Overall, The Addams Family Musical is a fun night out, and is appropriate for youth (though there is one number where Renas’s Alice and Mal get into a somewhat randy exhibition).

Playing through April  10 at the Marlene Boll Theatre located inside the Detroit YMCA building on Broadway. For info and tickets, you can go here.

Week of 5/23/2022

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