LYRIC MUSIC THEATER’S “THE ADDAMS FAMILY” IS ROBUST AND REFRESHING

The Addams Family Lyric castSeptember 2015

Lyric Music Theater serves up some robust and refreshing silliness in their 63rd season opener THE ADDAMS FAMILY—snap, snap—a thoroughly entertaining dark musical comedy (literally) that celebrates all things macabre.

THE ADDAMS FAMILY is a fairly new property, written by Marshall Brickman and Rick Elice with music by Andrew Lippa, based not so much on the popular TV sitcom of the 60’s but on Charles Addams’ single panel comics in The New Yorker magazine that began in the late 30’s. It opened on Broadway in April 2010 and closed in December 2011 before enjoying its national touring status.

Director Smith shared that his main challenge was how he could physically fit this production on the Lyric stage. I’d say he handily resolved every logistical issue because THE ADDAMS FAMILY fits the Lyric stage like a glove and ran like a well-oiled machine. Smith’s use of open darkness and sparse suggestive stage pieces were at times slightly vaudevillian and quite effective.   The Stage Crew of Ancestors, all clad in ghoulish white from head to toe (kudos to Paul Bell) were mesmerizing as they invisibly weaved in and out of set pieces and executed clean, simple transitions.

But theater patrons beware: The cast is poisonous! Somehow they take a 2½-hour show and inject so much fun and energy into it that the audience may believe they were cheated by a 30-minute sitcom. Despite its length, this monster moves well and rapidly, with lots of hilarious juxtaposition, schmaltz galore, creative songs and eye-appealing artistry.

James Gaddis perfectly portrays the affable Gomez, the clan’s father figure who just wants the worst for his family. Kimberly Drisko as Morticia is equally wonderful in all her dark splendor and grief. These two are so good and deft with their acting and singing skills and truly command a great experience for the audience. Their arrow-slinging daughter Wednesday is righteously played by Shannon Oliver (an implant from Lake Region) and their torture-loving son Pugsley is astutely personified by Braden Foley (an implant from Thornton Academy).

Candy Jamerson, one of several veteran stalwart drama queens of Portland’s community theater scene, is a scene-stealer as the 102-year-old Grandma. Her stage time alone is worth the price of admission. Then there’s that other family, The Beineke’s, brought into the fray when Wednesday eventually shares her secret desire to marry Lucas Beineke (James Muller).

Both families come together for anything but “one normal night.” After a slip of poison during the traditional Addams family game “Full Disclosure,” Lucas’ parents—Alice Beineke (Emily Butson) and Mal Beineke (Jonathan Libby)—come face-to-face with some of their own underlying secrets. Mayhem ensues as relationship fires break out between Gomez and Morticia, Wednesday and Lucas, Wednesday and Pugsley, and Alice and Mal. Could there actually be a happy ending?

Uncle Fester knows. He’s like the omniscient emcee, a liaison between the Family, the Ancestors and the audience, and like most uncles, he’s equipped with the inside scoop—and a rocket to take himself to the moon. The role of Uncle Fester is delightful, and is brilliantly played by Schuyler White whose vocal and physical animations bring a magical, mystical dimension to such an intriguing character—like seeing through a 3-D View-Master for the first time (google it).

Paul Bell deserves a hand for his interpretation of Lurch. And every member of the ensemble—The Ancestors—turned in amusing and impressive performances: Zara Boss, Justin Gifford, Zack Handlen, Christopher Hodgkin, Anthony J. Marvin, Tess McLaughlin, Mary Meserve, Brooke Papineau, Giselle (Gigi) Paquette, Andrew Shepard and Lisa Smith.

This is not Oklahoma! As a musician, I was exhausted. Andrew Lippa’s music is lightly roasted with dark nuances loaded with dental challenges—incidentals, accidentals and occidentals. His score requires intense technical execution, mental focus and even physical strength. Fortunately, Lyric had competent players to meet this challenge: Gail Parker, Music Director, on keyboards, Karen Strange on auxiliary keyboard, Ray Libby handling Woodwinds, Jimmy McGirr on bass and Carl Menard in charge of percussion (But this makes me curious to see Andrew Lippa’s The Wild Party at Portland Players next Spring). You won’t be exiting the theater humming any memorable melodies…but you will be snapping your fingers and feeling like your ravaging creative appetite for great local live theater has been completely satisfied.

There are two more shows left: Friday and Saturday, September 25 & 26, 8 PM. FMI, call 207 799-1421 or visit www.LyricMusicTheater.org.

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–Louis Philippe

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