The Addams Family
A Fun Look At The Ghoulish Family
By: Victor Cordell - Sep 16, 2023
With the backdrop of their grim, ghoulish, and ghostly digs, we hear the familiar repeated four-note melody and finger snapping of the Addams Family’s theme, and we know that we’re not in Kansas anymore. In the tradition of the likes of “Rocky Horror Show,” “Beetlejuice,” and “La Cage aux Folles,” the intersection of conventional folks with the off-kilter provides for hilarity. Novato Theater Company takes on the stage musical version of “The Addams Family” and presents a highly entertaining affair.
In case anyone doesn’t know, the macabre Addams family comprises a bizarre concoction of living, dead, and undecided in which normal human desires are largely perverted or inverted. For instance, to accommodate wife Morticia’s desire to visit Paris, husband Gomez gleefully seeks to stay in the worst hotel he can find and to take her on the tour of the Paris sewer system (okay, real tourists actually do that as well!). Their son, Pugsley, will try to obstruct his sister Wednesday from leaving the family home as he would miss her torturing him on the rack. Get the picture?
The setup is that, despite her own aberrant lifestyle, Wednesday falls in love and wants to marry a “normal” boy, which Gomez protests. On the family’s annual gravesite tribute (think Dia de los Muertos) they don’t just honor the deceased, but the ancestors emerge from their graves. Uncle Fester will enlist the deceased to assist Gomez in hopes of terminating the lovers’ relationship when the boy and his family come for dinner. Another hitch that becomes significant – Gomez doesn’t tell Morticia what’s afoot, which becomes part of the broader theme of full disclosure.
Of course, the play is full of dark and campy humor as well as clever songs, and the cast is fully up to the task. Bruce Vierra plays Gomez with verve and joy. Smiling and a bit conniving, he hits the right notes – and singing them as well. Composer and lyricist Andrew Lippa has written a score of pleasant melodies and clever lyrics. “Trapped” is one that is full of patter about the conundrum that Gomez faces with his daughter and wife, which Vierra delivers with great aplomb.
Morticia is performed delightfully by long-time Novato Theater favorite Alison Peltz. Although in the prime of her life, Morticia shares many of the insecurities stereotyped to women. Concerned about losing her youth, she even sings beautifully about death being “Just around the corner,” yet, when it's time to turn up the sex quotient, she sizzles. But when she finds herself doing things that she swore she never would, she bemoans that “I’ve turned into my mother!”
The pivotal character however is Wednesday, a web of contradictions, played with dead-pan assurance by Harriette Pearl Fugitt. Although good acting would be pretty sufficient in this role, Fugitt displays serious singing chops with incredible power and range.
“The Addams Family” bursts with sight gags, witticisms, and one-liners harking back to the prime of the Borscht Belt. There is homage to early television with “To the moon, Alice,” and, concerning the mother who has long lived with Gomez and Morticia, “My mother? I thought she was your mother!” Although it is far from a morality play, a number of messages seep through. Playwrights Marshall Brickman and Rick Elice do take occasional jabs that probably say something about their socio-political leanings, including the inadequacies of home schooling and the isolation of moderate right wingers. And while it is easy to nitpick the script, it’s looking to make people laugh, and not provoke them intellectually as with a serious drama.
Marilyn Izdebski’s orchestration of the artistic contributions yields an appealing look and feel that speaks highly of what smaller theater companies can produce even without big budget production values. Although the set is spare, the ancestors, all dressed in different white outfits with white face, often fill the stage and provide movement and great contrast to the living who are mostly in black. All of the unmentioned principals play their parts well. The singing is mostly very good and sometimes adequate. One weakness on opening night was the Act 2 quartet, which sounded murky. Otherwise, a good time was had by all.
“The Addams Family,” written by Marshall Brickman and Rick Elice, with music and lyrics by Andrew Lippa, is produced by Novato Theater Company and plays on its stage at 5420 Nave Drive, Novato, CA through October 8, 2023.