Wednesday, September 21, 2016

Applause! Applause! Review of Narrows Community Theater's production of The Addams Family at the Fort Hamilton Army Base Theater by Dr. Thomas Robert Stevens

This review of Narrows Community Theater's production of The Addams Family at the Fort Hamilton Army Base Theater was written by Dr. Thomas Robert Stevens and published in Volume X, Issue 6 (2016) of the online edition of Applause! Applause!

The Addams Family
Summer Youth Production
Directed by Jill Bolstridge
Choreographed by Ashley Hacker
Costumes Designed by Rita Donohue
Music Director: Ray Bailey
Music & Lyrics by Andrew Lippa
Book by Marshall Brickman & Rick Elice
Based on Characters Created by Charles Addams
Fort Hamiton Army Base Theater
403 General Robert E. Lee Avenue
Brooklyn, New York 11209
Reviewed 9/17/16  

After a tryout in Chicago, The Addams Family opened on Broadway at the Lunt-Fontanne Theatre on March 8, 2010, with an official opening on April 8, 2010. The show is based on characters created by Charles Addams in his single-panel cartoons, which depict a ghoulish American family with an affinity for all things macabre. The musical is the first stage show based on the cartoons rather than the television and film characters. The set has been described as "an off-beat take on 19th Century Gothic." In addition to the well-known familiar characters of Gomez, Morticia, Wednesday, Pugsley, Fester, Grandma, Lurch and Cousin Itt, the musical introduces the new roles of Mal, Alice, and Lucas Beineke, who are described as "straight arrow Midwesterners" from Ohio. The ensemble consists of a group of Addams Family ancestors, each from a different time period, who have been woken and enlisted to help Fester bring Wednesday and Lucas together so love can triumph over all adversity. Ironically, Fester is in love with the moon. He finds this attraction to be more practical and less troublesome. As he says, "When it comes to love, distance is our friend. We never fight and every meeting is a happy reunion." The Broadway production closed on December 31, 2011, after 35 previews and 722 performances.

Wednesday is growing into a young lady and is discovering different interests that are taking her in new directions. She has met Lucas Beineke, who has asked her to marry him. She has invited Lucas and his parents over for a cozy dinner to make sure the two families can get along. If all goes well, she plans to announce their wedding plans. She has confided in her father forcing him to lie to Morticia for the first time. Perceiving this, their love life is no longer as intense and spontaneous as it used to be. Wednesday is also learning that Lucas is not as crazy and impulsive as she is. He confesses to her, "I can be impulsive. I just have to think about it first." When Lucas refuses to run away with her, she tells Gomez, "I hate him!". Gomez wisely retorts, "It's a start. Something you can build on." He goes on to explain that "life is full of contradictions" and that "in every heaven, you'll find some hell." Wednesday begs her mom to act normal for just this one night. Morticia responds by explaining that "normality is an illusion; what's normal for the spider is a calamity for the fly."

Alice and Mal Beineke arrive with their son Lucas at The Addams Family Mansion located somewhere in Central Park. Wednesday wears a bright yellow dress (instead of her usual black) for the occasion. (This shocks her father, who says "What happened? You look like a crime scene!"). Mal is already in a bad mood. He explains, "The guy who patted me down at the airport slipped me his phone number. I don't think I can stand any more surprises." In pre-dinner conversation, Gomez reveals to Mal he collects instruments of torture ("The history of the world told in agony and persuasion"). Morticia tells Alice she would leave Gomez if he ever lied to her. Pugsley complains to Grandma he fears he is losing his sister Wednesday. Grandma is not at all comforting and says, "That's life kid. You'll lose the ones you love." Pugsley then steals one of her potions that brings out the dark side in a person. He is hoping to give it to Wednesday so her "true self" will turn off Lucas but through a mix-up, Alice drinks the potion and all hell breaks lose during the post-dinner game of Full Disclosure (loosely based on The Spanish Inquisition). I won't say how it all turns out but when Gomez tries to win back Morticia's love, he's asked, "Do you really think you can win her back with a joke." to which he responds, "It's the last thing I try before the chloroform."

This Summer Youth Production of Narrows Community Theater is as professionally staged and acted as any traditionally cast musical might be. The set is magnificent. I was immediately impressed with it. The costumes were spot on. The presence of all the main Addams Family characters on stage at the very beginning of the play set the stage for what we were about to see. Every member of  the "dead ensemble" exhibited their well-practiced choreography and significantly added to the atmosphere of making the audience believe they were at an Addams Family Reunion, where Addams Family Members - dead, alive and undecided, came to gather. (We learn that when you're an Addams, you really have to stir the pot. You do what Addams' do, or die!) The moon dancers who backed up Fester in his main song were not very coordinated and could use a few more hours of practice in order to get the routine right.

Caitlyn Schmidt was very strong in the lead role of Wednesday. Ms. Schmidt has an excellent vocal instrument and captured the attention of the audience whenever she was on stage. Brandon Paunetto was appropriately meek as Lucas Beineke (Wednesday asked, "How long have you been standing in the shadows?" to which he responded, "My whole life.") For some inexplicable reason caused by the mental illness known as romantic love, Lucas loves Wednesday and in one of the stupidest decisions of his young life invites Wednesday to use a crossbow, and while blindfolded, to try to shoot an apple off the top of his head. When asked by Wednesday how he would feel if she missed and killed him, his response was, "at least you will be the last thing I see." Obviously, he is totally mad and absolutely perfect to marry into the Addams family. Emma Doherty was cast as Pugsley, Wednesday's younger brother, and I must say I was extremely impressed with her acting abilities. Not only was she believable playing a boy but she excelled in the role. She played the part with great emotional depth. On the one hand, we saw a boy who when asked what he was collecting funds for, responded, "Just put money in the can and nobody gets hurt" and on the other hand, we saw a sensitive young man stealing "acrimonium" from his grandma because he was afraid of losing his playmate and sister because she was starting to discover her sexuality and to have other interests. 

It took a short period of adjustment to get used to Adam Elsayed playing Gomez, and Laura Downey as his wife Morticia. However, both proved themselves to be more than worthy to have been cast in these roles. They are both strong actors with good voices. This was not necessarily the case with Steven Fazzolari, who played Uncle Fester, Gomez's brother. Mr. Fazzolari nailed the part in terms of being eccentric but he couldn't easily hit some of the higher notes. One of the audience members told me she thought that was as it should be because you wouldn't expect Fester to be able to sing that well. Despite everything, I enjoyed watching him perform on stage. Emily Downey did a fine job as Grandma (who may or may not be related to anyone in the house), and Iravan Bhattacharyya milked every laugh he could playing Lurch in platform shoes. Abigail Doherty was unseen and  unheard fully covered in her Cousin Itt costume. I really liked Yianni Vasilounis as Mal. He completely embodied the part, both when he played the stuck-up husband and when he transitioned into his old self. (Even if he didn't play the most likeable character, at least he was able to boast about the TSA agent who slipped him his number after patting him down.) This might explain why his wife Alice, played by Leigh Dillon was so upset their marriage had lost its passion. Ms. Dillon really nailed the part of Alice and had a number of strong scenes. Her presence also set up one of the funnier lines in the play. In a tribute to Ralph Kramden's catchphrase from The Honeymooners, Fester (wearing a jet pack) is asked where he was going, and Fester responds "to the moon, Alice!".

The Summer Youth Production of The Addams Family is extremely well-done and very entertaining. It features a live orchestra and keeps your full attention throughout the entire show. These young actors are not amateurs in the sense that I found their performance levels to be top-notch. If they are in school and still learning, I must say they are all well on their way to a professional career in the theater. Whether you have seen The Addams Family musical before or not, I absolutely guarantee you will enjoy this production. In my book, it's a must see! 

You can catch The Addams Family on Friday, September 23, 2016 at 8:00 p.m.; Saturday, September 24, 2016 at 8:00 p.m.; or Sunday, September 25, 2016 at 2:00 p.m.. Those shows will be at the Fort Hamilton Army Base Theater (bring photo identification). Tickets cost $25.00 and can be purchased at: 

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