The neat thing about seeing a musical for the first time is that you never know what to expect. Funny? Sad? Boring? Silly? Touching? Quirky? What?
Put The Addams Family in the quirky-funny slot. And fun, too, especially the way it's being done through April 3 by the cast and crew at Show Palace Dinner Theatre in Hudson.
Perhaps it's because this is director Michael LaFleur's sixth time directing this musical — "I'm making a career going from here to there to direct this show," he quipped after opening night. Perhaps that's why the show is sharp, perfectly paced and delightfully entertaining from start to finish.
Having a sharp, perfectly chosen and delightfully entertaining cast is essential, too, and that's what LaFleur nailed. The lithe Sabra Michelle makes a perfect Morticia; like the Addams family matriarch, she's ghostly pale, thin-lipped, slinky and sexy, arms crossed, hands poised like a ballerina's, fingernails perfectly manicured, and a neckline plunging down to there, teetering precariously toward a wardrobe malfunction.
Noelle Pedersen makes an adorably malevolent daughter Wednesday, with just enough evil to be menacing, enough charm to make her appealing and enough voice to reach to the sky. Jared E. Walker is a fine match as Gomez, the family patriarch, his acting, charisma and looks making up for his just-okay singing.
The show's darling is Jay R. Goldberg as the deliciously wicked Uncle Fester. His over-the-top physical comedy is a scene-stealer, his grubby voice just right for every line he has. A favorite is Clay Smith as butler Lurch, who does indeed lurch around, even when he's in a hurry.
And Lorenzo Guarino is cute as a puppy as little Pugsley, who longs for his sister to give up romance to have more time to take him to the dungeon for the torture he relishes. Rounding out the family is Jill Godfrey, a hoot as wiseacre, wisecracking Grandma, who lives in the attic and smokes pot.
Fans of The Addams Family television shows or movies may be a bit discombobulated by this musical at first. Composer and lyricist Andrew Lippa and writers Marshall Brickman and Rick Elice based their stage adaptation on cartoonist Charles Addams' original work in the New Yorker magazine, most notably the "haunted house" set, which had been usurped by another show on a rival TV network just as The Addams Family show debuted. The stage version's dialogue and lyrics seem much more true to Addams' original intent than the sitcom feel of the other presentations, giving the stage show some heft as well as lots of ha-ha's.
Fear not, the Addams family is still as upside down as always, with misery making them happy, torture making them feel good, and death Just Around the Corner to cheer them up when things go bad. And they're just as crazy (Crazier Than You) and delighted to be that way.
There's a story line: Wednesday has fallen in love with a nice Midwestern boy named Lucas (a handsome Matty Colonna), and she's invited him and his ostensibly normal parents, the uptight Mal (Ralph Prentice Daniel) and the daffy, lusty Alice (a cutie pie Lindsay Nantz), for dinner at the Addams' house in the middle of New York's Central Park, though it turns out Lucas' family is just as nutty in their own way.
To make sure nothing goes wrong, Uncle Fester tricks the dead ancestors into sticking around after their annual visit from the beyond, when they dance in the graveyard for one night.
There are plenty of sight gags — the throne in the dungeon, the torture rack that young Pugsley so enjoys, a strange appendage on Mal's back. And lots of special effects, including Uncle Fester's flight toward his beloved, the Moon.
"In matters of love, distance is our friend," he reasons.
There are lots of hummable tunes, even without breakout pop hits. Full Disclosure had everyone singing in the restroom lines at intermission, and When You're An Addams had them humming out the exits after the show. And there's truly terrific dancing by the Ancestors: the Stewardess, Christie Rohr; the Bride, Alyssa Elrod; Indian Maiden, Bianca Chico; the Flapper, Starr Marberry; the Soldier, Steve Jones; the Conquistador, Ellis Endsley; the Caveman, Aaron Atkinson; and the Pilgrim, Austin Price, thanks to Godfrey's choreography.
Kudos, too, to costume coordinator Pat Werner, wigs by Ramaad Morris and the uncredited makeup artist, who made the Addams family and their dead ancestors really come to life.