NEW PORT RICHEY — DO. NOT. MISS. THIS. SHOW.
I'm talking about The Addams Family, the musical comedy based on the Charles Addams' New Yorker cartoons, several television series and two feature films, but with updated cultural references for current audiences, as well as some favorite oldies. If you enjoy musical theater and/or big laughs, you will love this show.
It's playing weekends through May 27 at Richey Suncoast Theatre with a superb cast, terrific choreography, a knockout set, fine little orchestra, fantastic costumes and makeup, great lighting and sound, and the excellent direction Suncoast regulars have come to expect from executive director Marie Skelton.
This show is a winner from start to finish, with several scenes so much fun they could be a show all on their own. Take the ones where newcomer Jeannine Hinkel's Grandma Frump offers her Full Disclosure during a family dinner, and dinner guest Alice Beineke (a delightful Jess Glass) reveals her true self at the end of Act 1. What gems.
Despite a sizable cast of 23 executing fancy dance steps and several scene changes, there is nary a discernible pause nor glitch during the two and a half hour show. Any blackouts are intentional and part of the action.
The Addams Family, of course, is the weird family living on two prime acres in the middle of New York City that they inherited from an uncle who was awarded the plot in 1750 from a grateful Queen Isabella of Spain. His name? Alphonso the Enormous — get it?
A delightful David Daly plays Gomez, the wealthy patriarch who is completely under the control of the bewitching Morticia, played cool and cruel by Suzanne Meck. Meck has the original Morticia's moves down pat — imperiously crossed arms, slinky moves, sideways glances that could kill, and thin, fire engine red lips that curl with disdain at the very thought of empathy, kindness or tenderness. The two are a perfect match, exchanging one-liners with machine-gun precision and dancing a challenging, sexy tango, Flamenco, quasi-bullfight in the penultimate number. Kudos to resident choreographer Melissa Smith for this and many other production numbers.
Newcomer Jonathan Foster is a treasure as the bald, short, wisecracking Uncle Fester, who strums his ukulele and falls madly, hilariously in love halfway through the show. Foster inhabits Uncle Fester, always in character, silently assessing conversations of other characters with small nods and hand gestures that add to what other players are doing without upstaging them. This is a valuable skill worth noting and appreciating.
Bri Fawley is wonderful as a deadpanning Wednesday, the Addams daughter who falls in love with good-looking, seemingly normal Lucas Beineke (Cody Hunter Farkas). His apparently normal family may be shocked … shocked at the Addams family's attitudes and values. Or not.
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J.W. Stephens plays little brother Pugsley with spunk and sneer, savoring the torture big sister Wednesday doles out and plotting to keep her at home so she can keep torturing him. Roger Kleemichen makes a fine Lurch, the solemn-faced butler who may be, as Gomez surmises about other relatives, "alive, dead or undecided." And newcomer Derek Henson is the aces as Mal Beineke, an apparently uptight corporate type hiding a latent hippie.
Each of the 12 "Ancestors" emerge from the graveyard once a year for a reunion, but won't be allowed to go back in until Wednesday's romance comes to a satisfactory conclusion. They do a grand job, dragging themselves zombie-style around the stage, then perking up for high-energy, precision dance numbers right on cue.
Romona Fletcher and Jeannine Hinkel's costumes and the uncredited makeup artists deserve highest praises for creating outfits and faces that enhance the characters and the show. Music director Michele Paula Rose's seven-piece orchestra does a grand job of keeping up the tempo, especially considering that Ms. Rose stepped in during the final week of rehearsal after two previous music directors had to drop out due to work conflicts. Lisa Dolcey and Brooke Gonzalez deserve special recognition for stepping into the breach as rehearsal vocal coaches to keep the show on schedule in the absence of a designated music director.
One final fun note is Miles Worssell as Cousin Itt, the little fellow who wanders around under a 360-degree cover of ankle-length hair, his green John Lennon-style glasses apparently giving him no more sight than a bat under klieg lights.