Housed in the eerily chilling and appropriately named The Fortress at Nashville’s Marathon Village (1500 Clinton Street), as soon as music director Jeff Burnham’s in-house orchestra began the all-to-familiar “Addams Family” theme, without prompting, the audience of Circle Players’ “The Addams Family: A New Musical Comedy” began to snap along. With something so scarily spontaneous, yet macabrely comforting, there was no doubt that a night of creepy, kooky, ooky spooky fun was at hand…or should I say…at Thing.
Having first appeared within the pages of “The New Yorker” in cartoon panel form beginning in 1938, cartoonist Charles Addams’ Addams Family absolutely secured their spot in pop culture history when they made the transition to 1960s sitcom notoriety in two brief but spookily splendid season. In the years since, they’ve continued to morbidly mystify generation after generation thanks to ever-present reruns as well as a plethora of incarnations in everything from numerous animated series to a popular 90s big-screen reboot, an equally successful sequel, and an enjoyable, but mostly forgettable direct-to-video threequel.
Fans of the family no doubt know The Addams’ inexplicably live in a mansion smack dab in the middle of Central Park, so it was only natural when, in 2010, they returned once again, this time near their fictional haunting grounds, as a musical on Broadway. For Circle Players’ Addams Family, director Brett Meyers has assembled a top-notch cast to once again breathe life into one of pop culture’s most enduring families.
As Gomez Addams, the tango-dancing, hand-kissing patriarch of the family, Brian Best does his dashing and debonaire best. With a background in numerous aspects of stage performing and studio recording, Best’s vocal tone and song delivery are as full-bodied as one of Gomez’s Cuban cigars. Unfortunately it seems speaking with a Spanish accent, a Gomez trait amped up for musical adaptation, Best’s deliver sometimes slightly suffers. Nonetheless, Best is entertaining as the supportive, if unconventional father. Early in the show, Best takes on the sweetly sentimental “Wednesday’s Growing Up”, perfectly setting the tone of Gomez’s scary on the outside, but sweet interior, especially where his family is concerned.
Nashville newcomer Katherine Morgan, making her Circle Players’ debut, brings an unexpected bit of life to Gomez’ amor, Morticia. Those familiar with TV’s Morticia, the late Carolyn Jones, might think of her as the colder, more staunch of the two Addams parental figures. Morgan’s Morticia is a welcomed change, as she takes the grace and sophistication of Jones’ Morticia and mixes in a bit more humor and heart.
Prior to seeing the show, I had a chance to interview both Best and Morgan for one of my latest rounds of my recurring Q&A, Rapid Fire 20 Q. Interesting, both noted that they’re not particularly adept as dancing. You’d never know it. Their “Tango de Amor” is fluid and fun, a credit to the choreographer, Tosha Pendergrast.
The crux of “The Addams Family” musical centers around a now-twenty-something Wednesday and her hesitation to reveal to her quirky family the fact that she’s unexpectedly fallen in love with a ‘normal’ guy.
As portrayed by yet another Music City newcomer, Micah Lynn, I can say I’m officially adding her to my list of ‘theatre crushes’. Her deadpan, disinterested glare, complete with zombie-like head tilt, present during her first few minutes onstage, covey the angst-ridden, lovelorn young Wednesday Addams perfectly. Then there’s her voice. Wednesday may only get on solo, “Pulled”, but when done right it’s one of the show’s best numbers, and Lynn definitely pulls it in all the right directions.
Speaking of being pulled, during Wednesday’s aforementioned musical metaphorical musing, teenage sibling Pugsley (Gus O’Brien) is seen chained to a torture device at the hands of his sister. In true Addams fashion, O’Brien’s Pugsley takes mirthful merriment in the masochism. My only issue with Pugsley is O’Brien’s ill-fitting and overtly obvious padded belly. Yes, Pugsley’s solo “What If?” in which he laments the likelihood of a lonely life should Wednesday marry, includes the line “‘Til then I’m just a strange, fat kid”, but the padding just doesn’t work and distracts from simply enjoying O’Brien’s well-executed performance. Like so many other young actors in this town, O’Brien is a sure sign that Nashville theatre will continue to thrive for years to come.
Rounding out the main Addamses are Andrew Hosale as Uncle Fester, LaDarra Jackel as Grandma, John Kopischke as Lurch, Virginia Richardson as Cousin Itt and JT Landry as Thing. Hosale’s Fester simply steals the show.
By the nature of their eccentric characters alone, Jackel and Kopischke elicit laughs throughout the show. Kopischke makes the most of Lurch’s monotone moans while Jackel, dressed somewhere between a bag lady and Punky Brewster, kicks up her Chuck Taylor kicks with just enough sass and spunk to make being a kooky, creepy, witchy grandmother–who may or may not actually be an Addams–fit right in.
Proving complete conviction to the role, Hosale shaved his head for the part of Fester, rather than donning a bald cap…and Thank Ghoul he did. That simple, but sacrificial act, along with Fester’s trademark dark-circled eyes and monk-like cloak, transform Hosale into the show’s most spot-on recreation of the ideal Addams.
Having seen the Broadway show, as well as a more recent national tour, I wondered how Circle Players would present Festers big number “The Moon and Me” in which he professes his lunar love. The answer…uproariously. While bigger budget production showcase Fester sailing across the stage via cable wires, Circle’s costume designer, Laura Higgins devised a clever alternative. Combined with the magic of lighting courtesy of lighting designer Richard K. Davis and lighting operator Johnny Peppers, Fester appears to float up the sky where the then basks in the moon-glow of his love. The cute and cunning effect is met with complete audience approval and the night’s most uproarious laughter.
Of course, most of the humor of the Addams Family has alway come courtesy of their interaction with others. To that end, Tyler Jeffrey Adams (no relation), Josh Waldrep and Sydney Hooper play Wednesday’s mortal beloved Lucas Beineke, his father Mal and mother Alice respectively.
Last seen in Boiler Room Theatre’s “Legally Blonde: The Musical”, Adams’ Lucas is nicely nebbish. Waldrep, yet another of my longtime ‘theatre crushes’ is perfectly parental as Mal Beineke. His on-stage chemistry with Circle Players newcomer, Hooper, especially after Pugsley inadvertently slips her one of Grandma’s potions, is yet another of the show’s highlights. Gotta love “Full Disclosure”.
A huge part of the fun of seeing The Addams Family fleshed out into musical theatre is the inclusion of the Addams Ancestors. The ancestors each bring their own nuanced niche to the undead chorus. Congrats to Alishia Suitor, Charlotte Staggs, Christopher Heinz, Erica Patterson, Hannah Ewing, Leslie Marberry, Nathan Smith, Shane Kopischke, Sydni Hayes and three of my younger ‘theatre crushes’ Maya Riley, Leon Blandon, and a much more recognizable Virginia Richardson. Not only do the entire company present polished choreography all around, but whenever they are all onstage, it’s a joy to catch subtle physical manifestations of their individual characters, a true sign of attention to detail from director Meyers and choreographer Pendergrast.
Circle Players’ “The Addams Family: A New Musical Comedy” continues its run with shows Wednesday, October 22 thru Sunday, October 26. Wednesday’s performance is doubly special, as Circle will not only be offering a pay-as-you-can admission to the performance, but will also offer a unique opportunity to further blend Broadway with Music City by welcoming Rachel Potter as Wednesday’s special guest.
Currently residing in Nashville, Potter made her Broadway debut in 2011 when she took over the role of Wednesday Addams, sharing the stage with Brooke Shields as Morticia. She garnered national attention last year as a finalist on “The X Factor” and recently released her debut country EP, “Live The Dream”. Rachel will be on-hand to watch the show and will take part in a post show meet and greet to sign copies of her new EP and take photos with Nashville friends and fans.
For tickets or more information about Circle Players’ “The Addams Family”, CLICK HERE. To check out my recent Rapid Fire 20 Q with Circle’s Gomez and Morticia, Brian Best and Katherine Morgan, CLICK HERE. If you’ve enjoyed this review of Circle Player’s “The Addams Family: A New Musical Comedy”, be sure and click the ‘subscribe’ tab located near the close of this article to sign up for free email alerts whenever new Nashville Entertainment articles are published.