by Velika Maxam
The Addams Family television series from the 1960s, delightfully imprinted itself culturally on a generation, just like those before it with the 1938 comic strip debut of the same in The New Yorker magazine by cartoonist Charles Addams. Since that time, it continued to groove with the times, as an animated series, big screen film and Broadway musical, depicting a campy fun tale of an affluent family with a penchant for everything dark and bizarre. The musical version of this eclectic clan, currently on stage at Scarborough Village Theatre, has not slowed down the momentum of this wacky narrative; it may even have propelled it.
If you haven’t already had the gruesome pleasure, meet uber-romantic Gomez Addams madly fallen for his glamorously empowered Goth like better half, Morticia (derived from mortician), along with their ghoulishly precocious children Wednesday, and Pugsley, not to mention the extended spooky clan of Uncle Fester, Grandma Addams, and Lurch. Together they make up one of the most famous families in entertainment history, alongside the Waltons, the Sopranos, and the Ewings, who find themselves perfectly normal in their divine love of everything scary and grim, regardless of how horrifically they are perceived by the outside world. Blend in some well scored music, and song, along with creative choreography, and we then begin to see the true side of this family in this marvellous production, one with heart and ties that bind.
The casting of Scarbourough Music Theatre’s version now on stage, is nothing short of stellar. Every single actor in this show, including the ensemble, infused so much life into their characters, that not once did it strike me that these were real people portraying characters, who perhaps the next day would be caught in traffic, or grabbing a coffee at a local bistro. In fact, each one of them has already erased any previous imprint from other actors, from film and TV who played these roles. In order to suspend disbelief, and allow the audience to be drawn into the souls of these characters, their story and vulnerabilities, forgetting they are actors is key, which this production did successfully.
Truth be told, playing characters already brilliantly etched in history is no easy feat, and both Jason Silzer (Gomez), and Jill McMillan (Morticia) met that challenge and won me over so well, that I will find it hard to see them portrayed again so authentically by anyone else. She’s spicy, he’s in love, she’s determined, empowered, and he’s weak to her beauty, together we feel their fire from what some may consider an odd coupling but once you see their chemistry, you get it. Like most parents, they stress, they worry, and they challenge each other from the weight of their trials and tribulations, making this spookish couple very ordinary and relatable. There is so much humanity in this comically frightful family that with each issue they face, they become oh so much more likeable and engaging. The wonderful comedy in this show is woven so remarkably well throughout by each actor, with clever quips, impeccable timing, and blended in with heartfelt song and emotion, that I was humoured and delighted throughout.
Daughter Wednesday (Shai Tannyan) is love struck, and ready to face the passage of time with beau Lucas Beineke (Aaron Cadesky) but the challenge of an outsider, someone less dark, more ‘normal’ brings the classic duality of any famous love tale into play. Opposites attract but then repel each other, but in this romance we see the challenge of each’s desire for individuality and the ensuing compromise to accept each other’s differences. Little brother Pugsley fears losing his only sibling relationship to the new guy, and shows us that the Addams’ are far more traditional than what their black accouterments and pale grimaces will have you believe. Shai Tannyan illuminates her character brilliantly and connects us well with that part of ourselves that yearns for authenticity, and inclusion without compromising self. Meanwhile, Aaron Cadesky brings to life the typical dreamy high school hunk and nice guy that is easy to fall for. Jordyn Schwartz (Pugsley Addams), reminds us brilliantly how siblings can be our best friends, that keep us connected to our inner child, in order to survive this crazy world, and Jordyn plays the fear of sibling disconnect poignantly well. All three, hit the mark in depicting the insecurity of youth, and the milestones of evolving into those new frightening cycles of life.
Micky Myers (Uncle Fester), is a delightful, quirky gem to the cast, and emanates heartily to all of us that spritely unbridled celestial joy that life beholds for each of us. Dot Routledge (Grandma Addams), illustrates perfectly the imperfect kooky elder Addams, and joins a long list of memorable overbearing mothers from entertainment lore. Chris O’Bray as Lurch, or the Frankenstein like doorman, does well what Lurch does by scaring us into wanting more of his presence on stage. The ordinary Beineke duo, Mal (Clive Lacey) and Alice (Liisa Kallasmaa), as the regular outsiders, terrified by their prospective new relations, illuminates fantastically the classic theme of meet the parents/in laws. What both Clive and Liisa do exceptionally (like the rest of the cast), is pour their hearts out through song and script on their character’s weaknesses, yearnings, disappointments, and eventually remove the mask that reveal the beautiful secret that we all yearn for deep down; love.
The thrust stage at the Scarborough Village Theatre may seem small to some, but adds a dimension to this show that is brilliant and proves that with a skilled team, no stage is too small for crafty blocking, and staging. Add to that, colourful and creative lighting, that is absolutely mystical at times, inviting us in to the magic of this piece, along with the sound, music, orchestra, and beautiful songs sung charmingly, as a show that will capture your heart. Hats off to Director Cory Doran for proving that local theatre can compete well for quality entertainment, and leave you feeling thoroughly enchanted. There are so many credits to be given to this show, that if anyone is missed, it’s not with intent. A big mention needs to be made to the modern inserts in the dialogue of this piece which were wonderful, including funny references to kids texting, and modern day politics. As well, kudos to Choreographer Sabrina Hooper for adding a touch of already made famous pop culture moves in the ensemble dance numbers, which were a pleasant tie in, and added another fun dimension and fit to this brilliantly pieced musical.
Costume Designers Dionne Brown and Mitchell Byrne are to be commended for keeping this frightful cast costumed in garb, already predefined by film and TV that was done in a way that is new and unpredictable, and I would be remiss if I didn’t say that Lurch’s giant platform shoes were mesmerizing. The makeup team, met their challenge with flair and originality, and is an essential layer to launching this cast’s individual characterizations to full flight.
This isn’t a show just about a zany bizarre family, it’s a show about love, marriage, joy, fulfillment, acceptance, encouragement, and most importantly it’s about being authentic. Thank you Scarborough Music Theatre for showing that quality theatre of a professional calibre can showcase itself locally, and that some of the most talented actors, singers and dancers walk amongst us. Favourite line of the show, when Gomez is asked, “how’s life”, he says “too long”.
The Addams Family continues on for two more weekends from February 8 – 11, 15-17, 2018, with tickets available on their website.