By John Lyle Belden
The Cat, a nice little stage in downtown Carmel, includes in its programs the Carmel Apprentice Theatre, in which local stage veterans work with new and less-experienced performers to bring forth a wonderful experience for actors and audiences alike. Appropriately opening on Halloween weekend, CAT presents “The Addams Family: A New Musical,” by Andrew Lippa with Marshall Brickman and Rick Elice.
Based on the famous Charles Addams characters, which went from New Yorker cartoons in the 1940s and ‘50s to television and movies (and even a Hanna-Barbera “Scooby-Doo”-style cartoon in the 1970s, as we see during the pre-show entertainment), the 2010 Broadway musical showcases the family’s unconventional and gently macabre lifestyle while engaging with a wacky comedy premise: Now-adult daughter Wednesday wants to marry a young man from a “normal” Ohio family.
First-time director Elaine Miller managed to get the best out of this cast of varied experience, including former apprentice turned stage regular JB Scoble as Gomez Addams, writer and dancer (who gets to show off her tango) Audrey Larkin as Morticia, Carmel High senior Jayda Glynn as a picture-perfect Wednesday, Ball State grad Elaine Endris as mischievous masochist brother Pugsley, crew-turned-cast member Jake Williams as charming Uncle Fester, Jeff Hamilton as feisty Grandmama, and classically-trained Evan Wang as the butler, Lurch. (Thing was played by “R.C.”, and Cousin Itt was absent, likely at a hair appointment.) The more conventional Beinecke family are played by Tim West as lovestruck Lucas, Chelsie Christian as his mom and compulsive poet Alice, and Greg Gibbs as buttoned-down dad Mal.
When one is an Addams, you’re in the family forever, so the ghostly Ancestors are on hand as well. They are portrayed by Erin Coffman, Ashley Mash, Diana Pratt, Vivian Schnelker, Mark Gasper, and the stage debut of Sarah Gasper, a natural charmer who after attending dozens of performances of “Addams Family” finally gets to live her dream.
What this show might lack in professional polish is more than made up for in the fun everyone has in bringing this story to life. Given the gusto with which the titular family treat any endeavor, any rough edges actually add to the overall experience. Scoble’s performance stands toe-to-toe (sword-to-sword?) with the likes of John Astin or Raul Julia, and Larkin is dead(ly) sexy. Everyone has standout moments, especially Christian in her “full disclosure” outburst.
While oddness is the rule in this world, one aspect of the musical that, to me, seemed distracting was Fester’s wooing of the Moon (yes, that big rock in the sky). Williams manages to pull off the illogical longing, further aided by Mash portraying the heavenly body, dancing in shimmering gray with matching mask. Miller’s choice in this, rather than using a light or glowing ball, sweetens the scene and makes it more relatable – we see the lover that Fester sees.
Performances of this spooky, “ooky,” fun and funny show run Thursdays through Sundays through Nov. 13 at The Cat, 254 Veterans Way, next to Carmel’s Main Street arts and cultural district. For information and tickets, go to thecat.biz.