By Eric Marchese
Nov. 2, 2016 Updated 12:04 p.m.
A community theater attempting to stage a full-fledged Broadway show like "The Addams Family Musical" may seem a farfetched endeavor, but with the right director, creative staff and cast, it can work.
Costa Mesa Playhouse has that team in place, and while you'll never mistake its production of the 2010 musical as fully professional, its attention to detail pays off. The result is beautifully staged, acted, sung and choreographed – about as good as small-scale amateur musical theater gets.
Like the famed '60s TV series and '90s films, the play is built upon characters created by American cartoonist Charles Addams in the early '30s for The New Yorker magazine, a family which delighted in the bizarre.
Written by Andrew Lippa (music and lyrics) and Marshall Brickman and Rick Elice (book), the stage version starts with a familiar premise: Now 18, Wednesday Addams (Jillian Barnett) has fallen in love with Lucas Beineke (Bryan Edelmann), a typically "normal" young man.
The musical traces the reactions of both families when the Addams' have the Beinekes over for dinner. Dad Gomez (Johnny Fletcher) has promised Wednesday he'll keep a lid on her marriage plans, the first time he's kept a secret from wife Morticia (Erica Marie Weisz).
The basis for the show's laughs and heart is the Addams clan's basic credo of "full disclosure" and total support and acceptance of any individual's behavior, regardless of how outlandish or outré. Who can argue with that?
Thanks to the script's deliciously ghoulish humor and director Jason Holland's outstanding cast, CMP's staging is delightfully macabre and merrily morbid.
All 10 principals and the 10-person ensemble deliver every last iota of vocal skill to each song, music director Stephen Hulsey's pre-recorded arrangements and performance of Lippa's score replicates the sound of an entire pit orchestra, and Daniel Smith's first-rate choreography cashes in on the talented dancing of the cast – so every musical number hits the bulls eye.
The story, songs, dialogue and lyrics showcase the entire Addams family as winningly kooky and offbeat – deliberately less campy than the TV show and less darkly ironic than the movies.
Brickman and Elice's book expands upon the original characters in ways the famed TV series and later films never did. The joke behind the text is the sight of the Addamses trying to pass themselves off as "normal" when they're so obviously anything but, to avoid making a bad impression on Wednesday's boyfriend and his parents.
The dapper Fletcher creates a gloriously cheerful, affable Gomez who likes everyone and is the lovable center of the family – a warmly amorous husband, loving papa to both kids and supportive of whatever makes the family happy.
Weisz's ever-candid Morticia is darkly elegant and almost sultry, and her chemistry with Fletcher is thoroughly winning. Barnett's Wednesday alternates being comedically deadpan with moments of anxiety and tension over being in love.
Sean Barnett balances Pugsley's precocity and vulnerability, Marc Montminy is a winsomely gentle, eccentric Fester, Tiffany McQuay sketches Grandma as a crazy old bat, and Hans Kelsen's Lurch gets big laughs from the giant zombie's slow-moving gait and unintelligible mumble.
Bryan Edelmann's Lucas clearly gets a big kick out of the unusual behavior of his potential in-laws. Rich Wordes' gravelly voice adds a nice rough-hewn dimension to stick-in-the-mud dad Mal, and Jenny McGlinchey gradually reveals Alice's need for attention from her long indifferent husband.
Ryan and Amanda Linhardt's scenic design and the show's costumes (by Laurie Martinez, Megan McCormick and Kathy Gordon), makeup (James Freitas) and wigs (Rachel Weekley) put the finishing touches to what is among the most elaborate productions CMP has ever staged – so wholly satisfying, you'll want to see it more than once.
Where: Costa Mesa Playhouse, 611 Hamilton St., Costa Mesa
When: Through Nov. 20, 8 p.m. Thursdays - Saturdays, 2 p.m. Sundays
How much: $18 to $20 ($18 seniors/students
Length: 2 hours, 15 minutes
Sutability: Adults, teens and older kids (for language and content
Call: (949) 650-5269