Cartoonist Charles “Chas” Addams shared his penchant for the macabre in The New Yorker for more than five decades. Who can forget Wednesday Addams and her brother Pugsley gleefully playing with a tiny guillotine on Christmas morning? Or Uncle Fester opening up the medicine chest only to reveal it’s full of poison?
Many know the Addams Family from the eponymous TV show, which ran from ’64 to ’66, or the 1991 film. Now that Actor’s Cabaret has mounted a delightfully dark musical version of the show (just in time for the spooky season), we get to once again drop in on America’s Most Ghoulish Family.
With songbook by Marshall Brickman and Rick Elice, music and lyrics by Andrew Lippa, direction by Joe Zingo and musical direction by Colleen Darnall Dietz, the show imagines we’re a bit in the future, and Wednesday Addams has a boyfriend.
One of Chas Addams’ classic maneuvers in his cartoons pits the Addams Family members with “normal” people, and this production continues in that vein, as Wednesday prepares her kooky family to meet her potential in-laws.
Tera Ponce shimmers as the brooding Wednesday, showing the tug between her day-to-day life (which includes regular mutually consenting torture sessions with her little brother Pugsley) and “normal life” with her beau Lucas, played with quivering charm by Cody Mendonca.
Wednesday’s parents, Morticia and Gomez, hate to see their little girl grow up, and the upheaval of unwanted guests causes a rift in their otherwise passionate marriage. Michelle Sellers oozes sexy confidence as Morticia. Michael P. Watkins captivates as Gomez; with a rich Spanish accent, wry humor and a terrific singing voice, he’s pure pleasure to watch.
Townes Genoves embodies the goofiness of pubescent Pugsley, and his rendition of “What If?” pulled me in emotionally more than any other number. Gerald Walters exudes a childlike weirdness as sunken-eyed Uncle Fester, who’s built like a rectangle, sings like an angel and thinks he’s in love with the moon. Janis Hayes’ Grandma is hilarious, her squeaky voice hitting every tickle button in the audience.
Costumes by Joe Zingo and Mary Jensen are first rate, designed with multi-layered detail, especially the parade of Addams Family ancestors who litter the mansion and listen in on the Addams Family shenanigans. Throughout the production, the look and feel of the design seem sprung from Chas Addams’ own hand.
Bonus points if you can find the Ken dolls.
The Addams Family runs through Oct. 18 at Actors Cabaret of Eugene; $16-$42.95.