"Addams Family" offers humor, and a visual treat

Oct 15, 2015

The musical “The Addams Family” is based on the familiar presents a new story with familiar characters dating back to the 1920s. Stan Strickler reviews a production now on stage at Peoria Players Theatre, for Peoria Public Radio and the Live Theatre League of Peoria. Opinions expressed are those of the reviewer, not those of Peoria Public Radio or the Live Theatre League.

Charles Addams was a master of macabre, dark humor.  His work has been translated into a television show, a couple of movies, and now a musical.  The show, in a regional premiere at Peoria Players, is funny, visually stunning, and a delightful evening of theater.  Although the play is a little dark, it is punctuated with cornball humor, and references to current events that make the traditional story a delight.

The story revolves around the Addams family familiar to most audience members, but it has been updated. Wednesday, their oldest child, is now contemplating marriage to a conventional young man.  Wednesday has invited her fiancée’s parents for dinner and asks her parents to be “normal.”  But as Morticia says, “What is normal?  What is normal to the spider is chaos to the fly.” The plot revolves around the clash of cultures as the straight-laced Beinekes meet the Addams family.  Complications ensue as the Addams family members try to prevent the marriage.

Travis Olson has assembled a remarkable cast.  George Maxedon as Gomez and Michelle Rouland bring the Addams family parents to life with their great acting, and wonderful singing.  They create just the right atmosphere of creepiness and humor needed in this play.  Also to be commended are Madison Boedecker  and Kaden Micklos as the Addams children Wednesday and Pugsley.  Both have great stage presence and contribute nicely to the overall humor of the play.  Austin Shaw has great stage presence and the physicality to bring Lurch to life with his slow movements and gibberish language.

The chorus of the show is made up of the Addams family ancestors, who provide back up to the songs with great singing and dancing.  They are a varied cast of characters from Atticus Finch to a caveman, and Cleopatra to Marie Antoinette.  Music director Nichole Fauser and Choreographer Mariah Thornton created a wonderful ensemble that add much to the show. 

What is most remarkable about this show, though, is the visual aspect.  The sets are from Chicago’s Mercury Theater and add a lot of interest to the production.  They are slightly askew, mirroring the oddball nature of the show, and they move easily from scene to scene.  The set crew is also to be commended.  Not to be outdone, Mary Keltner and Sue McGrew have created unusual costumes that appeal to the eye and add a lot of visual interest to the play.  They have created the traditional Addams family costumes in a sea of black, with others from different time periods that add visually to the production. 

All in all, this is a wonderful show and not to be missed.  It has strong acting, great singing and dancing, and a stunning visual perspective rarely seen in community theater.  It is fun and funny, and even though the plot is rather traditional, the humor is not and the audience will leave the theater with a smile on their faces.