We grew up watching Father Knows Best, Leave It to Beaver, The Real McCoys, Ozzie and Harriet, and The Donna Reed Show. White bread family values. I graduated from Clover Park High School in 1964, and Peg from Rhine High in Kaiserslautern. It felt like our generation was out to change America and the world; make it a better place and more accepting of people who were different from the boring norm. In 1964 television debuted two new black and white family comedies that introduced benign monsters and embraced the macabre. Both The Munsters and The Addams Family illustrated that people are basically the same even if they appear just a little bit different, and weird.
Peg and I were joined by my cousin Lindy for the opening night of Tacoma Musical Playhouse’s The Addams Family, the Musical. We had no idea what to expect.
In 1999, Andrew Lippa worked on a Broadway production that was, like The Addams Family, a musical adaptation of a newspaper/magazine cartoon: “You’re a Good Man, Charlie Brown.” Lippa wrote three new songs including “My New Philosophy” for the new character played by Kristin Chenoweth. Lippa produced the original cast recording and received a Grammy nomination for his work. Chenoweth won the Tony in 1999 for Best Featured Actress in a Musical.
Broadway producer Stuart Oken asked Lippa to write the music and lyrics for his project The Addams Family. The result was another Tony nomination (Best Original Score) and two Drama Desk nominations. The Addams Family starred Nathan Lane and Bebe Neuwirth in 2009. When the musical closed in 2011 it had played 725 regular performances and 34 previews. Lippa did not win a Tony for his work, but we loved both the music and the lyrics, which seem to blend in with the dialog:
“. . . was polio ready for Salk vaccine, was rehab ready for Charley Sheen?”
“I can be impulsive, I just have to think about it first.”
When the answer to a question was “Ohio,” Gomez responded with a swish of his dueling sword and remarked, “It’s a swing state.” The dialog and lyrics were silly, but never supercilious.
The Addams family consists of husband, Gomez (played by Rafe Wadleigh) and wife, Morticia (played by Linda Palacios), and their daughter, Wednesday (played by Savana Masako Smith), and their son Pugsley (played by Howy Howard), grandmother (“My mother? I thought what’s her name was your mother.”), Gomez’s brother, Uncle Fester (played by John Kelleher), who along with their butler, Lurch (played by Jonathan Bill with his great voice) present a love of the macabre and don’t care that some people might find them just a little bit strange. Mix in a chorus line of family ghosts reaching into the past as far back and cavemen, and you have family that believe in . . . well, their own family values.
Rafe Wadleigh owned the stage and everything on it. He would have made Gomez proud. Rafe is a music teacher at Charles Wright Academy. He played the part of Mr. Kodaly in the TMP production of “She Loves Me.” Kodaly is one of my favorite characters in musical theatre, and “She Loves Me” is one of my favorite musicals . . . followed by “Guys and Dolls,” which Rafe starred in as well (Skye Masterson). Like Gomez, Kodaly has no problem going over the top . . . perhaps the Skye’s the limit.
Linda Palacios did a wonderful portrayal of Morticia. She was not stark black and white, rather, just pale. In contrast, the family who arises from the crypt for the Addams’ Day of the Dead, or rather, Days of Dead, have pancake-white make-up and all off-white costumes. Linda is also a local teacher (fourth and fifth grade in Steilacoom). This was her second time around as Morticia.
The plot of the production was the dating relationship of daughter Wednesday. She is dating Lucas, a “regular” guy . . . and is in love. Also on her second time around in The Addams Family is Savana Masako Smith. Lucas (played by Jake Atwood, another second timer) wants to propose. A dinner meeting of the families goes slightly astray. His parents (played by Erik Furuheim and Michele Greenwood Bettinger) are hesitant and involved in their own marriage problems. Lucas is the apple of their eye as is Wednesday, little miss “sure shot” with her crossbow. You do not cross Wednesday and her crossbow.
Although many in the cast were performing the musical for a second time in the same theater, it did not feel like a second time around. The actors were right on and having fun, and so were we. Let’s hear it for the costumes and the set design and lighting. The show was top-drawer all the way through.
Uncle Fenster (played by John Kelleher . . . also a second-timer), the brother of Gomez, was a big hit with the crowd as he voiced his love for the moon. This was more than just a whim or dream. He made serious plans to secure his romance – “To the moon, Alice!” We enjoyed John as King Bertie in “Rapunzel” in the annual “panto” at CenterStage in Federal Way. This season John will also be the TMP musical director for “The Rocky Horror Show.”
It was a complete pleasure watching the show and enjoying the moment. We want to go again and so will you.
A refrain one of the final songs says it all . . . “So let’s be happy, Forever happy, Completely happy, And a tiny bit Sad.” Unless of course you can get tickets.