OREM — Temperatures are dropping, the mountains are turning orange, and grocery stores are filling with gloriously ghoulish decor. Fall has arrived! And what better way to celebrate this spectacular spooky season than with a hilarious, Halloween musical classic?
The Addams Family, a brilliant musical comedy based on the comic series created by Charles Addams, follows an iconic family through their creepy, kooky everyday life, with a huge twist: the princess of darkness, their daughter Wednesday, has fallen in love. This production is perfect for Utah audiences for two reasons. First, with a book by Marshall Brickman and Rick Elice, the story is filled with just the right amount of tasteful adult humor, while simultaneously ringing with hilarious, lively music by Andrew Lippa that children will love. Second, the show is entirely centered around family, from igniting lost passion in marriages, to the sudden, painful pangs of letting children grow up. Surprisingly, the mysterious and spooky Addams prove endearingly relatable.
Scenic design by Shawn Herrera is unique, eye-catching, and wonderfully creative. While I was initially surprised by the lack of darkness and dullness that often graces the Addams home, Herrera’s bold choices prove incredibly effective in establishing a vibrant yet supernatural atmosphere. Filled with rich, velvety greens, golds, and reds, Herrera’s set feels enticing and seductive, yet playfully whimsical with its brightness. The stellar lighting design by Elizabeth Griffiths complements the set skillfully, my favorite moment being when orange, fiery torches glow up the Addamses’ haunting, stony door and home at the crack of lightning. The technical elements of this production are nothing short of alluring for Halloween aficionados and a perfect transition to the season.
With direction by Julie Bonifay, every character on stage is booming with excitement and energy. The ensemble of ancestors is delightful, thrilling me every time they walked, sulked, or glided onto the stage. I was especially enthralled by the effective storytelling skills of choreographer Rebecca Boberg, particularly in “Secrets” and “The Moon and Me.” Both songs teemed with a creepy elegance that proved completely delightful. Because of the directing, choreography, and performances, the SCERA’s The Addams Family felt like live theatre in its most exciting form.
My only gripe with the acting is that besides Lurch, Grandma Addams, and Fester, the Addams family seemed just slightly too happy, not allowing for the full hilarity of the dark dialogue to shine through. Yet, every actor gives a spectacular, beautifully fun and impassioned performance that can only happen in the treasured environment of a community theatre production, which I last saw in Lehi’s Sense and Sensibility. I was especially impressed with actress Sydney Swalberg as Wednesday Addams. As I saw the show opening night and things are bound to go wrong, Swalberg’s “Pulled” stopped playing midsong, any actor’s nightmare. I felt my body tense up, grabbing my partner’s leg in anxiety, knowing personally how terrifying that moment is for a performer. Yet, Swalberg completely kept her cool, improvising, getting right back on track and delivering a fantastically energetic performance. Swalberg playfully sticks out her tongue and adds a flirtatious, dark playfulness to Wednesday that is incredibly engaging and unique. Swalberg is a real pro; my partner sitting with me did not even notice the flub in music, due to Swalberg’s impeccable acting performance.
Garrett Smit is a firecracker on stage as Gomez Addams, bursting with charisma and quirky mannerisms that remain consistent throughout, such as his uneasy laugh and impulsive movements filled with constant, electric discoveries. While his accent remains slightly less consistent at times, his captivating stamina makes up for it. Lauren Billings as Morticia leads from her hip, swaying smoothly across the stage with curling fingers and bewitching tonal inflections. Both Iuli Peters and Danny Kenny (as Pugsley Addams and Lucas Beineke, respectively) display captivating singing voices and charming earnestness. Peters especially had a laughable physicality, as he plays the role of a child with his adult body. Alyssa Perez as Grandma Addams completely embodies the squeaky, cackling character with weird yet lovable sweetness, shuddering with delight and uttering incomprehensible noises with side-splitting hilarity.
However, I have to say my favorite performers are Joel Griffiths as Mal Beineke and Lauren Slagowski as Alice Beineke. Griffiths enters the stage with consistent, wonderfully distinct characterizations; the actor’s snarky words and rigid, awkward movements always come from his core. This prove him immediately captivating on stage, despite his less eccentric role. Slagowski’s ability to change her attitude throughout the production is masterful, providing glorious, hysterical contrast when her bubbly remarks suddenly turn lifeless. Her ability to completely let go and forget about the audience as her movements turned hilariously sensual towards her husband is incredibly genuine, hysterical and actually quite sweet. Griffiths and Slagowski are spellbinding.
The all together ooky Addams are alive with eccentric energy that shines through any darkness. Anyone and everyone should see this show, especially if anyone who is married, loves the spooky season, or just appreciates excellently written, hilarious musicals. The SCERA’s The Addams Family is a comical riot with genuine, ghoulish heart, the perfect enticement to begin this marvelous spooky season. This production is sure to leave families uplifted and inspired.