New Lebanon - Theater Barn in New Lebanon is ending their summer season with “The Addams Family,” a happy, bright and enjoyable musical.
Better yet, they have brought in their go-to-director Bert Bernardi to guide a talented group of performers in this surprisingly smart version of the material.
The Addams Family originated as a cartoon in the New Yorker magazine. It became a television series, a film and a Broadway musical. Obviously, it is material known and loved by many – young and old.
Thankfully the production stays faithful to the core reason for the success of the original Charles Addams creation. It respects the strange and curious fact this odd family that sees the world in the darkest tones has the most optimistic view of life and the future.
The family members are not played as creatures of parody. Instead it becomes evident rather quickly that they happen to be people who know they are different, but don’t care.
In fact they are almost reverse snobs as they look down on “normal” people and the baggage most carry. Indeed, what makes the Addams Family unique in our modern world is they carry no baggage.
OK maybe a little. They hold each other to high standards and first is total honesty to each other.
What drives the story of this show is that the daughter Wednesday plans to get engaged to the son of a family from (gasp) Ohio. She tells her father, Gomez, and pledges him to secrecy. Morticia suspects something is up with her husband and daughter and makes the meeting between the two families even more difficult.
Despite what seems like boiler-plate material about families in natural opposition learning from each other, the show works because of the clever humor that supports the situation and the characters. The plot may sound frivolous and even shallow, but the story is always entertaining.
It’s all given a major boost by a terrific performance by Jimmy Johansmeyer who plays Gomez. Johansmeyer finds the wit and charm of a man who is in conflict by wanting to do the right thing for the daughter he loves, which requires he deceive the wife he adores. Not only does he find the comedy in his dialogue, he expresses the beauty of his dilemma in the song “Happy Sad.” It’s terrific work.
The men fare better than the women. Andrew Berlin nicely underplays Uncle Fester and finds the wisdom within the character. Stephanos Bacon is a sincere Lucas, the young man who loves Wednesday, and young Adam Salerno avoids making the troublemaker Pugsley a mere brat.
The women have a more difficult job as they are the people in conflict. Teresa Whitt has great comic talent and timing, but she plays Wednesday more psychotic than neurotic. Victoria Weinberg looks perfect as Morticia, but her smile-free performance makes her always appear petulant. Weinberg fails to show the burning passion needed to be believed as a woman who is madly in love with her husband.
Supporting roles are nicely done and the entire ensemble (called the ancestors) contribute greatly to the whole, especially in the song and dance numbers.
Andrew Lippa’s music is always pleasant, but his charming and witty lyrics are what make the songs fun. Music director Mason Griffin and director Bernardi work well together to be certain the two elements always support each other.
“The Addams Family” is not only a pleasant theater experience, but with the highest ticket priced at only $25, it is a great summer value.
“The Addams Family” at Theater Barn, New Lebanon, NY. Through Sunday, August 31. 794-8989
Bob Goepfert is the arts editor for the Troy Record.
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