A strong cast lifts Stoneham’s ‘Addams Family’

The cast of the Stoneham Theatre production of "The Addams Family." Photo: Mark S. Howard

The cast of the Stoneham Theatre production of “The Addams Family.” Photo: Mark S. Howard

They’re creepy and they’re kooky,
Mysterious and spooky,
They’re all together ooky,
The Addams Family.

The theme from “The Addams Family” TV show

STONEHAM — Watching someone like Tom Derrah — whose acting range is something like from here to the moon — falling in love with the moon as deranged Uncle Festus is something you don’t see every day in the theater.
It’s a role, theatrically speaking, he could perform with one acting arm tied behind his back, but God bless him, he never mails it in in the Stoneham Theatre’s production of “The Addams Family, A New Musical.”
The musical version of the hit TV show “The Addams Family,“ which was itself inspired by the cartoons by Charles Addams in New Yorker — had a modest Broadway run of 722 performances in 2010-11.
The book by Marshall Brickman and Rick Elice has amusing moments, but the score by Andrew Lippa (“The Wild Party”) is strictly hit or miss, although it does begin on a high note with the jaunty, upbeat opening number “When You’re An Addams.”
Director Weylin Symes has done some adroit casting, so the piece’s shortcomings are largely papered over.

Vanessa Dunleavy (Morticia) and Steve Gagliastro (Gomez) - Photo Credit- Mark S. Howard

Vanessa Dunleavy (Morticia) and Steve Gagliastro (Gomez) – Photo Credit- Mark S. Howard

Steve Gagliastro — a gifted comic actor and a Stoneham Theatre mainstay — is Gomez, the Latin-flavored lover and patriarch of the Addams clan. “What I lack in depth, I make up for in shallowness,” he says at one point, and that very well sums up his character, and Gagliastro plays him as such, a scheming lothario endlessly working to stay on the right side of the women in his life.
Vanessa Dunleavy makes for a sexy, sassy Morticia and has two strong songs in Act II: the macabre (Death is…) “Just Around the Corner” and “Live Before We Die” in tandem with Gomez.
The aforementioned Derrah’s second-act paean to the moon — “The Moon and Me” — is a hoot.
Another Stoneham mainstay — Stoneham native Kathy St. George — doesn’t have all that much to do as Grandma, but she still has some comically inspired moments , building on her reputation as one of the great local scene-stealers.
The story — such as it is — concerns the efforts of Wednesday , the somewhat dour, deranged but still good-hearted daughter played by Sarah Pothier, to marry boyfriend Lucas Beineke (Jordan Ahnquist).
His parents are coming to dinner and — in a plot device used to great advantage in another musical, “La Cage Aux Folles” — Wednesday is worried about what his straight-as-an-arrow parents will think of her off-the-beaten-path family.
“We’re the Addams — and they’re from Ohio,” she says.
Ceit Zweil and Jeff Mahoney have some nice comic moments as Lucas’ befuddled parents, and Phillip Dragone does a nice job as Pugsley, the somewhat conflicted — to put it mildly — son for whom torture is as fun as playing sports.
A corps of five actors perform the roles of Ancestors, kind of a Greek Chorus of backup singers and dancers who serve as an ensemble for the production numbers.
“Ther Addams Family” never rises to the level of great art — it really doesn’t want to — and the cast is all in on the joke.
Katheryn Monthei’s set is appropriately Gothic and well-detailed , the choreography by the always-reliable Ilyse Robbins is fine — the famed tango from the TV show is recaptured in “Tango De Amor” — but you’re not coming here for the dancing or the singing.
It’s all harmless fun, a reasonably faithful replica of the hit TV show that’s also family-friendly. If it’s Halloween-themed fun you want, you’ve come to the right place.
The Stoneham Theatre production of “The Addams Family, a New Musical.” Book by Marshall Brickman and Rick Elice. Music and lyrics by Andrew Lippa. Based on characters created by Charles Addams. Directed by Weylin Symes. Scenic design by Katheryn Montheir. Sound design by John Stone. Costume design by Elisbaetta Polito. Lighting design by Jeff Adelberg. Choreography by Ilyse Robbins. At the Stoneham Theatre through Nov. 9. http://www.stonehamtheatre.org.

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