The New Theatre Restaurant production of “The Addams Family” is a class act.
A fine cast gets the most out of a show that offers as its calling card unrelenting irreverence, and director Richard Carrothers and his design team have put together a physical production that shimmers with technical expertise.
Based on the New Yorker cartoons of Charles Addams about a gothic family inhabiting a gloomy mansion, this show was preceded by a popular TV series in the 1960s and a couple of movies in the ’90s.
This version was crafted specifically for the stage and the book by Marshall Brickman and Rick Elice is concise and cleverly constructed. The score by Andrew Lippa produces two or three standout tunes. There’s not a trace of substance. Sentimentality is kept to a minimum. But it’s great fun.
The running joke, of course, is that in this family torture and sadomasochism are seen as virtues, while the family values of “normal” Americans are incomprehensible.
The cast is anchored by the irrepressible Jerry Jay Cranford as Gomez, the passionate family patriarch, and Hillary Marren as Morticia, his sultry wife. Cranford and Marren make a good team and they get strong support from the other family members — Katie Karel as their daughter Wednesday, who wants to marry an outsider named Lucas (Zach Sorrow); Phil Fiorini, who threatens to steal the show as Uncle Fester; Cathy Barnett as Grandma; and Billy Meschberger, one of two young actors alternating in the role of Pugsley, Wednesday’s kid brother. Aidan Sitzman is the other actor playing Pugsley.
Wednesday has invited Lucas and his parents (Tim Scott and Ashley Pankow) to dinner and expects her family to behave “normally,” which is impossible.
Fiorini segues from his recent memorable performance as the Fool in “King Lear” to Uncle Fester without missing a beat and delivers a highly memorable turn. He somehow manages to make Uncle Fester creepy and endearing in equal parts.
Karel’s commanding singing voice is one of the best in local theater and she uses it to good effect, while also demonstrating superb comic timing. Cranford, a charismatic ham, is perfect as Gomez and Marren demonstrates a refined comic sensibility as Morticia.
Barnett is virtually unrecognizable as Grandma but scores laughs often. Meschberger is very funny in an unforced performance as Pugsley. Pankow is a standout as Alice, Lucas’ mom, who discovers her “true self” after being slipped the equivalent of truth serum. As Mal, her husband, Scott expertly employs his deadpan delivery.
Sorrow has the thankless “straight” role but demonstrates skilled timing with a few one-liners. Thomas Forde has little comprehensible dialogue as Lurch, the zombie-like butler, but he is allowed a couple of spotlight moments in which he wins over the audience.
The chorus of “Addams ancestors” includes some of the best musical-theater talents in town. Among them are Shelby Floyd, Sara Kennedy and Anthony J. Gasbarre III.
We expect technically polished shows at the New Theatre, but Charles Moore’s scenic design is exceptional. His re-creation of the Addams mansion has the appearance of intricate pen-and-ink drawings, which lighting designer Randy B. Winder illuminates in creative ways. Other design elements, including Mary Traylor’s costumes, are perfectly suited to the show.