Celebrating its 25th anniversary this fall season, Staller Center for the Arts featured a seasonally festive, spooky and whimsical performance of the Broadway musical comedy “The Addams Family” this past Sunday evening. The Staller Center was fortunate enough to house the production on its tour of North America just in time for the week of Halloween.
Based off of Charles Addams’ cartoon strips regularly published in The New Yorker until 1988, the musical comedy was written by “Jersey Boys” authors Marshall Brickman and Rick Ellis, with musical score and lyrics by Drama Desk-winning composer Andrew Lippa. Four-time Tony Award winning director Jerry Zaks completes an all-star production team that successfully weaves together a cheerfully morbid musical that subverts traditional notions of the ideal American family.
The musical production presents an original story, following some of the well-known and beloved characters of Charles Addams’ cartoon strips: Gomez, Morticia, Wednesday, Pugsley, Uncle Fester, Grandma and Lurch. Wednesday Addams confides in her father that she has fallen in love with a boy from a seemingly “normal” family, neither macabre or undead. The news that Wednesday has met a boy that is alarmingly conventional and ordinary hits Gomez Addams hard, but to make matters worse the two families need to struggle to make it through one incredibly awkward, light-heartedly blunderous dinner.
Many Stony Brook University students may be surprised to learn that “The Addams Family” musical is in fact based off of the characters of Charles Addams’ comics, rather than the sixties sitcom. In fact, the television series was actually the first of many adaptations created in response to Addams’ characters. A prolific cartoonist for the New Yorker from 1938 until his death in 1988, Charles Addams’ characters expressed a uniquely dark humor extolling a morbid and eccentric aesthetic. The characters of “The Addams Family” essentially represent an inversion of that quintessential family seeking the “American Dream”—these characters are seemingly wealthy, living a luxurious lifestyle in a gloomy yet comfortable mansion. Notably, the Addams are not “evil” in the same way that most other familiar Halloween-themed characters are. Rather, they simply enjoy an unconventionally dark sense of humor and beauty, presenting a refreshingly different take on that American family traditionally represented in cartoon strips.
Drawing from this element of the dark yet light-hearted, “The Addams Family” Broadway production successfully leaves its audience feeling pleasantly and cheerfully spooked. Acting and singing are equally fabulous, as would be expected from a group of well-versed Broadway professionals. Gomez and Morticia Addams are played by Jesse Sharp and Keleen Snowgren respectively, both of whom are experienced in the game of national/international touring and have acted in numerous countries around the globe. The fantastic “princess of darkness” Wednesday Addams is played by the up-and-coming Jennifer Fogarty. Costumes and set design are perfectly dreary and funereal with a touch of the humorously bizarre, making for a delightfully creepy display that satisfies the craving for Halloween-themed entertainment this week.
The Staller Center certainly picked a perfect week to book this spooktacular Broadway production that has won the hearts of many. With this fall season being prime time for attention-grabbing performances as the Staller Center celebrates its 25th anniversary, what better way is there to bring the greater Stony Brook community together than by holding a traveling Broadway production perfectly suitable for the week of Halloween? Doubtless many of Sunday night’s audience members are feeling pleasantly satisfied to have begun their Halloween with a viewing of this show, and are eager to continue the festivities later into the week.