ELLSWORTH — What a gas to see the talented actors of Ellsworth High School tackling a new musical. And what a fun show “The Addams Family” is.
It’s something of a mystery why this clever musical comedy by Marshall Brickman, Rick Elice and Andrew Lippa wasn’t a bigger hit when it opened on Broadway in 2010. While the humor is decidedly dark, the story is crazy fun, as are the characters based on the Charles Addams cartoon family.
You’ll meet Morticia, her husband, Gomez, and their kids Wednesday and Pugsley, plus their odd assortment of ghoulish relatives (dead and alive) and hangers-on who live in a creepy old Victorian pile, apparently in the middle of Central Park. Also, the songs and dialogue are witty, catchy and, in some cases, downright poignant. What’s not to love?
It must be said that director Jasmine Ireland’s casting of this show is a bit of a mystery. Having three of the main male characters, Gomez, Pugsley and Uncle Fester, played by women, leads one to wonder what has happened to the deep pool of male talent EHS usually brings to these fall musicals.
However, having said this, the gender-bending young women playing these roles do a terrific job. As the passionate Gomez, torn between his loyalties to his demanding wife and his lovestruck daughter, Seneca Maddocks-Wilbur is simply wonderful and actually looks like a young Ralph Macchio.
In fact, it is hard to imagine a 16- or 17-year-old boy bringing the kind of flamboyance to the character of a husband who is enduringly and endearingly in love with his wife, as Maddocks-Wilbur does. Not to mention the steamy tango Gomez and Morticia execute, which is a highlight of the second act. Madeline Henry is deliciously weird as the jealous little brother, Pugsley, as is Aurora Burmeister, who plays the moonstruck Uncle Fester, who delivers many of the laughs and “awws” in the show. The latter is in response to his lovely romantic torch song “The Moon and Me.”
What Burmeister and Maddocks-Wilbur can’t quite manage — although they come darn close — is the lower vocal range their songs sometimes demand, so the words of some of the deeper passages get lost. But when they hit their vocal stride, these two can belt it out with the best of the baritones.
OK, there are some gals playing gals and guys playing guys in the show as well. Most notably, Amelia Hayden as Goth mom Morticia and Kayla Hardison as Wednesday her dour daughter. Hayden has all the moves and gestures of a properly cartoonish Morticia and a lovely voice that is showcased best in her jazzy “Death Is Just Around the Corner.”
Hardison also has a good strong voice as well as the acting chops to pull of her conflicted character, who is having trouble deciding whether she wants to marry her dweeby boyfriend Lucas or slaughter him.
As Lucas, Nolan Domagala is a strapping lad who plays his part with all the earnest devotion it calls for and also has a pleasing voice. But he needs to pump up the volume a bit especially when singing. As his parents Mal and Alice, Warren Dowling and Liliana Muise are convincing both as a repressed, squabbling couple and when their inner wild things get released.
Making the most of their small roles are Naomi Burmeister as the demented grandma and Mark Fuller as the hulking Lurch.
Under Ireland’s deft direction, the chorus of dead ancestors were all wonderfully invested in their roles, but the little ghoul in a mob cap, played by Sophie Torrance, took it to another level. It was hard to take one’s eyes off her in the big chorus numbers.
The accompaniment, directed by Lilja Hanson, was excellent, although I couldn’t help wishing they hadn’t been hidden backstage. A cemetery plot full of spectral music makers might have dressed up what was a rather barren expanse of set.
Ireland designed the costumes herself. Loved Gomez’s perfectly tailored, double-breasted suit and all those wispy wraiths. Something they might consider adjusting is the gels on the stage lights when Wednesday horrifies her mom by showing up for a dinner party in a bright yellow dress. “Color is for people with no imaginations!” Morticia admonishes.
Under the lights, Wednesday’s outfit and Alice, her future mother-in-law’s, matching one look very pink from the audience.
While the show is shortish and moved at a good pace, the whole cast needs to pick up the pace and timing for three remaining performances at 7 p.m. Thursday-Saturday, Dec. 12-14, at Ellsworth High School. Tickets cost $10 per adult and $8 for students and seniors.