Maybe it’s the catchy theme song, but whatever the reason, “The Addams Family” has had remarkable staying power over the years since the series ran on television from 1964 to 1966.
Based on characters originally penned during the Depression by American cartoonist Charles Addams, there have been several live-action and cartoon movie versions of their story, with yet another animated feature opening in national release this month.
But you won’t find anything that can hold a flickering candle to Virginia Children’s Theatre’s production of “The Addams Family: A New Musical Comedy,” which wraps up its brief weekend run today on the Jefferson Center mainstage.
The plot revolves around a grown-up Wednesday’s improbable love for a “normal” guy, which throws her family into a swivet. Gomez and Morticia reluctantly agree to invite the young man and his parents to dinner so they can see for themselves what Wednesday seems to want for her life. Like any mother and father, they’re worried about whether their daughter is making good choices. Even Pugsley is anxious about the possibility of losing his sister to the outside world.
Kids in the audience will find ample creepy kookiness in the action, such as the scene where Wednesday is torturing Pugsley. It’s all in good fun — the campy humor in the script manages to keep even some of the more macabre moments light. (VCT does advise, however, that some of the content may be too intense for younger children.)
There are also some fairly mature themes at play. Adults in attendance will not only appreciate some of the contemporary cultural references, but also the timeless examinations of what brings couples together or drives them apart.
A terrific line-up of professional actors portrays most of the Addams family members.
Emma Sala is splendid as Wednesday, whose normally stony demeanor has been mellowed by love. (You can read more about her in Mike Allen’s Oct. 8 write-up on Roanoke.com.)
As Gomez, Brad Reinking exhibits the patriarch’s unflagging bon ami even as he deals with his family’s troubles.
Madeline Rasmusson is dead-on as Morticia, with her unmoving, beautiful-corpse expression.
Evan Odson makes an imposing but also sweet Uncle Fester, while Akilah Ramsey is a kindly but no-nonsense Grandma.
Dylan Toms lurks nicely as the taciturn Lurch, and picks up some well-deserved laughs in the process.
Among the local players, Calan Johnson and Drew D’Alessandro share the role of Pugsley. Karlee Smith is adorable as Cousin Itt, and watch for several local children nicely portraying younger versions of some of the main characters in flashback scenes.
Rounding out the main cast are Patrick Henry senior Jack Plogger and Hidden Valley junior Ann Marie Thorell as Mal and Alice Beineke, the suburban parents who don’t quite know what to make of their son’s potential in-laws; and home-schooled 10th grader Ben Armstrong as an endearing Lucas Beineke, the man who just might spirit Wednesday away from the only lifestyle she has ever known. All are polished and a delight to watch.
Joining the primary characters are more than a dozen “ancestors” — local students who comprise a kind of ghoulish Greek chorus that not only adds shape to the storyline, but considerable scope to the outstanding large-scale dance numbers, wonderfully choreographed by director Trey Coates-Mitchell, and accompanied by a fine orchestra under the baton of Producing Artistic Director Brett Roden.
From the talented cast with their soaring voices to the energetic dance numbers to Lindsay Hoisington’s evocative costumes to a seamlessly morphing Jimmy Ray Ward set, VCT has put together a world-class show on every level. To miss this one would be — dare we say it? — a grave mistake.