NEENAH, Wis. (WFRV) – Cheers met the first song on opening night Thursday.
The cast broke into a kind of Halloween dance with such spirit and energy that director John Zhang’s words in the printed program came to be: This would be “theater that is meant to be easy to enjoy.”
Riverside Players’ production of the camp “The Addams Family The Musical Comedy” is solidly built by its creative corps and delivered by experienced performers.
Eight more performances of this tombstone tour in song and dance continue to July 31 in Riverside Park Pavilion. The pavilion has a one-of-a-kind rectangular performance space with the audience up close on three sides.
The fun of the satirical, dark, sassy, clever storyline is the reversal nature of the Addamses: The family revels in the grotesque, the morbid, the deadly.
Outwardly, the Addams family is normal: Father, mother and two children, with an uncle, a grandmother and a butler living with them. But normal to the Addams can be the daughter coming home with dinner, a duck she offed a petting zoo, to be served for supper. Gross? Yes, now you are on to the humor of the show that comes from the master of such stuff, writer/illustrator Charles Addams, whose quirky spin on life/death made its way to the TV airwaves for 64 episodes from 1964-1966.
Hello! That’s two generations ago, and the weirdo Addamses are still around!
The story is about love being blind. A father is caught between a rock and a hard place – his wife and their daughter. The daughter has fallen in love and wants to marry a guy she met while crossbow hunting pigeons in a park. The daughter wants to unload her secret after a dinner with the two families. But mum’s the word for her Dad, lest her Mum put the kibosh on her marrying out of the faith, so to speak.
All around in this production are strong performances filled with confidence.
One peak is a sequence out of most everyone’s comfort zone, the tricky “Tango de Amor” in which toil, with rhythm, is pulled off en masse.
Among individual performances, particularly noticeable are these:
Dalton Zanin as the suave, ever-expressive father, Gomez.
Claire Coggins as the complex, richly voiced Addams daughter, Wednesday.
Nate Scheuers as Uncle Festus, the comically ghoulish persona in love with the moon.
Tonie Yankowski as Alice, the square, poetry-spouting “normal” mother with a colorful voice.
Anna Franzen, Kaci Franzen, Tatum Granbow, Alli Karas, Bethany Reilly and Hannah Schierl as the Addams Ancestors, adding splashes of song and dance in nifty make-up and costuming.
All shows are group efforts, but sometimes productions radiate that feel. Riverside Players’ is one of those. Thursday night’s performance received a standing ovation for its “theater that is meant to be easy to enjoy.”
Running time: Two hours, 25 minutes
Remaining performances: 8 p.m. July 22-23; 7 p.m. July 24; 8 p.m. July 27-30; 7 p.m. July 31
Creative: Based on characters created by Charles Addams: book – Marshall Brickman, Rick Elice; music and lyrics – Andrew Lippa; director – John Zhang; music director – Brittney Ann Baldwin; choreographer – Marie Janet Newton; technical director – James Frelich; sound design – Brian Ugorowski; costume designer – Sue Steensen; stage manager – Marie Janet Newton; stage crew – Dan Gates, Jonah Bixby; show consultant – Chris Renner
Gomez – Dalton Zanin
Morticia – Ellen Magnin
Wednesday – Claire Coggins
Pugsly – Milo Beckett
Uncle Fester – Nate Scheuers
Grandma – Jennifer Leahy
Lurch – Mark Luebke
Lucas – Austin Demerath
Mal – Christopher Bogardt
Alice – Tonie Yankowski
The Cortesan – Anna Franzen
The Soldier – Kaci Franzen
The Conquistador – Tatum Granbow
The Bride – Alli Karas
The Pirate – Bethany Reilly
The Saloon Girl – Hannah Schierl
Songs (recorded soundtrack)
“When You’re an Addams” – Addams Family, Ancestors
“Fester’s Manifesto” – Uncle Fester
“Two Things” – Gomez
“Trapped” – Gomez
“Honor Roll”/“Pulled” – Wednesday, Pugsley
“Four Things” – Gomez
“One Normal Night” – Company
“But Love” (Reprise 1 and 2) – Uncle Fester, Ancestors
“Secrets” – Morticia, Alice, Female Ancestors
“Gomez’s ‘What If?’” – Gomez
“What If?” – Pugsley
“Full Disclosure” (Part 1) – Addamses, Beinekes, Ancestors
“Waiting” – Alice, Ancestors
“Full Disclosure” (Part 2) – Addamses, Beinekes, Ancestors
“Just Around the Corner” – Morticia, Ancestors
“Just Around the Corner” Playoff – Morticia, Ancestors
“The Moon and Me” – Uncle Fester, Female Ancestors
“Happy/Sad” – Gomez
“Crazier Than You” – Wednesday, Lucas, Alice, Mal
“Not Today” – Gomez
“Live Before We Die” – Gomez, Morticia
(Dance) “Tango de Amor” – Gomez, Morticia
“Move Toward the Darkness” – Addamses, Beinekes, Ancestors
THE VENUE: Riverside Park Pavilion in Neenah is an open shelter used for summer shows of Riverside Players Theatre in the Park, which started in 1955. Seating for 244 or so (depending on arrangement) is set up around three sides of a rectangular stage. The building is stone exterior, with the inside including a wooden ceiling with large wooden support beams and a cement floor that is covered with shock-absorbent material for “The Addams Family The Musical Comedy.” The performance space is what amounts to a thrust stage – “thrusting” out into the audience. This style of stage is famous in some locations – Guthrie Theatre in Minneapolis, Stratford Festival in Canada. It’s interesting that the Riverside Players stage came to be in the 1950s just as thrust stages in other places were getting attention as pioneering. The pavilion’s location is picturesque. The park, on the Fox River near Lake Winnebago, is rimmed on two sides by grand historical homes, one of which was converted into Bergstrom-Mahler Museum across the street.