(Eula Valdez as Morticia and Arnell Ignacio as Gomez in Addams Family)
The show opens with ghoulish creeps and dead people, set in a dark and dreary graveyard estate in Central Park, New York… and, boy, does it turn out to be one endearing, love-filled musical!
I was charmed right from the opening musical number, When You’re An Addams. It’s a catchy number that will get you smiling and hooked from the get-go, with the eccentric moves of Addams family patriarch Gomez (Arnell Ignacio) and the sensuous grooves of matriarch Morticia (Eula Valdez), complete with dance sequences in various genres – tango, line dance and rigor mortis (you have to watch to see what this looks like).
(The cast in the opening number When You’re an Addams)
There’s a twist in this broadway musical adaptation of Addam’s Family involving daughter Wednesday (K-la Rivera); a twist that will get the whole clan (including ancestors from the grave) all riled-up and turning upside down. Sure, Wednesday is still dark and brooding and still wields a crossbow, but she’s no longer a girl. She’s now a lady, and she’s fallen in love… with a boy, a normal boy, Lucas, who’s from a nice, conservative, traditional family in the Midwest (a swing state!, says Gomez). But Wednesday and Lucas aren’t just in love. They want to get married, and only Gomez is in on the secret… with much agony. Morticia is kept in the dark and she’s getting suspicious.
(The dark princess and the normal boy in love. K-La Rivera as Wednesday and Ryan Gallagher as Lucas Beineke)
The most riotous scenes in the musical are those involving Gomez, Morticia and Wednesday as they plan a special dinner with Lucas’ family. Wednesday’s only request is for the family to act normal, but how could they when you have a 100-year old grandmother who’s into potions, a younger brother who’s into torture and smoking (to relieve stress), a bald uncle who talks to the dead and is in love with the moon, and a butler of Frankenstein-esque qualities.
Surprisingly for all its eccentricities, the musical draws its most charming qualities in how it approaches the issue of love. It’s very human (as opposed to very undead). It recognizes that love starts out pure, uncomplicated, thrilling and exciting. But it loses its magic along the way because of fears, over-cautiousness, work, secrets, unsaid feelings and unexpressed emotions that pile up over the years. As Morticia tells her son Pugsley, “Life is a tightrope, and on the other side is your coffin.” It takes risk and trust to make love work.
Eula Valdez is perfectly cast in her role as Morticia. She has a lovely alto voice and amazing stage presence, and even with a full cast on stage you can’t help but keep your eyes glued on her. Arnell Ignacio is endearing in his portrayal of Gomez. He has the right mixture of pompousness and soft-heartedness when it comes to his love for his family. K-La Rivera as Wednesday acquits herself in the company of veteran performers with her clear, powerful singing voice and convincing portrayal. Special mention to Carla Guevara-Laforteza as Alice Beineke, mother of Lucas. She’s a scene stealer during the dinner sequence as she transforms from sunshiny Midwestern mom to frustrated wife on the verge of a breakdown.
I must give props to the show’s set designer, Faust Peneyra, and lighting designer, Dong Calingacion. Their executions were spot-on and lent perfectly and evocatively to the feel of the entire musical.
The show is directed by Bobby Garcia for Atlantis Productions and runs until December 1 at the Meralco Theater.
(Photo credits: Atlantis Productions, Inc.)