November 24, 2013
I know about the Addams Family, although I cannot really call myself a fan of their macabre sense of humor. I was not able to watch the two movies made about them in the 1990s starring Raul Julia, Anjelica Huston and Christina Ricci. About this musical theater version (with music by Marshall Brickman and Rick Elice, and book/lyrics by Andrew Lippa), I must confess I was not that excited to watch it at first. But this being an Atlantis production and with the good reviews from the first weekend, I decided to take the whole family to watch it. We did not regret it.
This musical takes place sometime twenty five years into the marriage of Gomez and Morticia Addams, when eldest daughter Wednesday is now a young lady in love. When her beau Lucas brings his parents Mal and Alice Beineke to meet the Addams for dinner, her younger brother Pugsley hatches a prank gone wrong that wreaked havoc on all the relationships on the three couples on the table.
The set design, as was the standard for all Atlantis productions, was impeccable. It was amazing how the expanse of the Meralco Theater stage had been converted by Faust Peneyra into a graveyard, to a receiving hall of a creepy mansion to a dining room with a long table. The complementary lighting design by Dong Calingacion was essential to achieve the requisite eerieness of the atmosphere.
As you can see from the posters, the cast had been completely transformed into the well-known, and mostly, well-loved characters, thanks to the amazing make-up talents of Johann dela Fuente, in full cooperation with the costume designs by Pepsi Herrera and Edwin Tan. You certainly cannot see Arnell Ignacio or Eula Valdez or Jamie Wilson (or anybody else for that matter) as how you usually know them. You just see them as their character.
Arnell Ignacio was simply flawlessly in character as Gomez Addams. At first, I was not so sure he could pull this off, especially he had a wan uneven performance in his last musical The Full Monty. But as Gomez, his voice was full and strong in his songs and in his delivery of those tricky lines. This was indeed an award-worthy performance that we have seen from this veteran entertainer.
Eula Valdez, I already was mesmerized with her since her last musical Nine. This beautiful woman can really turn heads and draw attention to her whenever she was onstage even then, more so now in her tight body-hugging black gown as Morticia, Her accent was adorable. Her tango was so graceful with all those turns and dips. Her singing voice was on point, as the songs were completely within her range (something that went uneven in Nine due to some very high notes). This was a totally different Eula here, no hint of Amor Powers.
I had been wanting to see K-La Rivera perform again since I first saw her in In the Heights. I missed her in Aladdin (which I was not able to see) and Carrie (I saw a Mikki Bradshaw lead performance). As Wednesday, her role is rather limited by the love story angle of the musical compared to the memorable Christina Ricci Wednesday in the films. Fortunately she had a song entitled "Pulled" in the first act that was the Wednesday we know and love.
Jamie Wilson completely transformed into bald-headed and freaky Fester Addams. This guy can really do no wrong, tackling even the most offbeat of characters so well always. Too bad that Fester was not entirely an integral character in the main story in this musical version, so we mostly see him interact with the ragtag group of odd ghostly characters called The Ancestors. He had a delightful and sweet song "The Moon and Me" dedicated to his lady love that was giddy in its lunacy.
Anton Posadas, just fresh from his successful performance as Tyltyl in The Bluebird of Happiness, is back on the Meralco stage again as Pugsley. I really like the way this character was written for this show. I enjoyed his moment on the electric chair with Wednesday in Act 1. I loved his tender talk with his mother Morticia in Act 2. He showed off his singing pipes too with the song "What If".
Calvin Millado and Carla Guevara-Laforteza play the odd Beineke couple. Husband Mal is gruff and headstrong as wife Alice was a flighty romantic. These two actors are really veterans of the musical stage. Calvin is not awkward in this role (unlike some of his previous roles in Legally Blonde and Rock of Ages). Carla had the more challenging featured role as Alice experienced a change of personality within the show which required a demanding song number "Waiting" which Carla totally killed! Their son Lucas was played by American actor Ryan Gallagher. Too bad this role is so small you hardly remember anything about the actor afterwards. He does not even have a solo song number.
And finally, the guy which had the most memorable look and song solo of the show, Ikey Canoy. This guy played the butler Lurch who generally just strangely grunts his way throughout the show. However, look out for a big surprise from him before the show ends. He gained what must have been the loudest spontaneous applause within the show from the audience.
I thought the Grandma character was not too well-played, nor were her costumes fitting into the general Addams motif. I do not know why this role had to be portrayed by a man (Jimmy Marquez) in this production. I found it more distracting than funny. Nyoy Volante alternates in this cross-dressing role.
Congratulations to director Bobby Garcia and the rest of the Atlantis cast and crew for again coming up with another world-class showcase for the Filipino theater talent.
The Addams Family opened last November 15 and will run up to December 1, 2013 at the Meralco Theater. For tickets, contact Atlantis Productions, 8927078 (look for Claire).