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BWW Reviews: 'Dinner and a Show' - Media theatre's ADDAMS FAMILY and IRON HILL BREWERY

Fall is a great time to visit Media Pa and the Media Theater, a landmark of the town for its top notch theatrical events and arts and educational program.

Just one block from the theater sits one of the theater's many great restaurant supporters and is one of the region's best eateries & breweries, Iron Hill Brewery and Restaurant. Their acclaimed beers have accumulated a wealth of awards from the nation's top beer festivals, and their restaurants have earned more than 100 "Best of" nods from local and national publications. Sept. 25 to Oct. 12 brings out the Oktoberfest Menu featuring specialty dishes including bratwurst, knockwurst, German style meatloaf, Sauerbraten Pot Roast and Huhner Schnitzel to name a few.

We opted for the Soup Sampler (seafood bisque, Louisiana chicken, Kennett square mushroom), the mussels with white wine, leeks, garlic, lemon & cream appetizers. Main entrées were Pan Seared Nantucket Sea Scallops with spring vegetable risotto, lemon zest and carrot puree and Seafood Pot Pie, shrimp scallops, crab, potatoes, mushrooms corn, peas in a flaky crust. All prepared perfectly! Iron Hill's full menu consists of house made soups, six different generous salads, and eleven appetizers. They also offer seven shared plate sides such as chicken wings, sweet potatoes fries and a variety of spring and egg rolls. A huge variety of specialty sandwiches, burgers and wraps as well as fifteen full course main entrees.

Iron Hill Brewery & Restaurant is located on 30 E. State Street. For information and reservation call 610.627.9000 or visit www.ironhillbrewery.com for their other 9 locations.

Now, on to the show...

The Addams Family Musical

It seems every other Broadway season a popular film is adapted for the stage typically as a musical. Why? The optimistic answer, of course, is that producers count on familiar brands to lure casual theatergoers. Despite mixed-to-toxic reviews, New York crowds kept coming and "The Addams Family" ran nearly two years likely due to two-time Tony Award winners Nathan Lane and Bebe Neuwirth starring as Gomez and Morticia in the Broadway production.

The national tour arrives with further revisions, which may/may not always be a good decision, to the original Marshal Brickman and Rick Elice's book and music and lyrics by Andrew Lippa. This latest reincarnation of "The Addams Family" is clearly relying, above all, on its title characters' high recognition factor.

The Addams Family is a musical based on the bizarre, beloved family of characters created by legendary cartoonist Charles Addams. It is these gleefully macabre cartoons by Charles Addams that inspired this musical, as well as a 1960s television series and two movies in the early 1990s. It's a rare American who isn't familiar with the sinister little clan (which first appeared in The New Yorker magazine in 1938)

Media Theatre has a lot to be proud of with this production. First and foremost the cast; there's not a weak member in the twisted lot. Two of Philly's most talented actors are cast as husband and wife Gomez (Jeffrey Coon) and Morticia (Jennie Eisenhower). Coon brings out his best Spanish accent, dashing Gomez- good looks and is in fine voice. He also brings a star trouper's energy and polish to one pale number after another and unfortunately seems "Trapped" in a mish mash storyline. Unlike former Broadway Gomez Nathan Lane, whose similar soliloquy "Betrayed" from the "hit" film to musical "The Producers", Addams Family just never has the right "brew" and personality to pull this off effectively.

Jennie Eisenhower, a sublime comic actress, although somewhat constrained by her deadpan role rises gloriously with her money number "Just Around the Corner". The multi talented Nicholas Saverine fits Uncle Fester like a light bulb in a socket and provides just the right amount of weird science and passion for the moon (?) to keep this interesting. His vocals are outstanding and "The Moon and Me" is the silliest best staging of the night. In fact, scenic designer Matthew Miller and Lighting designer Troy Martin O'Shea may walk away with the finest thing about this production besides the casting.

The show begins with the expected milking of classic Addams bizarre behavior. But somewhere along the way the plot becomes a costume-party rehash of the proper-boy-meets-girl-from-crazy-family story line. When the Ohio bred Beinkes meet the Central Park Addams the predictable collisions take place. It's not until another Philly favorite Kristine Fraelich (Alice Beinkes) comes out of her skin as the result of drinking Grandma's potion that Puglsey (Andrew Rubin) snatches for his sister. Fraelich fractures the audience with her personal funny meltdown reality show.

The more than adequately talented cast seems confined within a story that seems to decompose before your eyes. Wednesday (Lauren Cupples) is wonderful and Grandma (Susan Wefel) steals a smile as the haggard hippie-potion maker ready for a spell at every chance. The jokes, however artfully executed, are seldom a surprise. Again, the talent is not the problem as they give it their all musically at the hands of Andrew Lippa's generic, genuinely ghastly music, which seems to be plopped into the "boy meets girl" plot.

The multi talented choreographer Dann Dunn gives a gallant effort with the cast that includes a chorus line of ancestral ghosts who get painfully involved in musical numbers "But Love # 1 and # 2".

These popular cartoon characters worked well in the context of a half-hour sitcom, but this is a real stretch to entertain for a 2½ hour musical. So what's next Gilligan's Island, The Musical? Still, every show has its fans and this one is perfect for the season of "things that go bump in the night".

Addams Family plays at the Media Theater, Media Pa through November 2. For tickets and information call 610.891.0100 or visit mediatheatre.org.

Photo # 1 Jennie Eisenhower (Morticia), Billy V (Lurch), Jeffrey Coon (Gomez)

Photo # 2 Jennie Eisenhower and Jeffrey Coon (Photos credits # 1 and # 2 Chris Jordan)

Photo # 2 Jennie, Me and Jeff (photo credit Pati Buehler)


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