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BWW Review: THE ADDAMS FAMILY, A NEW MUSICAL COMEDY at USF - Jeschke Fine Arts

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Running through October 30th at University of Sioux Falls

BWW Review: THE ADDAMS FAMILY, A NEW MUSICAL COMEDY at USF - Jeschke Fine Arts

It's a joyful experience at the theatre when I can sit at Jeschke Fine Arts at University of Sioux Falls, surrounded by so many students in attendance to support classmates on opening night of The Addams Family, A New Musical Comedy. Director Joe Obermueller very adeptly, and with great humor, brings a young group of performers to their own individual personal bests and then molds a team of artists who brought passion and whimsy to iconic caricatures that became the characters of this show with delightful layers. It is clear he has empowered every performer, from the girl with the contortionist poses in the ancestral family chorus, to principal and supporting cast members to bring their "A+ Game" to the stage.

The set is usually not my favorite part of a production, but this one had the most beautiful paintings on a set that I have ever seen. The work of Brad Lind is exquisite and by reading his program credits, it is evident that USF Theatre Department hit the jackpot with this collaboration. The stylings, the colors, the use of "glow in the dark" paints were a feast for the eye to behold. My companion even leaned in to whisper in my ear, "I love looking at this stage". Matt Cook's lighting design enhanced every gothic window, cornice and buttress and was elegantly vibrant with color and intensity. Kendra Dexter's costumes were capably executed with each character's look easily recognizable from memory of the 1960's TV series and then taken up another level with the coordination of a great crew of chorus members in historically diverse representation of the Addams family ancestors.

Vocals under the direction of Cathy Britton were strong and at their peak of intensity in all the right places in the big production numbers. While there were certainly standouts in the area of principal soloists, each performer, regardless of ability, was full on "bringing it" to their character and from witnessing her other work in the community, I am certain it is because she gave them the courage to "go big" in this production. The choreography of Emily Magera was enjoyable to watch and sometimes wildly appropriate to the rhythms and music stylings and always executed with precision.

There were many strong performances in this cast but most notable was that of Wednesday, who was spot on in her characterization of the expressionless girl that blossoms into a young lady with a scathing thirst for passion. Paris Whalen owned the stage with her vocal power and flawless diction. It was pure pleasure to witness her transformation and I hope she has her eye trained on other local theatre opportunities because she could be the kind of actor that "Bowles" audiences over in any given production.

Tristan Taylor as Gomez brought a quirky charm and passion to every interaction onstage and while he is not a vocal power house he created a passionate, comic Gomez for the audience to latch onto. Moriah Plastow portrayed Morticia with a sullen and brooding air and moved onstage with grace. Her ability to project was much appreciated in the first scenes when her body microphone was not working properly. I could still hear and understand her as I sat in the middle of the house. Kudos to you Ms. Plastow, the audience never missed a syllable of your opening lines. Hope Dunkle as Pugsley had some strong moments in her characterizations of the annoying little brother and did an excellent job of performing solo voice work and choreography. She made it look like an absolute blast to be tortured by her sister.

Devin Wolthuizen as Uncle Fester had great vocalization characteristics for his character but proved to also have the vocal chops of an opera virtuoso. His love song and production number dedicated to his obsession with the moon was a feast for the eyes and ears, and gave us some big, bigger and biggest laughs in its progression. Josh Werre as Mal and Ashley Fink as Alice Beineke, the "white bread" Iowan parents of Lucas, (Wednesday's beloved) were awkwardly charming and had some really nice moments together after Alice went "off the rails" at the dinner party. With a little help from a potion slipped to her inadvertently during the traditional family game "Full Disclosure", Ms. Fink became a cyclone of comedy, vocal prowess and indefatigable energy in her own personal "full disclosure." It was a raucous and enticing way to end the first act. Cale Engelkes as Lurch brought the stature and stiffening to his character with adept consistency but was a surprise pinch hitter at the end of the show with vocals, not so much melodic as passionately born of a desire to be seen and heard.

The opening night audience loved that transformation for his character. Raelee Voss and Ben Wollmuth looked like they were having fun with their characters, and that is what is ultimately important in a student production. The cast of Addams Family ancestors was a delightful addition in every scene that they graced. Their dance moves and vocals were top notch. The gentleman who was taller than some of the set pieces and the young lady that dazzled me every time she moved in a dance (and was the aforementioned "contortionist") were standouts in a field of equally committed and enthusiastic ancestral players.

This production of The Addams Family, A New Musical Comedy is a Halloween treat for anyone looking for color and laughter and whimsy this weekend. Audiences will be charmed from the preshow music all the way through to the curtain call with an eerie and kooky representation of a family's story of young love, old love and everything in between.


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