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BWW Reviews: 2 Snaps for KAT's THE ADDAMS FAMILY

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Don't let the pipe and drape surrounded auditorium fool you; Kensington Arts Theatre is very possibly the areas most ambitious community theater. With a penchant for attempting big spectacles like Les Miserables and prestigious, cult musicals like Parade and Assassins, KAT has made a habit of bringing the best and flashiest of Broadway to the small stage of Kensington Town Center. On top of that, in recent years KAT's production value has increased astronomically, with its latest production featuring moving set pieces and animated projections. The new audience riser seating is also a welcome improvement and all but guarantees that any seat you pick, (seating is unassigned), will have a good view. However, the seating remains crowded and the chairs are still uncomfortable.

THE ADDAMS FAMILY features music and lyrics by Andrew Lippa, (YOU'RE A GOOD MAN CHARLIE BROWN, THE WILD PARTY, BIG FISH), and a book by Marshall Brickman and Rick Elice, (JERSEY BOYS). Based on the classic cartoon by Charles Addams, the 2010 Broadway musical follows the eccentrically dark Addams clan as they navigate a family crisis. Oldest child and only daughter Wednesday Addams, performed with major attitude and stunning vocals by Camryn Shegogue, has fallen in love with "normal" Lucas Beineke, played by WATCH winner Ryan Burke. When Wednesday invites Lucas and his parents over for dinner at the Addams' Central Park mansion to announce their engagement things get complicated and this love-themed, sharpwitted romantic comedy gets underway as the Beinekes turn out to not be so normal after.

Along the way Lippa offers plenty of comedic and catchy tunes which the singers on display at this production handle with ease. Throughout the 17-person cast there are plenty of standouts and not a single weak spot. Not every community theater can boast a competent ensemble cast, but the note that Uncle Fester, a joyously hysterical Chuck Dluhy, and the chorus of Addams ancestors hit at the end of "The Moon and Me" is absolutely beautiful. And as the two young lovers, Shegogue and Burke have amazing vocal chemistry, (although the age gap between the two seems a bit large), and their duet in "Crazier Than You" slayed the audience.

Under the baton of conductor and music director Stuart Y. Weich the 15-piece pit orchestra attacks Lippa's dance-filled, red-hot score with vigor. While some of the more epic, orchestral elements of the show pushed the pit past its limits; the plethora of softer ballads gave them plenty of chances to shine. Weich and the pit are placed behind the stage where they don't have direct communication with the performers so understandably there were occasional moments of musical confusion, none more so than the intricate ensemble piece "One Normal Night" in which Dluhy seemed to completely lose the beat. For the most part however, Weich and the performers managed to comfortably stay together under less than ideal circumstances.

Director and KAT founder Craig Pettinati credits THE ADDAMS FAMILY as one of his favorite childhood television shows in the program and that clearly translates to every character's pose in this lovingly blocked homage. His slapstick and funny business is old timey sitcom worthy although the transition from the end of the show to the bows is a bit clumsy and easily confusing. Eleanor Dicks' costumes and Scott Beadle's makeup design stay fairly close to the original Broadway look, but considering how ingrained the Addams' appearance is in popular culture originality is not really expected. Even with these limitations, Dicks' and Beadle's work is highly professional.

When walking into the theater, Matt Karner's colorful and quirky set makes a great first impression, but the shine wore off as various bits of it fell apart or malfunctioned throughout the performance. The most prominent element of the show is the large screen that serves as the backdrop for the stage. The background of each scene are projected onto the screen with animated visuals coordinated by John Nunemaker and created by Broadway Motion Design. Unfortunately, the projections are usually badly timed, always distracting, and never seem to blend in with the rest of the production. Aside from the screen there are animated "paintings" on either side of the stage that change to reflect the scene. These are a little more successful, except when they suddenly stop being so animated or relevant for no apparent reason.

Even on the relatively small stage, choreographer Nick Carter makes the most of the shows many dance breaks. The dancing is well put together but not exactly impressive and at times seems disconnected from the music, as if it was choreographed without the full orchestrations in mind. The high kicks that don't land with the cymbal crashes in "Just Around the Corner" are one example.

Left to right:
Bobby Libby and Laura O'Brien as Gomez and Morticia Addams.

But without a doubt the best thing about THE ADDAMS FAMILY are the Addams' themselves. Bobby Libby jumps out from underneath Nathan Lane's shadow to put on a riotous performance that seems to fill the entire stage as the patriarch of the family, Gomez, while Laura O'Brien beings the heat and sophistication to the role of the matriarch, Morticia. Filling out the rest of the group is immensely talented 7th grader John Ray as younger brother Pugsley who tugs at the audience's heartstrings with a pitch perfect rendition of "What If" and Liz Weber's comic, yet surprisingly heartwarming turn as Grandma.

Like any great community theater production, THE ADDAMS FAMILY doesn't strive for technical perfection. It strives to be the best that it can be, and with obvious passion and the feeling that the people on stage are having as much fun as those in the audience, it succeeds. THE ADDAMS FAMILY is a smile-inducing laugh-fest that brings cheese, heart, and a high-energy score to Kensington Town Center. If only the seats were more comfortable.

Photos by Mark McLaughlin. Article photo depicts entire Addams' family, from left to right: Liz Weber, (Grandma), David "DJ" Wojciekowski, (Lurch), Camryn Shegogue, (Wednesday), Bobby Libby, (Gomez), Laura O'Brien, (Morticia), John Ray, (Pugsley), and Chuck Dluhy, (Fester).

Runtime is 2 hours and 15 minutes with one 15 minute intermission.

THE ADDAMS FAMILY runs November 7, 8, 9, 14, 15, 16, 21, and 22, at 8:15pm on Fridays and Saturdays and 3pm on Sundays at Kensington Town Center 3710 Mitchell Street Kensington, MD 20895. For tickets call 206-888-6642 or visit www.katonline.org.


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