The cast of “The Addams Family” (Rae Kauffman)
The White Theatre has opened its 18th season with a production of the 2009 monster hit musical The Addams Family, though not without some challenges along the way. Opening night was beset with technical difficulties, including two (!) fire alarms (both false alarms) close to the beginning of the show and some sound issues that persisted throughout. But the company persevered and gave the audience a charming, hilariously spooky good time.
The musical centers on the classic characters created by Charles Addams more than 80 years ago—the beloved, comedically macabre Addams Family—along with a chorus of deceased Addams ancestors. The family finds itself in the midst of a bit of an identity crisis as their sadistic, perpetually grim-faced eldest child Wednesday (Mia Cabrera) has fallen in love with a clean-cut, all-American, perfectly “normal” boy, Lucas (Ben Renfrow). A scheduled dinner with the two families meeting for the first time is a gratifying backdrop for an array of hijinks.
Cabrera is exceptional as Wednesday, an impressive standout in a cast that’s solid across the board. It’s not just her extraordinary belt; Cabrera captures the heart and the humor of her character and even holds her own against the show’s biggest scene-stealer, 10-year-old Sutton Hamm. As younger sibling Pugsley, Hamm is wickedly, disturbingly adorable. Every sentence she utters is a deeply morbid laugh line that 100% lands. But it is Cabrera that drives the show. That she is approximately the same age as her teenage character is remarkable.
There is another standout in this play that will be hard for the audience to take their eyes off of, and that’s Jeremy Smith’s incredible set. An imposing, even menacing mammoth of cascading levels, it’s hard to call Smith’s set a backdrop, as that implies it exists in the background. This set is forcefully front and center from the show’s opening moments to its curtain call.
Director and co-choreographer Guy Gardner does a wonderful job infusing this spooky-season modern classic with whimsical buoyancy. False-alarm fire alarms aside, this is a fantastic start to their new season.
“The Addams Family” runs at The White Theatre at the Jewish Community Center of Greater Kansas City (5801 W 115 Street, Overland Park, KS) through November 20. For more information, visit thewhitetheatre.org.