Keeping it Kooky with ‘The Addams Family’

Photo of two performers onstage. One is dressed in all black and the other wears a black and white striped shirt and is chained to a wall.
Michaela Tassone and Massimo Recupero as Wednesday and Pugsley Addams. Photo by Kendra Johnston.

Since my first dreary days as an ArtSci frosh, getting stuck in a crowd of Queen’s students has been a surefire way to bring out my inner Wednesday Addams. As I stood in the Rotunda Theatre’s packed lobby on Thursday evening, noisy whirls of preview-night chatter ricocheting in my ears, I felt a distinct urge to crawl deeper into my own skin. When I realized my arms were crossed and my brow furrowed, I had to laugh at myself. What better way to walk into The Addams Family?

Following their 1938 debut in Charles Addams’ single-panel gag cartoons, this offbeat clan of weirdos has been featured in a wide array of media—television in the 1960s, film in the 1990s, and most recently, a 2022 coming-of-age Netflix series about the family’s eldest child, Wednesday. This spring, Queen’s Musical Theatre (QMT) offers a production of The Addams Family, a 2010 Broadway musical with music and lyrics by Andrew Lippa and book by Marshall Brickman and Rick Elice. 

When Wednesday (Michaela Tassone) asks Gomez (Lucas Nasu Nielsen) to keep a secret from Morticia (Maria Kapoglis), Gomez finds himself stuck between his daughter and his wife. Morticia quickly picks up on Gomez’s deceit, and, loathing dishonesty, she gives him the cold shoulder, which drives her fervently devoted husband to despair. Meanwhile, Wednesday’s new boyfriend, Lucas (Jacob Skiba), prepares his own dysfunctional—but decidedly mainstream—family for their first dinner at the Addams’ house, while Pugsley (Massimo Recupero) plots against his sister’s burgeoning relationship. Doing his best to save the day, Uncle Fester (Ryan Killoran) enlists a posse of ghostly Addams ancestors to intervene in the name of love. 

Directed by Dominique DelBen, The Addams Family is a playful end-of-semester escape into a quirky world of ghoulish romance, sinister siblings, and—spookiest of all—awkward dinner conversation. With credibly creepy choreography by Laura Gillis and snappy costumes designed by Carolyn Moeller, the talented ensemble is set up for success from the top of the opening number. Though the songs themselves are not especially memorable, they’re performed with spirit, and the comedy is highly effective (I still giggle when I remember the monster under the bed). Kathleen Greening’s lighting design illuminates Wil Taylor’s sparse set, and the lighting cues are executed sharply, complementing Gomez’s humorous asides and bringing mysterious beauty to romantic moments. 

Tassone’s characterization is spot-on—while there are flickers of Jenny Ortega and Christina Ricci now and then, the Wednesday she channels is very much her own. In “Pulled”, Tassone demonstrates precise facial control and immense vocal power, giving us a peek into the sensitive young woman behind the menacing stare. Skiba is sweet as the tenderhearted Lucas, and his parents, Alice (Grace Holmes) and Mal (Jude Campanelli-Henderson), are electrically weird in their calculated normalcy—perhaps even weirder than our Gomez and Morticia, but more on that in a moment. Holmes brings delightfully kooky leading lady energy to a fairly minor role, and her outburst in “Waiting” is as sensational as it is surprising. 

As Pugsley, Recupero is perfectly unsettling, wide-eyed and impish with an ever-so-slightly nightmarish grin. Aiden Robert Bruce makes a spectacular Lurch, bringing the towering butler to hilarious undead life. The ultimate show-stealer is Killoran, whose portrayal of Fester has to be my favourite thing about this production—he’s bumbling and sincere with just the right level of cartoonish charm to be completely endearing. Fester’s dance with the Moon (Kimmy D’Souza) is adorably absurd, and I was especially impressed with Killoran’s seamless ability to maintain the nasal character voice through song and dialogue. Next you’ll be telling me he’s not really bald!

And what about Gomez and Morticia? The couple-costume classic? The king and queen of goths in love? As Gomez, Nielsen leads the gang with suave style, delivering a confident and polished performance that will likely find more room for fun as the show continues its run into mid-April. For her part, after a cold first act, Kapoglis slowly eases into the sophisticated softness of Morticia, and she’s transcendent in the long-awaited tango scene (tango choreography by Sirin and Arth from Kingston Argentine Tango Club). 

While Gomez and Morticia eventually find their rhythm, there’s something altogether ooky about their dynamic in the first act—they bear an eerie resemblance to an average unhappily married couple, which strikes me as sacrilege. Maybe we’re meant to take it as a given that this tense situation—Gomez lying to Morticia for Wednesday’s sake and Morticia planning to leave the family—is highly unusual, and that, under normal (or normally abnormal) circumstances, they’d be wildly drawn to each other. Still, I wanted to see more longing in their tension—I found it hard to believe that, even in the throes of conflict, there wouldn’t be an underlying pull of desire or a hint of slinkiness in Morticia’s withdrawal from her husband. 

The Addams Family’s whole ‘thing’ is that, despite their macabre exterior, they are happy with their unconventional life, and deeply bonded together in love. Notwithstanding the nitpicks I have about the leading couple (and, listen, I’m at my nitpickiest when it comes to the things I love best), the family’s ardent adoration does come through by the end, and there is plenty of mirth and morbidity to keep the show afloat even in its rough patches. I have high hopes for QMT’s run of The Addams Family—of the student shows I’ve seen in recent years, this is the one I’d be most likely to go back and watch a second time, noisy Queen’s students be damned. Snap, snap!

Queen’s Musical Theatre presents ‘The Addams Family’ at Rotunda Theatre in Theological Hall from April 4th to 14th, 2024. Tickets and more information can be found here.