Dark humor abounds at the CMPAC for ‘The Addams Family’

Dark humor abounds at the CMPAC for ‘The Addams Family’

The cast of ‘The Addams Family,’ from left, Terry Brennan, Daniel Belyansky, Jon Rivera, Steven Cottonaro, Gina Morgigno, Denise Antonelle and Marc Slomowitz. Photo by Timothy Pappalardo

By Charles J. Morgan

Deep, dark, dank and dusty were the living quarters of the cartoon-famous Addams Family immortalized by Charles Addams and carried forward by the long-running TV series. Just in time for Halloween, Oakdale’s CM Performing Arts Center’s Noel S. Ruiz Theatre has produced it in all its necropolitic splendor and funereal solemnity. And by the way … it’s a musical.

Given CMPAC’s penchant for grand and opulent staging, it was phenomenally successful. The ubiquitous and talented Patrick Grossman designed the set with its precise and swift and sure mobility. With keenly executed lighting plot by Carl Tese, the show’s dark and dreary set was suffused with appropriate ominous light including graveyard mist.

Grossman also directed and his skills with blocking and interpretation were palpably patent. CMPAC’s massive venue poses a problem for the making and breaking of character compositions in a coherent, logical (real?) manner. Theatrically, Grossman succeeded mightily in this. When it came to interpretation he did a credible job inculcating “spookiness.”

Jon Rivera, in the role of Gomez, has the dominant role. His voice, somewhere between a tenor robusto and dramatico, carried him emotionally through all his numbers such as “Wednesday’s Growing Up” and “Gomez’s What If” in Act I. He focuses emotion and sturdiness with masterful acumen.

Denise Antonelle, as his wife Morticia, has a firm soprano coupled with a voluptuous stage presence and a projection ability commingled with exceptional clarity. Their daughter Wednesday was played by Gina Morgigno. Morgigno was ingénue-like in her movements and that plangent voice in Act I’s “Pulled” and “Crazier Than You” in Act II ranked her as a first rate actress-singer. Fifth-grader Daniel Belyansky, who plays Pugsley, is wonderful in his solo number in Act I, a take-off on Gomez’s number “What If.” He has a strong developing voice, and this showcase number may mark him for much to come.

With a massive blonde wig, Terry Brennan plays Grandma, launching her scratchy, boisterious voice in earthy aphorisms, brooking no opposition from anyone. Marc Slomowitz as Uncle Fester had a sort of a parallel role. He had mobility, especially facial, and was hilarious in “Fester’s Manifesto” in Act I and “The Moon and Me” in Act II.

Then there was Lurch the butler. It was a silent role except for his gurgling and growling, the timing of which evoked some loud laughter, especially from your scribe. Steve Cottonaro handled this role with mimetic menace.

As usual, Matthew W. Surico led a live pit band with his expected genius. There was somewhat of a preponderance of Latin rhythms ranging from tango to 6/8 time Bossa Nova, even a waltz. The musical talents of this 12-piece outfit rose to resplendent heights. Choreography was in the hands of the skilled M.E. Junge who also played a small part as one of the Ancestors while costumes were neatly handled by Ronald Green III.

If the audience’s whooping and howling are any indication of the success of this production, it must be a smash hit. Your scribe more tacitly agrees.

The CM Performing Arts Center, 931 Montauk Highway, Oakdale will present “The Addams Family” through Nov. 8. Tickets range from $20 to $29. For more information, call 631-218-2810 or visit www.cmpac.com.

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