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Theater Review: ‘Addams Family’ snaps in Civic LV debut

“The Addams Family” is one of the best productions in the annals of Civic Theatre of Allentown.

It captures the spirit, frivolity and wackiness of the characters of the original Charles Addams’ cartoons published in The New Yorker 1938 - 1988, “The Addams Family” TV show (1964 - ’66), and “The Addams Family” theatrical movie (1991).

The musical comedy, with music and lyrics by Andrew Lippa and a book by Marshall Brickman and Rick Elice, ran on Broadway April 2010 - December 2011 and was nominated for two Tony Awards. The North American tour began in September 2011. There was an international tour 2013-14. Civic Theatre’s production is the Lehigh Valley regional theater debut.

In his inspired envisioning, Civic Theatre Artistic Director Williams Sanders, director-choreographer, with co-choreographer Gwen Swanson Vigorito and assistant director Giuseppina DeMatteo, stays true to the source material in Civic’s “The Addams Family,” weekends through Oct. 25, in costuming (Will Morris and Nina Reilly) and wigs (Kim Danish), set design (Ann Beyersdorfer) and scenic art (Jan Joyce), lighting design (Will Morris), music (an 11-piece orchestra, conducted and with music direction by Steve Reisteter and with sound design by Helena Confer) and casting (of 23 Lehigh Valley actors).

Not to diminish the importance of the superb production values (and they are) of the Civic show, but casting is all, especially with “The Addams Family” and Sanders nailed it, starting with Jarrod Yuskauskas as Gomez.

Yuskauskas, one of the Valley’s preeminent actors who opened Civic’s 2014 season opener, “Young Frankenstein,” as Frederick Frankenstein, played Horace Vandergelder in the 2015 Muhlenberg Summer Music Theater’s “Hello, Dolly!” and is Director of Theatre, Moravian Academy, gets better and better with each production.

As Gomez, Yuskauskas strikes a regal bearing, dashing in a gray suit, and evokes a clueless aplomb with a slight accent that delightfully undercuts his authority figure. Several numbers showcases Yuskauskas’s magnificent voice, including “Wednesday’s Growing Up,” “Trapped” and “Not Today.”

Mariah Dalton, a senior theater major at Muhlenberg College, is a revelation as Morticia. She languishes luxuriously in a plunging V-neck bodice and floor-sweeping leather dress that cinches in her body with little room for movement, giving the impression she’s on the moving sidewalk at O’Hare Airport as she simpers across the stage. Dalton has a lovely voice, featured in “Secrets” (with Alyssa Haning, a senior theater major at Muhlenberg College, as Alice), “Just Around The Corner” and “Live Before We Die” (with Yuskauskas).

Andrea Cartagena, who shaved her head for the role of Fester, is amazingly funny, and acquits herself well vocally in “Fester’s Manifesto,” “But Love” and “The Moon And Me” (with wonderful vocal accompaniment by The Addams’ Family Ancestors, which is true throughout the show).

Emilie Leynes, a junior theater-music major at Muhlenberg College, is a real sourpuss as Wednesday), and that’s perfect. She is delightful. Leynes is strong vocally in “Pulled” and “Crazier Than You” (with Thomas Riley as Lucas, a junior at Emmaus High School; Robert Clausnitzer as Mal, and Haning).

Christian Clausnitzer as Pugsley has some especially nice moments in “What If.” Logan McCabe, a Muhlenberg College student, is a stunning presence as Lurch. Marie Ann Sutera is sprightly and feisty as Grandmama. Jordan King is funny as Cousin Itt.

The Addams Family Ancestors, who provide excellent movement to back-drop the scenes, as well as impressive choral work, are: Guiliana Augello, Nina Elias, August Fegley, Abby Garza, Elizabeth Gonzalez, Zoli Heft, Denis Long, Krista Maxwell, Sarah Nekich, Luke Raso, Kristen Stachina and Aubree Williams.

The opening night audience at “The Addams Family” snapped their fingers and clapped along to the overture and, from the opening “When You’re An Addams,” was in synch with the merriment on stage. Under the direction of Sanders, the cast vamps, stomps and dances with an energy and brio that is wonderful to behold. The dialogue is clever, witty and pun-filled.

You won’t have a better time when you visit “The Addams Family” at Civic Theatre of Allentown. It’s the perfect show to usher in the season of Halloween.

“The Addams Family,” 7:30 p.m. Oct. 15, 16, 17, 22, 23, 24; 2 p.m. Oct. 18, 25, Civic Theatre of Allentown, Nineteenth Street Theatre, 527 N. 19th St., Allentown. Discount tickets for groups of 10 or more. All seats reserved. Free parking along Liberty and Allen near 19th Street and in the Wells Fargo Bank parking lot, 19th and Liberty streets, after banking hours. Tickets: Civic Theatre Box Office, CivicTheatre.com, 610-432-8943

PHOTO BY WAYNE CONFER“The Addams Family,” 7:30 p.m. Oct. 15, 16, 17, 22, 23, 24; 2 p.m. Oct. 18, 15, Civic Theatre of Allentown, Nineteenth Street Theatre, 527 N. 19th St., Allentown