The Theater Barn / Oldcastle Theatre Company: ‘The Addams Family’ / ‘My Fair Lady’: Two musicals out of tune


NEW LEBANON, N.Y. -- The Theater Barn struck box office gold last summer with Mel Brooks’ "Young Frankenstein." In the hope of box office lightning striking twice, the theater this summer is offering the regional premiere of another Broadway fright musical "The Addams Family." And once again, Bert Bernardi is at the directorial helm.

Alas, like "Young Frankenstein," Bernardi’s talents and those of his cast are in the employ of a forgettable score and an all-too conventional storyline -- daughter brings her would-be fiance and his straitlaced parents home to meet her quirky, disapproving mother, Morticia (Victoria Weinberg) and approving father, Gomez (Jimmy Johansmeyer) while her bratty, jealous brother, Pugsley (Adam Salerno) tries to derail his sister’s plans and her uncle, Fester (Andrew Berlin) encourages her -- that ignores the sublime uncoventionality of its title characters.

While Theater Barn alum Andrew Lippa’s score may be undistinguished, Rick Elice and Marshall Brickman pepper their mundane, uneven book with some deliciously sly throwaway oneliners that hint at the wittier show this might have been. One of the best of these is an absolutely inspired sight gag inolving Amy Fiebke’s feisty potion- brewing Grandma and her sagging breasts.

The spirit of cartoonist Charles Addams lives in Teresa Witt’s Wednesday, Gomez and Morticia’s daughter; a headstrong girl who wears menace and danger like the most subtly applied perfume. Delicious.


BENNINGTON, Vt. -- Listening to Scott McGowan’s Prof. Henry Higgins routinely stretch vowels and add syllables to final consonants and vowels -- "you-wa," "soul-ah," "g-i-i-r-r-l-ah" -- in Oldcastle Theatre Company’s pre-Theatre 101 "My Fair Lady," you can’t help but wonder whether he learned how to speak English from his Hungarian rival, Zoltan Kaparthy.

Under Frank Latson’s direction, McGowan is a study in perpetual motion, while he sings Higgins’ songs full out rather than treat them as monologues set to music. McGowan is an actor who barely listens to, let alone connects with, the other actors on the stage.

Emma Ritchie’s Eliza Doolittle fares little better. There’s no trace of Eliza’s hearty, defiant, spitfire nature. Rather than give back as good as she gets from Higgins in her arguments with him, her tone is pleading, compliant.

Ritchie has a pleasant enough soprano voice, which she reminds us of with every measured, soft vocal-recital delivery of her songs, even when something more vibrant and propulsive -- "Show Me," "Without You" -- is required.

As, respectively, Alfred P. Doolittle, Higgins’ mother, Higgins’ housekeeper Mrs. Pearce and Colonel Pickering, Richard Howe, Christine Decker, Trudi Posey and particularly Peter Langstaff find sense and style.

Music director Tim Howard’s single-piano accompaniment is anemic (Capital Repertory Theatre in Albany, N.Y. used two pianos in its 2009 chamber production); Phyllis Chapman’s costuming often defies credibility, not to mention taste.

From a technical standpoint, Latson’s appropriately reduced-size production moves inventively and efficiently. In the end, however, this "Lady" is more impoverished than fair.


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