There are always good reasons to venture out of Anne Arundel County to catch a production at Toby's Dinner Theatre in Columbia, but the theater's current offering, "The Addams Family," offers a few extra incentives — three local residents in key roles.
Annapolis native David Bosley-Reynolds, whose many leading roles at Toby's include Tevye in "Fiddler on the Roof," Daddy Warbucks in "Annie" and the king of Siam in "The King and I" takes on the role of Lurch, the family butler.
Elizabeth Rayca of Hanover, in her fifth major role at Toby's, plays the "normal family" mother Alice Beinecke.
And Andre Hinds — an Anne Arundel Community College Dance Company alumnus and Glen Burnie resident now appearing in his fifth Toby's show — appears as an Addams ancestor who comes back from the dead to liven up the stage with dance.
The Addams Family first appeared in cartoons by Charles Addams. In the 1960s, "The Addams Family" was a hit on TV, starring Baltimore native and Johns Hopkins University alumnus John Astin as Gomez Addams and Carolyn Jones as his wife, Morticia. The family was revivified in musical form on Broadway in 2010.
Toby's production marks the musical's regional debut, and the theater's in-the-round setting offers an up-close look at the show's black comedy.
Providing his usual expert direction and choreography, five-time Helen Hayes Award nominee Mark Minnick seems destined for a sixth with this production. He has selected a cast of Toby's regulars who work comfortably together.
Set designer David Hopkins creates a ghoulish Gothic setting, with cobweb-festooned chandeliers and hidden torture chambers.
The musical score by Andrew Lippa is adequate — its melodies less exciting than the clever lyrics. Lippa's music is well-served by Toby's musical director, Ross Scott Rawlings, who alternates as conductor/keyboardist with Doug Lawler and Nathan Scavilla.
Heading Toby's cast is Lawrence Munsey as Gomez, adding another memorable comic role to a growing list of his successes. He portrays a warmly weird Gomez, who comfortably straddles the roles of loving husband to Morticia, protective father of children Wednesday and Pugsley, and tolerant caretaker of ancestors who regularly return from the beyond.
Whether advising Wednesday in her romantic pursuit of a conventional boy named Lucas or interacting with those long-departed family members, Munsey commands every scene with unerring timing — as well as shining vocal and dance skills — admirably displayed in "Tango de Amor."
Patricia Cuellar is an equal partner as Morticia, expressing maternal concern for daughter and son while alternately expressing love for and annoyance with Gomez. She displays strength of character when challenging Gomez's decision to withhold information from her about Wednesday's relationship with Lucas — and is stronger still in her singing abilities, shining in "Secrets" and "Just Around the Corner."
Central to the plot is Wednesday — well played by MaryKate Brouillet — who's confused by her newfound love for Lucas. She fears her friend's family might find her clan strange, unless she can persuade them to act normally for one family dinner.
At last Sunday's performance, Pugsley was well played by Jace Franco, who shares the role with Gavin Willard. Franco conveyed Pugsley's comfort in his strange family and delivered a great duet with Wednesday in "Pulled."
David James steals every scene as Grandma. James trudges around, hunched over by advanced years, but retains a strange wisdom that includes a talent for mixing dangerous potions. James also shines as a member of mixed vocal choruses.
As the wordless Lurch, Bosley-Reynolds commands every scene through superbly controlled facial expressions. His gait reflects disciplined art as he shuffles in 5-inch platform soles — they were especially ordered, and add to his already imposing height of more than 6 feet.
Rising to the occasion in a major climactic scene, Bosley-Reynolds conveys intense emotional depth that teems beneath his outward silence.
Shawn Kettering creates a gently endearing Uncle Fester, connecting the family narrative together and singing of love in "The Moon and Me," a solo that sets up an enchanting scene as he flies to his destination.
Peak comic moments are provided by Rayca as Alice Beineke, who is liberated by Grandma's potion (slipped her by Pugsley) to denounce her loveless marriage.
Exceedingly off-beat and professionally polished, "The Addams Family" runs through April 19 at Toby's Dinner Theatre. Tickets, which include a buffet dinner, are available at 410-730-8311.