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Sunday, 18 April 2010 12:06

Broadway Review: THE ADDAMS FAMILY

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Nathan Lane and Bebe Neuwirth in The Addams Family
Nathan Lane and Bebe Neuwirth in
The Addams Family

Photo: Joan Marcus

As the highly publicized and troubled new musical The Addams Family moved into town, there appeared to be sharks in their moat at the smell of fresh blood. The critics have weighed in on the new Broadway musical and it wasn't pretty. If you look at this musical under the microscope of strict musical theatre composition, music, script, plot and character development, no, it's not very good. But once again, there is some good to be found here and some fun to be had.

The musical is based on the dark humor of Charles Addams and his cartoons for "The New Yorker." In truly comic book fashion this musical does treat scenes as panels with just a hint of a storyline tying them together. Wednesday Addams, played by Krysta Rodriguez is dating Lucas, a straight-laced kid played by Wesley Taylor. He doesn't have the least bit of macabre sensibility and the Addams family isn't happy.

The incomparable Nathan Lane plays family patriarch Gomez. Fellow Tony Award winner Bebe Neuwirth is Morticia in a role that sadly doesn't showcase her talents, perhaps with the exception of the odd dance number here and there in which she gets to show off her dancing prowess. Of the two of them, Lane walks away with the show and the audience eats it up. Lane is at his hammy best as he entertains the potential future inlaws at a dinner party in a plot ripped right out of La Cage aux Folles. Broadway veterans Carolee Carmello and Terrence Mann play Lucas' parents, Alice and Mal. She is an overly cheerful walking Hallmark card, spouting precious rhymes and he is a man with an aquatic fetish.

The Cast of The Addams Family
Adam Riegler, Jackie Hoffman, Bebe Neuwirth, Nathan Lane, Kevin Chamberlin, Krysta Rodriguez and Zachary James in
The Addams Family
Photo: Joan Marc

Another glimmering facet in the Addams family is Kevin Chamberlin as the outlandish Uncle Fester. He has one of the evenings better songs, "The Moon and Me" where he sings of his love for the moon. Co-designers Phelim McDermott and Julian Crouch who also share directing credit have created a nice visual for this number by flying Chamberlin a la Elphaba in Wicked. While Chamberlin pines for the moon, Jackie Hoffman shoots for the moon and winds up somewhere further out in outer space. Her turn as Grandma is wickedly demented and off the charts. A very tall Zachary James is the somewhat dead, knuckle-dragging Lurch with a voice that makes the theatre rumble. Pugsley is played by Adam Riegler in one of the roles that most closely resembles a Charles Addams character.

Basil Twist, a third-generation puppeteer provides some of the evening's feature creatures like a mouse eating venus flytrap, a demented curtain tassel, and the giant squid in the basement. In general the theatre craft in this production is top-drawer.

I only wish I could say the same thing of the music by Andrew Lippa. Lippa's last Broadway outing was writing the music for The Wild Party. Sadly, the music is mostly forgettable. The book by Marshall Brickman and Rick Elice at least has humor on its side which the sharp cast makes the most of. Jerry Zaks was brought in late in the Chicago run to help improve the show. The two directors were kept on but according to producers, Zaks was calling the shots.

In an age when we are forced daily to deal with financial crisis, war, cataclysmic natural disasters and the like, it's a relief to have something like The Addams Family to take us away from all that. Could it have been better, yes. Will you get a big bang for your theatrical buck, yes. I'm predicting that this summer The Addams Family will continue its threatening lead at the box office as the tourists flock to Manhattan in search of some relief to what has become a tedious and depressing reality. Let's face it, very little in life is perfect but you have to realize a good time when you see one, The Addams Family is a good time.

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View full production credits at the Internet Broadway Database.

Last modified on Saturday, 26 March 2011 18:42