Wednesday, April 11, 2012

The Addams Family

ADDAMS FAMILY at Playhouse Square generally entertainment

I saw the first preview performance of THE ADAMS FAMILY A NEW MUSICAL COMEDY in Chicago. The production was long, extremely long. Many in the audience left at intermission, most had left when the final curtain fell.

I understand there was a great deal of rewriting before the show opened on Broadway. In spite of a cast featuring Nathan Lane as Gomez and Bebe Neuwirth as Morticia, when the 2010 Great White Way production opened, the critics reacted with attacks on the music, the script and the cast.

Fortunately, the touring production , now on stage at the Palace Theatre, while not the greatest evening of theatre, is humorous in parts, has lost lots of its unnecessary bulk, is a reasonable length, and is generally entertaining. Most importantly, the cast is quite good and though there was some fleeing at intermission, much of the audience came back and gave the show a standing ovation. But, let’s be honest, it was a Cleveland automatic standing O that is mandatory for everything from a kindergarten show in which the scenery falls down to an amazing production like last season’s NEXT TO NORMAL.

THE ADDAMS FAMILY, with music and lyrics by Andrew Lippa and book by Marshall Brickman and Rick Elice, who were responsible for THE JERSEY BOYS, is based on the cartoon characters of Charles Addams. Yes, it depicts the ghoulish, eccentric, macabre family chronicled in the single-panel epics that were darkly humorous and had unbelievably strange characters. These were the same persons who were in the two season-television show, several animated cartoons, and three motion pictures.

The show’s North American tour began in September of 2011. Before it went on the road, more rewriting took place. It appears that those adjustments helped make the show more entertaining.

What goes on in this off-beat take on 19th Century Gothic? Wednesday, the family’s ghoulish daughter has fallen in love with a sweet, smart young man from a respectable family. Of course, no good can come from this, as we watch family ghosts come out of the cemetery to join Uncle Fester, Grandma, Pugsley and Lurch, bedazzle and confound us.

The music, none of which has hit song potential, helps develop the moods, especially the theme song which had the audience clapping on cue. Not being a well-integrated musical, some of the song and dance numbers could be cut with no loss of story line continuity. One Normal Night was clever, But Love was cute, and Uncle Fester (Blake Hammond) stopped the show with The Moon and Me.

This is a full-scale production. The sets are complex, the large pit orchestra excellent, the costumes well-conceived. Floating people and a moon landing, special effects, and puppets help create the fun.

Douglas Sills gave a Gomez interpretation that stuck with the original concept of Charles Addams, rather than making the role into a series of shticks, which was the case with Nathan Lane. Blake Hamm

ond was a total delight as Uncle Fester, as was Pippa Pearthree as Grandma. Cortney Wolfson was acceptable as Wednesday.

Clevelander Patrick Kennedy, who many in the audience may have seen in such productions as SECRET GARDEN at Near West Theatre, has a nice singing voice and made for a cute Pugsley, the kid who loves to be tortured. Tom Corbeil could have been a little stiffer and more exaggerated as Lurch, but displayed a nice singing voice. Crista Moore was a hoot as Alice, Wednesday’s boyfriend’s mother.

The only real cast disappointment was Sara Gettelfinger as Morticia. Maybe it’s the way the role is written because Bebe Neuwirth didn’t do much with the part either.

CAPSULE JUDGEMENT: Don’t go to see THE ADDAMS FAMILY expecting to see great theatre, it isn’t, but, based on the response of the opening night audience, most people should enjoy themselves.