The creepy, kooky Addams Family musical recently haunted my local performing arts center, and, having missed the show’s run on Broadway, I was excited to get the chance to see it. Now, I must preface this review with the fact that this show has had somewhat of a dark cloud floating over it (pun intended), and not merely for the subject matter. From its original pre-Broadway Chicago production through its Broadway run, The Addams Family has suffered the heavy disparagement of many critics. The popular opinion was that the story was confused and the characters untrue to their intended spirits. Overall, the concept that should have been a home run, the beloved franchise launched by the cartoons of Charles Addams and popularized by the successful films, was never perfected for the stage. Thanks to a stellar original Broadway cast featuring Bebe Neuwirth and Nathan Lane (and a later replacement by Brooke Shields), the show ran for over 500 performances on the Great White Way, but its lights dimmed shortly thereafter. Determined to capture the success they thought the show deserved, the creative team rebooted the show for the national tour, and subsequent reviews have found that it has been improved, if not perfected, for its trans-American journey.
As for my opinion (which I hope is not too heavily informed by the scathing reviews I had read over the months), I can certainly see what the critics meant when they accused the characters of being inauthentic. The Gomez and Morticia I know wouldn’t have been so worried about the honesty in their marriage to the point that the relationship became a “now you can sleep on the couch” gag. The Wednesday I know wouldn’t have behaved in such an utterly stereotypically teenaged-girl way, suffering under the crushing embarrassment of her parents and hoping to seem “normal” to her boyfriend’s parents (she is not supposed to be “normal” by any stretch of the imagination). I wish that the writers had found a way to create an engaging and relatable story using the true spirits of the characters, rather than dropping the eccentric bunch into a formulaic story and forcing them to conform. The Addams’ idiosyncratic nature is what endears them to their fans, and a truly successful show would have exploited that and not merely inserted a wink and a nudge to it here and there.
Those reservations aside, the show did have several redeeming qualities. The character of Uncle Fester (played by Blake Hammond) was perhaps the most pleasant surprise. Serving as pseudo-narrator, his addresses to the audience were cheekily humorous, and his Act II song, “The Moon and Me” was the most memorable number. Through some artful staging and optical illusions, he performed a very entertaining air ballet that captured the cartoonish physical comedy that is at the heart of the franchise. The lead actors, Douglas Sills and Sara Gettelfinger as Gomez and Morticia, respectively, did commendable jobs carrying the brunt of the work (it is certainly not his fault that Gomez’ frequent soliloquies and solo songs sometimes made me weary of “The Gomez Show”). Wednesday (played by Cortney Wolfson) was charming and committed to her new identity as the lovestruck teen struggling to find a balance between her family’s way of life and her new aspirations. Her song, “Pulled” is one of the catchiest moments in the show, and her duet with boyfriend Lucas (played by Brian Justin Crum), “Crazier Than You” was charmingly performed and is certainly a hummable tune.
Overall, The Addams Family was an enjoyable experience with several genuinely laugh-out-loud moments, a few memorable songs, and a talented cast. Perhaps its biggest fault is the nagging belief that it could have been so much more faithful to the spirit of the Addams’ we already know and love. Though it wasn’t as exhilarating or touching as the best shows I have seen, its quirky appeal makes it worth a look for all of you fellow oddball fans out there.