The Addams Family was a campy 1960’s TV series that was based on characters created by Charles Addams. His creations include a butler that speaks in grunts, a boy who lives for torture, and a husband and wife who have incredible libido. When this musical came to Broadway, it was universally slammed by every major critic. They all said, “It’s too campy.” Then they also said that the score by Andrew Lippa had nothing new and was bland. Readers I ask you, is there anything wrong with a nice light fluffy musical with a score that is reminiscent of the musicals of the 1950s and 60s? I say absolutely not and for this and other reasons I recommend you grab your favorite torture device, bring a date, and see The Addams Family at The Kennedy Center.
The basic plot of the show is not new but so what. Daughter Wednesday Adams (Cortney Wolfson) is in love with Lucas Beineke (Brian Justin Crum) who comes from a “normal” family. All Wednesday wants is one normal night to break the news to Morticia. That is your set-up. DA DA DA DA Snap Snap! If the plot sounds like one for a sitcom, it most definitely is, but the way it is presented in the musical makes it quite theatrical.
When I saw the show in NYC, I did have a problem with Nathan Lane as Gomez Adams. The problem was Nathan Lane was playing Nathan Lane. Here Douglas Sills gives a wonderful take on the Father of the clan. Plus, he has great chemistry with the very talented Sara Gettelfinger as his wife Morticia. The supporting cast is equally good. Blake Hammond as Uncle Fester, Gomez’s brother who can make a light bulb light up in his mouth, gives a heartwarming performance of a man in love with the moon. Pippa Pearthree is hilarious as Grandma, although there is some question as to whom she is actually related. As Wednesday Addams, Cortney Wolfson is charming and has one of the best songs in the show, “Pulled.” Young Patrick D. Kennedy gives a solid performance as the mischievous son, Puglsy. Tom Corbeil as Lurch makes the most out of his stage time. As the Beinekes, Martin Vidnovic (Mal) Gaelen Gilliland (Alice) who speaks in rhyme and Brian Justin Crum (Lucas) all turn in solid performances as the “normal” ones. I did think Wolfson and Crum made a nice couple and this proves that normalcy is in the eye of the beholder.
Holding the show together is Production Supervisor Jerry Zaks, who was called in during the NY run to help original directors Phelim McDermott and Julian Crouch. Zaks’s trademark comic direction is used to full advantage. It is never over camped, but it is enough to give you a sense of what Addams’s characters are like.
Sergio Trujillo’s choreography adds so much to the musical numbers, particularly in the opening song.
Andrew Lippa’s score has everything that an old fashioned score should have. It starts with a big opening number, “When You’re an Addams” and continues with plot numbers like “One Normal Night” and “Full Disclosure,” in which you have to tell your family members something you have never told them before. Lippa ends it all with a great closer called “Move Toward The Darkness.” The score fits the book by Marshall Brickman and Rick Elice like a glove and the songs move the plot as opposed to stopping it dead in its tracks.
… I recommend you grab your favorite torture device, bring a date, and see ‘The Addams Family’ at The Kennedy Center.
Anyone that reads my stuff here at MTG knows that I am a big proponent of good orchestration. Here is a case where a good score is made to sound spectacular by Tony Award winning orchestrator Larry Hochman. There are only 12 players in the orchestra, but, with Hochman’s mastery of his art, it sounds considerably bigger. It also helps when you have a good conductor and Valerie Gebert is more than capable in this role.
The physical elements, while not as grand as those used in the New York production, do not look cheap. Mcdermott and Crouch’s sets and costumes capture the characters very well and because this is a tour there are more drops than hard pieces used.
This show ran for over 700 performances in NYC with negative reviews. Is it the greatest musical ever written? No it isn’t. Is it the worst musical I have ever seen? NO! The Addams Family is the kind of show that maybe the critics don’t want anymore. It is not groundbreaking and the score is from a bygone era. Having said that, I highly recommend you catch this production. The cast is great and the music is something that a lot of modern day scores are not—hummable. It is a good way to spend a summer evening in the theatre. Plus you have the added bonus of watching it on the stage of Kennedy Center’s Opera House stage.
Running Time: Two hours and 25 minutes with one intermission.
The Addams Family plays through July 29th in the Kennedy Center Opera House – 2700 F St NW, in Washington, D.C. For tickets call 202-467-4600, or purchase them online.