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The Kooky, Ooky, Spooky Addams Family Musical

Maija Gustin | Thursday, January 14, 2010

They’re creepy and their kooky, mysterious and spooky, they’re all together ooky, the Addams Family! And so it goes for the new Broadway-bound musical, which just finished its preview run in Chicago, based on the infamous kooky, spooky and ooky family first created in comic strips by Charles Addams. “The Addams Family,” with music and lyrics by Andrew Lippa (“The Wild Party”) and a book by Marshall Brickman and Rick Elice (“Jersey Boys”), takes those original cartoon characters to craft a new story about Gomez, Morticia, Uncle Fester and the rest of the gang. Anjelica Huston (star of the 1990s films) and John Astin (Gomez in the original television series) are long gone, but have been fondly replaced with a group of seasoned Broadway veterans and a few promising newcomers.

Nathan Lane, star of both the Broadway musical and the film “The Producers,” stars as Gomez Addams, the tango-loving patriarch of the family, while Bebe Neuwirth (“Fame,” “Cheers”) plays Morticia, the sultry first lady of the Addams clan, who feels she has lost her edge with the onset of wrinkles. When their daughter Wednesday, played by Krysta Rodriguez (“Spring Awakening”), invites her boyfriend, Lucas Beineke (Wesley Taylor), over for dinner, shenanigans ensue. Unlike the bizarre Addams family, the Beinekes, including father Mal (Terrence Mann of “Les Miserables”) and mother Alice (Carolee Carmello of “Urinetown”), are just too normal. And while the love struck Uncle Fester (Kevin Chamberlin of “Seussical”) just wants to spread the love, scheming little brother Pugsley (Adam Riegler of “Shrek”) gets into some trouble with a mysterious potion, and the dinner party goes awry.

“The Addams Family” starts off a little slow and really doesn’t seem to click. But, after a few more scenes and a bit more time for the actors to get into character, the show finally hits its stride when the whole Addams family appears on stage and snaps along to the memorable television theme song. You know the one. The infectious snaps signal the start of something awesome, riddled with innuendos, connotations and cultural references (such as “This little piggy had swine flu”), plus some great music and a few funny twists and turns.

The story is unexpected, perhaps a little too upbeat for typical “Addams Family” faire, but is lead by such an exciting cast of characters, that the change seems just right. Lane’s comedic timing is perfect, as always, and he plays Gomez with a little less swagger, but a lot more wit than his predecessors. And while Neuwirth’s voice sounds a bit odd as Morticia, she plays the character with enough conviction that you can’t take your eyes off her. Their chemistry is palpable and their scenes together are some of the best.
The supporting characters are great as well. Mann and Carmello channel Brad and Janet from “The Rocky Horror Picture Show” and never fail to surprise and impress the audience. Chamberlin makes a great Fester, really standing as the centerpiece to the whole show. Rodriguez proves to be a talented young performer and certainly has a big career ahead of her.

A testament to the potential that this show has to be a big Broadway hit, the chorus numbers are just as infectious and entertaining as the songs centered solely on the family. The overall ensemble atmosphere is excellent.

What’s more, the set might be the most staggering part of the show. It’s beautifully crafted and the special effects are stunning and seem hardly possible.

While admittedly flawed, “The Addams Family” is a truly entertaining musical that keeps the audience in stitches without sacrificing emotion or poignancy. There are plenty of flukes to be cleaned up before the show hits Broadway in April, but, mostly in part to a truly great ensemble, it has the potential to take Broadway by storm. However, only time will tell if it can hold its own and please the crowds on the Great White Way.

Rating: 3 Shamrocks


Contact Maija Gustin at mgustin@nd.edu