Originally reviewed for GaySocialites.com.
The Addams Family works passably well as an entertainment, a spectacle to pass the time. It doesn’t work, however, as a musical, nor does it successfully capture the spirit of Charles Addams’s gleefully ghoulish New Yorker cartoons.
It’s been observed by many that the plot of The Addams Family is old-fashioned: odd girl Wednesday brings “normal” boy Lucas home to meet the family. Well, that’s not necessarily the central problem here — sturdy old plots like this can be made to generate fresh sparks, given some creative prodding. It seems here, though, that the prodding has been unfocused and in the wrong direction.
Perhaps that biggest flaw in the book is a misguided attempt to make it “relatable” by, for example, showing Morticia fretting about getting older. This fundamentally misses the joke that makes Charles Addams’s characters so perversely appealing. The Morticia we know and love would positively relish getting older, find irresistible the image of “crow’s feet” showing up on her face.
Note to all bookwriters of musicals based on non-realistic source material: don’t build dreary kitchen sink back story for otherwise fabulously over the top characters. This is not the first time I’ve seen this happen, and it doesn’t do a damn thing for anybody, actors or audience. Follow the direction the material is already going in, don’t fight it.
All that said, The Addams Family features one of the hardest working casts on Broadway. Nathan Lane plays Gomez as a manic master of ceremonies. Jackie Hoffman (as Grandma), as usual, shamelessly works every funny moment for every drop of comic juice that it’s got, and rightfully gets the evening’s biggest laughs. Bebe Neuwirth hitches up Morticia’s skirt to dance a charming “Tango de Amor”. Kevin Chamberlain makes a truly lovable Fester.
Master puppeteer Basil Twist also provides some engaging visual magic, animating Cousin Itt, making Fester airborne for a pas de deux with the moon, and giving life and comedy to a giant squid. The Addams Family is far from being a total waste of time, but it’s equally far from being as fun as it should be.
For tickets, click here.
To learn about Jonathan Warman’s directing work, see jonathanwarman.com.