THE ADDAMS FAMILY
Kansas City, MO
July 3, 2012
Our Score: 3.5 out of 5 stars
I had the chance to see “The Addams Family” while it was in previews in Chicago over Thanksgiving 2009. I didn’t go, which was disappointing since it featured two of my favorite performers, Nathan Lane and Bebe Neuwirth. I had seen both on Broadway several times (in fact, the first time I saw Neuwirth on stage was in a touring production of “A Chorus Line” in 1980) and truly admire their talent. The show moved on to Broadway where it received horrible reviews. Yet, thanks to the star power of the leads, it played for 18 months, closing shop with Roger Rees and Brooke Shields in the lead roles. My understanding is that the audience didn’t enjoy the show because it almost totally dismissed the television show and films that fans were familiar with and based itself around the original cartoons produced by Charles Addams. That would be like remaking “Star Wars” and leaving out Darth Vader!
The production that is currently in Kansas City (other dates can be found at the end of this review) makes good use of some of the best known television bits and is a pretty enjoyable night at the theatre. Before the curtain rises, the familiar Vic Mizzy composed “Addams Family Theme” plays, encouraging the audience to snap-snap their fingers along. The show opens in the family cemetery, where the ghosts of Addams past gather for a yearly celebration. This delivers the best song of the show, sung by the entire company, called “When You’re an Addams.” We learn that young daughter Wednesday (Courtney Wolfson) has met a boy and has fallen in love. She is worried because the boy is “different” – think how Marilyn was “different” on “The Munsters” – and won’t be accepted by her family. Luckily big romantic Uncle Fester (a brilliant Blake Hammond) can spot love when he sees it. He forbids the spirits returning to their resting places until true love is found. Wednesday tells her father, Gomez (Douglas Sills) but begs him not to tell her mother, Morticia (Sara Gettelfinger). Not one to keep a secret from his beloved ‘Tish, Gomez reluctantly agrees. When the young man and his family arrive for dinner the table is set for some ghoulish fun!
I can see where the show may have disappointed earlier. With the exception of “When You’re and Addams” and Morticia’s big second act song, “Just Around the Corner,” there really isn’t anything memorable about the score. Nice music and pedestrian lyrics do not a great musical make. However, when you have a talented cast and some incredible mood setting scenery, the picture the music is trying to paint is a lot clearer. My hats off to the cast for braving Kansas City in July. As the curtain opened it was a steamy 95 degrees where I was sitting. And I wasn’t wearing a costume or make up. The cast was full of energy and in fine voice. Sills, a Tony award nominee for his work in “The Scarlet Pimpernel,” gives Gomez a sentimental side only hinted at by John Astin on television and the late, great Raul Julia in the films. He is a man truly in love with his wife and the slightest hint of betrayal – read: not telling her about Wednesday – cuts him to the quick. Gettelfinger is also strong, again making the role her own. Hammond is spot on as Uncle Fester. He has a great number where he seems to float about the stage while singing to his beloved moon which earned much deserved applause. The rest of the familiar characters – brother Pugsley, wacky Grand-ma-ma and butler Lurch – have a few moments to shine but are mostly background characters. More attention is paid to Lucas (Brian Justin Crum), Wednesday’s bethrothed, and his parents (Martin Vidnovic and Gaelen Gilliland) in the show. There is even a Cousin Itt sighting or two!
All in all, “The Addams Family” is a nice way to spend a couple of hours with some old friends.
The show is currently running in Kansas City through July 8 and then through August in the following cities:
WASHINGTON D.C. – July 10 – 29
PITTSBURGH, PA – July 31 – August 12
ATLANTA, GA – August 14 – 18
The show resumes its tour in Dallas in September. For additional tour dates and more information click here.