“Da-da-da-DUM! *snap, snap!* Da-da-da-DUM! *snap, snap!*”
You know the tune. You know the characters. But you might be surprised by this charming (yes, charming!) and unexpected musical based on the Charles Addams cartoons.
And, for those who caught the first iteration of the musical when it premiered at the Oriental in 2009 prior to its Broadway run, you might also be surprised how vastly the show, now in v3.0, has improved.
In that version, we had Nathan Lane and Bebe Neuwirth as morbid lovebirds Gomez and Morticia. Here, we get Douglas Sills and the supersexy Sara Gettelfinger. While they aren’t BIG STARS, they have excellent presence and palpable chemistry — the latter of which was missing greatly between Neuwirth and Lane. With Sills and Gettelfinger, you get the sense that they could easily ignite flames, where Neuwirth and Lane had the sexual compatibility of a kick line.
But it’s not just the casting of the leads that’s improved. Jerry Zacks, who serves as the show’s “creative consultant” (a fancy term for “show doctor”), has reworked many of the show’s conceptual problems — most notably removing the strange squid (and its bizzarro love story with Mr. Beineke) and, thankfully, eliminating the nonsensical “Morticia feels unsexy because she feels old” subplot. (After all, wouldn’t Morticia be delighted to think her husband finds her old and decayed?) Instead, Morticia, who’s completely in command in this version, discovers Gomez is doing the one thing she considers a deal-breaker: he’s withholding a secret. The secret? Wednesday’s getting married.
Book writers Marshall Brickman and Rick Elice have chosen to translate The Addams Family for the stage through a classic storyline: Wednesday (Cortney Wolfson) has turned 18, and she’s in love with a seemingly normal boy, Lucas Beineke, from Ohio (Brian Justin Crum). When the buttoned-up Beinekes stop by for dinner, Wednesday begs her family to act “normal” for one night.
If the plot sounds familiar, it’s because it is — just go down the street to the Bank of America Theatre to see the gay-friendly version, which is playing through January 1.
Yes, this storyline is the same from the first iteration of the show. Yet it’s the tightening of the script and tinkering with the score that makes this version a much more satisfying affair. From the solid introduction (thanks to a clearer opening number by Andrew Lippa) to the ample use of those classic off-color zingers (“Do you have a little girls room?” asks Alice Beineke, to which Gomez replies, “We used to, but we sadly had to let them all go.”) it’s a fine, fun time. And, with the rewrites, this kooky clan spends less time apologizing for being who they are, and more time celebrating their quirks.
So: do the changes fix this flawed show? Well, I enjoyed myself, as did the enthusiastic audience, but the show still doesn’t seem to fully capitalize on the deliciously oddball source material. It’s a little too predictable, too pat, too wholesome. My ideal Addams Family musical would be unexpected, dark, dangerous, sly and sexy — with a heart.
But for now, I’ll gladly take The Addams Family, v3.0.
“The Addams Family” plays through January 1 at the Cadillac Palace Theatre. More info here >