It pleases me no end to learn how a show improves during the course of its Broadway to tour transfer. Such is the case with the musical The Addams Family, whose Broadway run was clouded with negative reviews and less than powerful performances from its two talented stars Nathan Lane and Bebe Neuwirth. When the stars are unhappy with the material, it doesn't play well. Now with Douglas Sills and Sara Gettelfinger as Gomez and Morticia Addams heading a marvelously happy cast, The Addams Family rocks joyfully from beginning to end.
This is my first time seeing the show. I did not see it on Broadway, but have heard a great deal from experts including the info obtained in my recent interview with Doug Sills in which he reported on the varied changes to the plot and song set for the show. What I witnessed was a happy, happy presentation of what could very possibly have turned into a schlocky predictable episode of the TV show. With sharp references from writers Marshall Brickman and Rick Elice to the issues of, for example, health care - that nobody gets - or on a more personal level, the useless 'rehab' of Charlie Sheen, and a deep feeling of true love between Gomez and Morticia and for their two children Wednesday (Cortney Wolfson) and Pugsley (Patrick D. Kennedy), the script becomes darkly fascinating. Especially, since we are watching an atypical family in a so-called normal world. But define normal, please! In today's world, it no longer exists, so I loved seeing the creepy Addams clan accepted as the friendly neighbors next door.
Doug Sills brings such joy, warmth and humor to Gomez. He is terribly funny simply by displaying a self-deprecating laugh, and his warmth for his children is genuinely heartfelt. Gettelfinger is not only tall and beautiful, but adds such grace and sophisticated charm to Morticia. Blake Hammond is a very lovable Uncle Fester, the genius in love with the moon. Opera singer Tom Corbeil, with next to no speech, is uniquely attuned to the introverted, almost mechanically mobile Lurch. Wolfson is just right as Wednesday, the little girl who appreciates being crazy, but yearns to belong outside of her clan. Kennedy is adorable as the chubby confused Pugsley, who welcomes fatal aggression and torture as natural boyhood traits.
Pippa Pearthree completes the affable Addamses as the demonically feisty Grandma neither side wishes to claim their own. The Beineke family are all fine, with Gaelen Gilliland a standout as Alice - "Waiting", in which she sheds all inhibition for loving. Equally good are Martin Vidnovic as Mal and Brian Justin Crum as Wednesday's beau Lucas. I understand the subplot of Alice and Mal reclaiming their love for one another replaces a previous kidnapping of Lucas, which was less affecting in the overall plotline. The 10-member chorus of ghoulish ancestors vibrantly come back to life producing choreographer Sergio Trujillo's snappy movements. Jerry Zaks's touches as director, taking over from New York's Phelim McDermott and Julian Crouch, have obviously smoothed over any bumps, as the entire show seems to flow with great pacing throughout. New songs "Trapped", "But Love", "Secrets" and "Not Today" complete an already hauntingly catchy score from Andrew Lippa. McDermott & Crouch's original set and costume design are eerily in tact, clearly representing the original drawings of Charles Addams.
The Addams Family is a walk down memory lane for those of us who faithfully watched the TV sitcom in the 60s, and for those that didn't, it doesn't matter, for you'll be enormously entertained. Think "Move Toward the Darkness" and you'll savor every deliciously black moment.