BWW Reviews: THE ADDAMS FAMILY Musical Scares Up Laughs in L.A.
Sometimes going into a show with little to no expectations can be a good thing.
Prior to seeing the naughtily fun stage musical adaptation of The Addams Family—now scaring up laughs at the Pantages Theatre in Hollywood through June 17—I have not been, shall we say, adequately exposed to this particular brood's ouevre.
To borrow the title of one of the show's many catchy songs, here's a bit of full disclosure: I have little to no knowledge of the original comics, nor have I actually sat through an entire episode of the TV sitcom in reruns or the movie adaptations that were churned out (but I do, however, like most people, know of its ubiquitously catchy theme song, which is really just a by-product of my ease in absorbing pop culture).
As for the stage show itself, the few rumblings I have casually come across was that the original Broadway production—based more on the comics series rather than the TV show—was not as enthusiastically received as it should have been, despite enjoying boffo box office receipts.
These folks must have seen something different, because as far as I know—and from what I had observed first-hand during its recent L.A. Opening Night performance—is that this charmingly corny, ghoulishly droll musical comedy's much-overhauled National Tour production is genuinely hilarious from top to bottom. What a pleasant, wonderful surprise it was, then, to go into a show that had me and the audience literally LOL-ing throughout—a euphoric activity that has been far too absent in many of my own experiences with so-called "musical comedies" lately.
Based on a cartoon comic series first published in The New Yorker in 1938 by Charles Addams—which was then later adapted into the highly-popular TV sitcom most folks know this clan from—the stage version of The Addams Family features catchy music and lyrics by Andrew Lippa (The Wild Party) that ties together a funny and quite relatable stand-alone original story by Marshall Brickman and Rick Elice. Perhaps because the plot involves such a simple set-up (though nonetheless still intriguing), this show could just as well be it's own two-part episode of the sitcom.
In this musical that centers around a family that finds joy in the macabre and that celebrates the unhappiness that life (or lack thereof) brings, the clan's patriarch Gomez Addams (brilliantly played by Tony nominee Douglas Sills) is presented with a dilemma: trying to keep a hush-hush secret from his fabulously morbid wife Morticia (the elegant and witty Sara Gettelfinger), whom he has never lied to ever. The big secret? Their eldest daughter Wednesday (the goth-perfect Cortney Wolfson) has fallen in love with a "normal" dude named Lucas (Brian Justin Crum).
Hoping to acclimate each other's families in preparation for their pending nuptials, the young couple—who are, typically enough, both separately a little embarrassed by their own respective sets of "strange" parents—have decided to have both their families converge at the Addams' hidden manse for a little dinner party. Cultures and ideologies clash as the label of "normalcy" is challenged on both sides. And, of course, as one might expect in a story made in sitcom heaven (or, rather, hell in this case), all things don't go smoothly as planned.
Though this stage iteration is reportedly more inspired by Charles Addams' original single-panel cartoons rather than the ubiquitous television show, the staging and tone of this musical theater piece seems deeply rooted in the world of television comedy. From snappy one-liners, to the broad, over-the-top scenarios, to the machinations of how situations are set-up (assumptions, misunderstandings and secret schemes populate the story), this ADDAMS FAMILY contains about as many visual gags and cutesy, old-fashioned chuckles that would make it fit snugly within any of the TV Land staple's story arcs. It even has a tidy ending that wraps it all up in an adorably macabre bow.
It's this welcome, family sitcom-like familiarity—even to newbies like myself—that makes the musical so enjoyably comfortable. The jokes vary from corny puns to witty gems, all landing with perfectly-timed pauses for its live studio, er, theater audience to laugh heartily. Even the way the elaborate red retro curtain morphs into different shapes throughout the show "framing" different scenes and vignettes on varying parts of the stage is reminiscent of the 3:4 ratio-shape of an old school TV screen. And, of course, the cameo appearances of "Thing" and "Cousin Itt" add to the smiles.