BWW Review: Great Performances Abound in THE ADDAMS FAMILY
The characters in The Addams Family were created by American cartoonist Charles Addams. The characters traditionally include Gomez and Morticia Addams, their children Wednesday and Pugsley, close family members Uncle Fester and Grandmama, their butler Lurch, the disembodied hand Thing, and Gomez's Cousin Itt. The characters are a satirical inversion of the ideal American family: odd, wealthy, macabre and unaware that other people find them, at the very least, bizarre. They originally appeared as single-panel cartoons, about half of which were originally published in The New Yorker between their debut in 1938 and Charles Addams' death in 1988. They've been adapted to multiple forms of media: television, both live action and animated, and a series of films. The most recent adaptation is the musical THE ADDAMS FAMILY with a book by Marshall Brickman & Rick Elice, Music & Lyrics by Andrew Lippa.
The last adaptation is problematic as it tries to force the characters into a traditional musical comedy format at which it is only partly successful. Like many contemporary musicals it survived on Broadway despite bad critical press and was extensively revised on tour. Between the opening and the national tour the songs "Clandango", "Passionate and True", "At Seven", and "Second Banana" were replaced with "When You're an Addams", "Where Did We Go Wrong?", "Morticia", and "Just Around the Corner". The songs "One Normal Night", "Full Disclosure, Part 2", "Crazier Than You", "Move Toward the Darkness", and "Tango De Amor" were rewritten. The key problem with the script is that it time jumps the characters to have the central plot revolve around Wednesday falling in love and wanting to marry. This might work for Marilyn Munster but it doesn't work for Wednesday Addams because it stretches decades of audience expectations in ways that just doesn't fit naturally with the characters. It also doesn't help that most of Lippa's songs are not particularly memorable. Tuneful, yes; memorable, not so much.
That being said, kudos to director Mary Ellen Butler, who gets maximum enjoyment out of this less than stellar material by wisely anchoring the stage production in the look and posture of Addams' iconic cartoon panels. She has cast the production now on stage at the Georgetown Palace Theatre perfectly, especially in terms of the family. She also keeps the proceedings going along at a great clip. The costumes by A Cut Above Costumes are a delight. You know who everyone is at the opening number. The production is also greatly aided by clever choreography by Judy Thompson Price that is snappily executed by the company. Lannie Hilboldt gets great vocals out of the cast. Faith Castaneda, who usually does a terrific job lighting Palace shows, went a little too far into her bag of tricks. The overhead lights flashed in time to the music as if the lights had been choreographed, upstaging the actual choreography on stage more than once. And I totally didn't understand the reason for bringing up a gobo on stage like it was musical punctuation when no one is being lit by it. It was like saying the pattern on the floor was more interesting than the actors...and I love a good gobo...When there's a reason for it. Ismael Soto III's set is cleverly monochromatic, echoing the original cartoons. While a clever gag, putting Raul Julia's name on the set makes for constant comparison. For the most part, sound was good, although there were some miking problems when actors were on the second level of the set or when microphones weren't turned on until the middle of a line.
The cast, as I said earlier, is stellar. Scott Shipman, as Uncle Fester, is a delight. He acts as a sort of tour guide to the macabre world of the family and has a show stopping number in Act Two, "The Moon and Me" in which he does a demented dance with the moon. This is an inspired bit that is a highlight of the evening. Damon Brown is great as the suave Gomez Addams and Sheree Bristol is a perfect Morticia, slinky and sexy. Betty Ortwein gets maximum laughs out of Grandma and Chris Sundgren is a study in old school physical comedy making the most of a mostly silent role. Lexi Phillips belts out Wednesday's numbers with an impressive voice while staying firmly anchored in the morose attitude of the character. Diego Rodrigquez rounds out the family as Pugsley and does a great job conveying the confusion of the character. Suzanne Orzech is a riot as Alice Beineke, the poetry spouting suppressed mother of Wednesday's love interest. Alice has the largest character change arc and Orzech handles it with ease including some highly physical comedic moments.
All in all, THE ADDAMS FAMILY abounds with Great Performances and some inspired physical comedy, making the most of the material. Performances continue through November 4.
THE ADDAMS FAMILY, Book by Marshall Brickman & Rick Elice, Music & Lyrics by Andrew Lippa, Based on Characters Created by Charles Addams
Running Time: Approximately Two and a Half Hours including intermission.
THE ADDAMS FAMILY, produced by The Georgetown Palace Theatre on the Springer Memorial Stage (810 South Austin Avenue, Georgetown, TX, 78626).
Fridays through Sundays through November 04, 2018
Tickets at www.georgetownpalace.com or by calling the Palace Office at 512-869-7469.
Adult-$32, Seniors (55+) / Military / Students-$29, Children (13 & younger) $15
$1 ticketing fee will be added per ticket at checkout.
Student Rush Tickets $18 at the door with student ID. For Special Needs Seating: (Wheelchairs, Walkers, No Stairs, etc.) you must call the Box Office for reservations at (512) 869-7469l