BWW Reviews: THE ADDAM'S FAMILY - America's Most Delightfully Unhappy Family Goes Musical
When your audience obliges the orchestra Overture by almost reflexively snapping along to the theme song of its 1960's sitcom predecessor, it's clear that they are acquainted with the classic Addam's Family. The delightfully macabre next door neighbors from the dark side are iconic- patriarch, Gomez Addams (Jesse Sharp), his lovely vampirish wife, Morticia (Keleen Snowgren), their two children- the diabolical, Pugsley (Connor Barth) and his "innocent" torture-loving sister, Wednesday (Jennifer Fogarty). The family tree extends to include portly bald-headed Uncle Fester (Shaun Rice), Frankenstein-like butler, Lurch (Ryan Jacob Wood), and a Grandma (Amanda Bruton) of questionable lineage. The characters look their parts, with spot-on costuming by Phelim McDermott, but that's largely where the similarities end.
The musical version of The Addam's Family- take a second to take that in- is much like watching cats embrace joining a swim team. The whole notion of Addams repeatedly breaking into song is quite a stretch. The concept is so bizzarely out of character that it seems presposterous, despite music by the phenomenal Andrew Lippa and pretty awesome puppetry by Basil Twist. And, it generally is, though I have to admit that once you get past feeling like you are stuck on a never-ending loop of Disney World's The Haunted Mansion ride, the dancing, monochromatic ghost ensemble, even when bunny hopping, is a treat. Where the musical takes a severe turn down a dead-end road (pun intended), is its complete lack of plot- namely a now adult Wednesday announcing her engagement to straight-laced Midwestern raised boy-band lookalike, Lucas (Bryan Welnicki). While the musical pulls not from the tv show or movies, but from Charles Addams' old New Yorker cartoons, its tv and movie versions were interesting largely because of the kookiness of their props, settings, and background characters. The musical version is completely absent of Thing, Cousin It (save a brief cameo), many of the random torture devices, and bizarre "pets" the Addam's kept, and their knack for making the horrifying seem almost "normal"- all of which are lacking from the stage version. The balance of that set-up falls to characters who are largely wishy-washy.
Though visual charming, Sharp's Gomez loses his dialect intermittently and delivers several bland songs, such as "Trapped" and "Not Today" that make the nearly non-existing plot drag even further. Snowgren's Morticia is sulky, wavering, and downright whiny at times. The pair are lovely dancing the "Tango de Amor", but it isn't until the second to last number of the show that they really ignite. Wednesday, who appears in this production as a Sarah Hyland/Vanessa Hudgens crossbreed, is expressionlessly cheerful, and Fogarty has killer pipes, but her character is sadly static for a lead. However, Welnicki and Fogarty are cute together, particularly with the quirky "Crazier Than You" where Lucas attempts to prove his love by allowing Wednesday a William Tell moment in Central Park. Lucas' parents, Alice and Mal Beineke, add some depth and color, with Blair Anderson playing a very Molly Shannon-esque housewife come undone and Mark Poppleton as her over-worked husband. Ryan Jacob Wood is a delightfully classic Uncle Fester, though his Act II love affair with his lunar girlfriend, "The Moon and Me" was so over-the-top silly that even the children in the audience lost interest. Proving that there are no small parts, Burton's Grandma, who had perhaps the fewest lines, drew the most laughter, delivering some of the show's best quips, including her advice to a literature reference befuddled Puglsey, "Well, stop texting and pick up a book once in a while."
There are moments of classic Addam's brilliance when Wednesday uses her crossbow on a petting zoo goose to bring home the family's dinner, or when Gomez describes Morticia's dress as "cut down to Venezuela", but the musical version simply fails to bring America's most gloriously unhappy family justice.
CAPA presents "The Addam's Family" now through Sunday, 4/13. For showtimes and ticketing information, go to: http://www.capa.com/presentations/current-season-presentations/the-addams-family
From This Author Lisa Norris