McDermott and Crouch’s sets and costumes achieve both hilarity and charm. (Morticia’s decolletage stops precisely short of her nipples, while the cast moves from the fog-draped exterior of the family’s gothic pile, with prominent moon, to the heavy furnishings of gloomy interiors.) They are staunchly abetted by Basil Twist’s polymorphously perverse puppets and Natasha Katz’s cheeky lighting. The whole show is a menage a trois of the ghastly, the ghostly and the side-splitting. And you know what? Unlike in most current musicals, the songs really shine: Melody, too, has risen from the dead.
THE ADDAMS FAMILY Broadway Reviews
Reviews of The Addams Family on Broadway. See what all the critics had to say and see all the ratings for The Addams Family including the New York Times and More...
Move over, Wicked, there’s a new Halloween musical in town, and, unlike its predecessor, it is safe not just for 13-year-old girls but for 13-year-old boys. I am talking, of course, about The Addams Family, the snap-happy tribe whose latest, musical iteration has popped into fitful life at the Lunt-Fontanne. Amply supplied with sometimes clever, sometimes groaning vaudevillian one-liners by book writers Marshall Brickman and Rick Elice, whose last hit was Jersey Boys, and given resourceful songs by Andrew Lippa, composer of the gloriously decadent off-Broadway show The Wild Party, The Addams Family lends further life to a clan in love with death.
It’s not great, but it’s very good—an entirely entertaining and enjoyable two and a half hours in the theater. And as a clearly commercial-minded venture, designed to bring in tourist audiences and deliver a long run, it ably, if not perfectly, delivers the Big Broadway Show experience.
Like many of those unrevivable musicals from the early decades of the 20th Century, The Addams Family works best as a star vehicle, and the Lunt-Fontanne is presently hosting a constellation full of 'em.
The stagecraft seldom disappoints; there are brilliant use of puppets, including a curtain tassel that springs to life and becomes a love interest for hairy Cousin Itt. And the cast, led by Broadway pros Nathan Lane and Bebe Neuwirth as Gomez and Morticia Addams, works hard to put over a script that seriously drags in the first act and generally owes more to vaudeville than the dry wit of Charles Addams' original cartoons. Neuwirth interrupts her morbid love song 'Just Around the Corner' with the elbow-poking line 'Coroner. Get it? Death is just around the coroner.'
Handsomely designed by Phelim McDermott and Julian Crouch of "Shockheaded Peter" repute, the slick production packs plenty of tricky visuals including a giant squid and a spectral ensemble of Addams ancestors. McDermott and Crouch remain credited as directors but after the show's Chicago tryout, veteran helmsman Jerry Zaks was tapped as "creative consultant." The results are an expert, energetic attraction that could be far sharper in terms of composition, but likely to satisfy anyone who loves the Addams, appreciates terrific performances and really wants to have more of a comfortable than a brilliant Broadway experience.
They don't give out awards for “most improved,” and “The Addams Family” did not undergo some spectacular 11th-hour artistic unification. But clear-eyed changes have moved what was a wildly uneven but ambitiously progressive affair in Chicago much more in the direction of classic, full-tilt, fast-paced, old-fashioned musical comedy — and regardless of reviews, they're almost certain to cement this immensely popular title as a commercial hit on Broadway and beyond. (The show opened on Broadway with a whopping $15-million-plus advance and has been racking up “Wicked”-like box office returns since previews).
For a Broadway megamusical that celebrates antisocial behavior and schadenfreude, The Addams Family inspires mixed emotions. It’s a night of pleasant, clever songs and sly jokes, charming performances and swoony visuals—but the whole never soars to the heights we now expect of a bona fide blockbuster. Don’t brace yourself for the pop-fantasy spectacle of Wicked or the ruthless comic proficiency of The Producers. Instead, The Addams Family is a Frankenstein creature: adult and juvenile, idiosyncratic and generic, grandiose and homey. Maybe that’s its triumph: Not even this household is sick enough to settle for straightforward razzle-dazzle.
If you want to know why musical comedy is such a difficult art form to master, a prime example is now on display at Broadway's Lunt-Fontanne Theatre where "The Addams Family" has fitfully burst into story and song. In attempting to give Charles Addams' macabre characters a life beyond the brilliant single-panel cartoons that appeared for years in The New Yorker, the creators of this schizophrenic musical have made them more audience friendly. But in a perverse way, they're not as much fun.
The hackneyed plot might have been serviceable if there were enough funny jokes in the mix, but despite Lane and the rest of the cast's best efforts, more often than not the humor falls flat. Where the obviously expensive show does shine, not surprisingly, is in the design elements, from the elaborate gothic scenery and costumes by the Improbable Theatre's ("Shockheaded Peter") Phelim McDermott and Julian Crouch to the wonderfully imaginative and clever puppets designed by Basil Twist.
If you're a New Yorker with children, or if you're bringing the family to Manhattan this summer, you'll have to go to "The Addams Family." It won't kill you. You'll laugh a lot, though never during the unmemorable songs, which are supposed to be funny but aren't. You're more than likely to spend a considerable part of the evening wondering how much the set cost. And as you depart the theater, you'll probably catch yourself wondering whether it was really, truly worth it to take your kids to a goodish musical whose tickets are so expensive that you can buy an iPad for less than the price of four orchestra seats.
But in many ways, the show feels wrong. Broadway's instinctive need to entertain seems at odds with the cartoon's low key style. In fact, the last thing you'd expect the tango loving Morticia and Gomez to do is yuk it up for laughs. But that's precisely what's going on for the most part. Andrew Lippa's eclectic score is uneven, featuring a few winning numbers playing on the conceit that normal values are reversed with the Addams' preferring dead things and gloom. But even that's inconsistent as the story inexplicably turns sentimental in spots. Bookwriters Marshall Brickman and Rick Elice of "Jersey Boys" fame have come up with a plot right out of "La Cage Aux Folles." They've aged daughter Wednesday giving her a boyfriend with conservative parents who the kids invite over for dinner, expecting the Addams' to straighten their act. Besides being unoriginal it's uncompelling to boot.
The Addams Family" -- the 1960s sitcom, that is -- was famously kooky, spooky and altogether ooky. The new Broadway musical, based not on the sitcom but on assorted one-panel cartoons drawn over the years by the New Yorker's Charles Addams, is kooky but not spooky or ooky; nor is it neat, sweet or petite (as the song goes). What this "Addams Family" has is the gloweringly perfect Nathan Lane, who gamely thrusts Gomez's rapier at anything -- or any joke -- that moves. But $16.5 million has brought forth an ill-formed one-dimensional cartoon with lines and shading not quite inked in.
"The Addams Family" is a musical all dressed up with no place to go. There's one simple reason: Nobody knew why they were writing it. There is no animating purpose to the evening, except to throw well-known characters on stage so the audience can luxuriate in their comforting familiarity. Charles Addams' iconic cartoon creations have been robbed of all subversiveness, something even the 1960s TV series—made in a considerably more socially conservative era—didn't do. The thin wisp of plot—daughter Wednesday wants to marry a "normal" boy from Ohio—in Marshall Brickman and Rick Elice's choppy book serves mostly to muddy the comic strip's iconography, and their inclusion of a subplot involving Morticia's fears of aging only compounds the problem. They've also come up with one of the flimsiest excuses for a chorus since Captain Jim romanced Rose Marie in the heyday of operetta.
Besides the recycling, writers Marshall Brickman and Rick Elice ("Jersey Boys") mangle the Addamses by having Wednesday tell her family to "act normal" for the Beinekes. To the Addamses, macabre is normal. Though they've come up with eye-popping scenery, directors/designers Phelim McDermott and Julian Crouch ("Shockheaded Peter") miss that essential fact. Ditto Jerry Zaks, a Broadway vet hired to consult after a Chicago tryout. Composer-lyricist Andrew Lippa ("The Wild Party") has come up with a batch of traditional songs, with no memorable breakouts. A couple of numbers are amusing, most are generic and one, "Full Disclosure," seems better suited to "Legally Blonde." The top-flight cast works hard to sell the material. Hair greased and accent set on bizarre, Lane is a riot and carries the production with his signature silliness.
It's definitely a feat of some kind: Broadway's "The Addams Family" has watered down one of the quirkiest pop- culture creations ever. And to think it had so much going for it.
Is it entertaining? Yes. Is it disappointing? Yes. The Addams Family, the hotly anticipated musicalization of Charles Addams' bleakly irresistible cartoons, has survived a troubled tryout in Chicago to take its place as the season's only new family musical on Broadway. The show looks fantastic - charming and dripping with ingenious cartoon grotesquerie. The casting - including Nathan Lane as a lovably ruthless Gomez, Bebe Neuwirth as a diabolically slinky Morticia and Kevin Chamberlin as a gracious nut ball of an Uncle Fester - is as close to ideal as imagination can dream up in the real world. The problem - and it is no small problem - is the material, which, after some giddily twisted one-liners in the first act, burdens the larky darkness with gooey sentiment, a wearying plot and increasingly generic songs by Andrew Lippa that have little or nothing to do with the plot or characters.
Brevity is not one of the qualities of the latest incarnation of The Addams Family. The first act of this new musical comedy is a pleasant, if often mindless and more often vulgar, diversion; certainly the spectacular set and special effects (notably a delightful Venus flytrap puppet) keep us engaged even when the comedy and songs sag. But Act Two proves to be one act too many; it felt as if the show's creators had tired of playing with their toys, and instead left them to flounder on their own within a bottomless pool of cliches drawn from second-rate kids' films, sitcoms, and hackneyed musicals. Nothing interesting or witty happens during this last hour, which is surprising in that it includes three songs that are clearly intended by the producers to be show-stoppers. I was bored and disappointed and left The Addams Family, which I sincerely tried to enjoy, feeling saddened by the squandering of resources that it represents.
In keeping with Addams’s graphic style, Zaks offers some delightfully surreal scenic moments: a tassel cut from the end of a rope scuttles offstage by itself; a giant squid and a monster iguanodon make surprise appearances. Zaks does his best to drive this money train down the bad track it’s laid on. (He replaced the show’s original directing team, Phelim McDermott and Julian Crouch.) The show’s narrative, however, can’t handle Addams’s Grand Guignol edge; the book, written by Marshall Brickman and Rick Elice, stays safely on the outside of Addams’s comic world, looking in. Of all the dark cards in Addams’s hand, the team has picked the weakest one: love. Wednesday, the crossbow-toting Goth, falls for Lucas Beineke (Wesley Taylor), a square from Ohio, whose buttoned-down parents come to dinner at the Addams house: in other words, it’s “The Birdcage” reimagined for Bela Lugosi. Except for the occasional blip of wit, fifteen minutes into the palaver the audience can feel the show flatlining.
Imagine, if you dare, the agonies of the talented people trapped inside the collapsing tomb called “The Addams Family.” Being in this genuinely ghastly musical — which opened Thursday night at the Lunt-Fontanne Theater and stars a shamefully squandered Nathan Lane and Bebe Neuwirth — must feel like going to a Halloween party in a strait-jacket or a suit of armor. Sure, you make a flashy (if obvious) first impression. But then you’re stuck in the darn thing for the rest of the night, and it’s really, really uncomfortable. Why, you can barely move, and a strangled voice inside you keeps gasping, “He-e-e-lp! Get me out of here!”
Oh Broadway, Broadway, Broadway. Don't you know, you never seem sadder or more imaginatively barren than when you're diving for commercial relevance in the dumpsters behind old TV shows and movies? "The Addams Family" -- this year's answer to the question, How many talented people does it take to screw up a concept? -- marks a significant depressing of an ever-more-degraded standard. It's a new show that, despite its mechanized trickery, feels rickety beyond belief, the 2010 musical version of a series of magazine cartoons from the 1930s, '40s and '50s that became a '60s sitcom that became a '90s Hollywood franchise. What you might call a wholly pre-owned Broadway musical.
Every moment is a furious fight for life, an act of flop-sweat corpse puppetry worthy of Weekend at Bernie’s. Practically from the moment the curtain parts—courtesy Thing, the bodiless hand—you detect the grim, gray whiff of obligation. The Addams Family, like so many large-scale theatrical entertainments today, feels every inch a Musicalized Property. (To call it a “musical” suggests more joie de mort than the show can muster.) It’s a Broadway spectacular only because it must be, not because any of its creators felt particularly inspired. Alas, one can put the defibrillator paddles to a dead body only so many times before it starts to smoke, and long before the night is over, the air in the Lunt-Fontanne is a gritty haze of unrequited effort. “When you’re an Addams,” the ensemble sings (in an instructive, repetitive, highly unpromising opening number), “you’re happy when your toes are in the mud/You smile a bit the moment you smell blood.” Poe, this ain’t. But hey, it could be worse, considering the soupy lyrical terrain on which Andrew Lippa insists on building his flimsy, prefab songs.
So might the performances in The Addams Family (Lunt-Fontanne), where everybody works incredibly hard, though to painfully little effect. A couple of Andrew Lippa's songs, including the improbably Latin opening number, may survive, and a few of the book's more antique gags will undoubtedly long outlive it. But two-plus hours of hearing these creepy creatures blather about the joys of love, in purest Hallmark terms? Please. Even Nathan Lane's resourcefulness, Kevin Chamberlin's moonstruck charm, and Carolee Carmello's giddy vocal display can't reanimate this inert monstrosity.
Considering the insane amount of hype this show has received, "The Addams Family" would appear to be the biggest disappointment of the theater season.