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BWW Reviews: The Touring Cast of THE ADDAMS FAMILY Entertains Kennedy Center Audiences

The Addams Family, with a book by Marshall Brickman and Rick Elice and music and lyrics by Andrew Lippa, has received a bit of a bad critical reputation during its pre-Broadway tryout, its Broadway run, and now, on its first national tour across the United States.  It’s certainly not life-changing theatre by any means, and will not likely go down as one of America’s great musical theatre treasures, but The Addams Family definitely offers a fun time for mainstream theatergoing audiences.  An added plus, the national tour cast is quite exceptional. 

The Addams Family musical, of course, is based on the beloved characters created by Charles Addams and inspired by the television series and film of the same name.  The musical centers around teenage daughter Wednesday (Cortney Wolfson), who has always had a love for torture, violence, and using a bow and arrow.  She finds love with a normal boy from Ohio, Lucas Beineke (Brian Justin Crumm), and suddenly finds her usual dark disposition is a bit sunnier, much to the chagrin of her kooky and dark family.  With this new development, her father Gomez (Douglas Sills) struggles to either please Wednesday or his wife Morticia (Sara Gettelfinger) in how he handles the news of her impending nuptials.   When Wednesday and Lucas’ families meet for the first time at the Addams residence, chaos ensues, and life lessons are learned.  Wednesday’s younger brother Pugsley (Patrick D. Kennedy) and crazy Grandma (Pippa Pearthree) serve as a catalyst for some of the changes of heart for the Beineke parents (Martin Vidnovic and Gaelen Gilliand) and Gomez and Morticia about romance, marriage, and love.  Meanwhile, Uncle Fester (Blake Hammond) also finds love in an unexpected place.

Since the Broadway incarnation of this show, several songs and bits of dialogue have been replaced with others.  None of the changes are monumental, but the changes do give Morticia a bit more to do.  Brickman and Elice’s book spans the gamut of crude humor, saccharine dialogue, and witty and sardonic quips.  It is most successful when it sticks to the latter.  Lippa’s score has several strong musical elements and thankfully, the catchiest songs from the Broadway incarnation remain intact including the upbeat “When You’re an Addams,” “Pulled,” “Full Disclosure,” and “Crazier Than You.”  Fester’s two numbers, “But Love” and the “Moon and Me” are also endearing, but that’s partially due to how Brian Hammond performs them.   The show closer, “Move Toward the Darkness” is also musically interesting. Sills and Gettelfinger, stronger singers than those who have played the roles of Gomez and Morticia in the past, excel with their musical material, but the music and lyrical repetition can get a bit tiresome.  Larry Hochman’s orchestrations, excellently executed by the orchestra comprised of local and guest musicians, enhance Lippa’s score in a way that is remarkable.

Cast-wise, there are no weak links although there are a few standouts.  Sills is an integral piece to pull all of the show’s elements together and he handles the task with great ease.  Gettelfinger is delightfully dark as Morticia and demonstrates a good rapport with Sills, Wolfson, and Kennedy.   Wolfson has the strongest voice of the cast and has a charismatic, ‘can’t take your eyes off of her’ presence as Wednesday.  Acting-wise, Hammond steals the show as Uncle Fester and is endearing to boot.   Gilliand handles the major transformation of Mrs. Bieneke with great ease and is particularly funny in the final scene of Act 1.  Her singing is also particularly strong.   Kennedy, as little Pugsley, is very charming and endearing.  Of note, he’s not cloying like many child actors and has a great sense of awareness of what the other actors are doing on stage.

Production-wise, the set/costume (Julian Crouch and Phelim McDermott, who also are the original directors of the show) design and choreography (Sergio Trujillo) are exquisitely intricate and very much enhance the audience’s appreciation for the show’s context and the characters’ personalities.  Natasha Katz’s lighting design and Basil Twist’s puppetry are also noteworthy for their complexity.  Overall, I’d recommend catching the touring production of The Addams Family.  It’s not the movie on stage or the television show on stage.  Sure, the production, under the supervision of Jerry Zaks, is stupid at times, but it’s very well-executed and fun.

Running Time: 2 hours and 30 minutes.

Photo Credit: Jeremy Daniel. 

The Addams Family plays at The John F. Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts in Washington, DC through July 29, 2012.  For tickets, visit the Kennedy Center website or call the box office at 202-467-4600. 

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From This Author Jennifer Perry