As one of the characters in “The Addams Family” might put it, “Is there a mortician in the house?” Vampires don’t appear in this tuner, but there is an undead quality to a show that has been retinkered and resuscitated this much from its unsuccessful Broadway stint (and Chicago tryout). New songs have been added, the storyline altered, but at its unpulsating heart, here is a cast of characters who should never open their mouths to sing.
To break into song in a Broadway musical is to wear your emotions on your sleeve, to be desperate to connect, to be alive. Charles Addams’ droll cartoon family of goths was never about that. Gomez (Douglas Sills) and Morticia (Sara Gettelfinger) don’t want pizzazz and razzmatazz, they want death. What they get is more of Andrew Lippa’s unremarkable songs, which at their very best is Kander & Ebb extra lite.
There’s also a disconnect in the new plot that bookwriters Marshall Brickman and Rick Elice have devised for this touring production. Previously, Wednesday Addams (Cortney Wolfson) brings her fiance Lucas Beineke (Brian Justin Crum), and his Ohio family (Martin Vidnovic, Gaelen Gilliland) home to dinner to meet the creepy Addams clan, with disastrous results. On tour, Wednesday reveals her impending marriage to Dad but keeps Mom in the dark, turning Dad into a liar. As a result, act two is now all about the parents fighting and reuniting. (The Beinekes, meanwhile, resolve their differences offstage.)
This spat over honesty — how would the cartoon Gomez and Morticia put it? — is so disgustingly normal. Wednesday has asked her family to be “normal” for the sake of the Beinekes. And unfortunately she really gets her wish. Since Crum’s nicely edgy Lucas suggests that he’s an Addams family member in the making, it would have been intriguing if he’d asked his parents to be “extraordinary,” and we get to watch two families, instead of one, not being themselves. Instead, Mrs. Beineke mistakenly drinks a magic potion that turns her into a nymphomaniac before her character is pretty much banished from act two.
Director Jerry Zaks (credited with “entire production under the supervision of”) does a good job of having his cast replicate what their Broadway predecessors delivered. In a switch from those ladies, Gettelfinger can actually sing. Sills isn’t droll a la Nathan Lane, but brings a manic charm to Gomez’s relentless joking.
The split-curtain effect keeps the show moving, and the pared-down touring sets by Julian Crouch and Phelim McDermott (credited with “original direction by” from Chi) are actually an improvement on the overstuffed Broadway production. The show now has an appropriately tacky, cheesy, cartoony look and feel.