×
You will be redirected back to your article in seconds

The Addams Family

They're campy and they're kooky, quite antic and hopelessly romantic. That's "The Addams Family."

With:
Gomez Addams - Nathan Lane Morticia Addams - Bebe Neuwirth Uncle Fester - Kevin Chamberlin Grandma - Jackie Hoffman Wednesday Addams - Krysta Rodriguez Pugsley Addams - Adam Riegler Lurch - Zachary James Mal Beineke - Terrence Mann Alice Beineke - Carolee Carmello Lucas Beineke - Wesley Taylor

They’re campy and they’re kooky, not really all that spooky, they’re corny and quite antic, and hopelessly romantic. That’s “The Addams Family” in this new musical based on the characters of cartoonist Charles Addams, familiarized through TV and film incarnations. Opening in Chicago en route to an April berth at Broadway’s Lunt-Fontanne, the show is theatrical comfort food, providing value for the consumer dollar. Slickly and grandly designed, completely accessible, consistently amusing and in its own way a genuine tribute to old-fashioned Broadway musical entertainment, this tuner loves the use of a spotlight, shining it generously on gifted stars Nathan Lane and Bebe Neuwirth.

If some of the principal collaborators — composer-lyricist Andrew Lippa (“The Wild Party”) and director-designers Phelim McDermott and Julian Crouch (“Shockheaded Peter”) — seemed a bit offbeat for such a big-time commercial endeavor, you’d never know it from the end result. The team, which also includes book writers Marshall Brickman and Rick Elice (“Jersey Boys”), embraces the pure mainstream nature of the project and seems happily hellbent on delivering everything a fan of the franchise could ask for.

They even give us a terrifically timed little snippet of the family snapping their fingers in that familiar tableau, a surefire signal that audience expectations are being respected rather than upended.

From the start, the show looks rich and gorgeous, beginning in a cemetery but taking place primarily inside the Addams’ gothic home, populated with, among other fun puppets from Basil Twist, a mouse-eating plant and a giant squid in the closet.

Opening number “Clandango” — celebrating the “coming of age” of daughter Wednesday (Krysta Rodriguez) — introduces the elaborately garbed chorus of family ancestors and establishes the old-fashioned values the Addams represent: family above all.

Aging Wednesday to her late teens and giving her a love interest named Lucas (Wesley Taylor), Brickman and Elice set a basic plot in motion with the typical entry of outsiders — Lucas and his parents, Mal and Alice Beineke (Terrence Mann, Carolee Carmello) — into the Addams exotic lair.

There’s the usual fun but predictable shock at the Addams’ oddness by the uptight Ohioans, but clearly the desire is to avoid overplaying the formula. Instead, the tables get turned a bit, and Gomez (Lane) and Morticia (Neuwirth) begin dispensing marital (read: sexual) advice.

Story starts off cleanly and builds well through much of the first act. But by the second, once its primary conflicts are set up, the show primarily lurches from one number to another (which brings up Lurch, played with wonderful dryness and a deep bass by Zachary James).

Lippa’s music moves through a series of classic styles — the cabaret torch song “Second Banana” for narcissistic Morticia, suddenly obsessed with her own aging; the jazzy/swingy/catchy “Let’s Not Talk About Anything Else but Love,” sung by Kevin Chamberlin’s Uncle Fester, a semi-narrator who establishes the (literally) over-the-moon romantic sentiment; the lovely, Sondheim-ish ballad of contradictory emotions, “Happy/Sad,” which Gomez sings to Wednesday when her relationship with Lucas hits a predictable bump.

There’s also a lot of underscoring — Grandma (played as an ancient hippie by Jackie Hoffman) even calls a halt to it at one point — that swells frequently to ensure the underlying emotions become manifest.

Is the show overcrammed and underfocused? Yup — the chorus, for example, makes sense for two of the numbers, but then just seems to hang there in the shadows. And it’s easy to miss a bit more edgy, existential perversity. But despite plenty of zingers about torture instruments and death, these characters are as sentimental as such macabre figures could get.

From a structural perspective, the storytelling is all rising action followed by rapid and not really convincing resolution. In other words, when it’s time to wrap it up, the crafted conflicts get ironed out, whether ready or not, including Morticia’s otherwise nicely developed midlife crisis. And it’s a terrible idea to climax with a swordfight, even a comic one, unless you can really deliver the goods, which is beyond most shows, including this one. Better to beef up the tango and abandon the blades.

But such qualms likely won’t bother the broad target audience. Let’s face it: The sitcom and the films weren’t great aesthetic pieces, but they had style and flair and flash, and this does too. And it’s very funny, with special nods to Chamberlin, whose ultra-corny number “The Moon and Me” is a comic highlight, as well as to Hoffman and Lane. Playing a perfect role for him, with a mild, slightly silly accent, Lane delivers plenty of ace one-liners that nod toward the oddball even if the tone of the work as a whole never fully goes there.

If the show’s narrative resolutions are messy, its message about life and love is straightforward — you can’t have the light without the dark, and passion is all. That could fit on a greeting card — or more appropriately, a cartoon panel — but it rings remarkably true.

The Addams Family

Oriental Theater, Chicago; 2,242 seats; $105 top

Production: A Broadway in Chicago, Stuart Oken, Roy Furman, Michael Leavitt, Five Cent Prods., Stephen Schuler, Decca Theatricals, Scott M. Delman, Stuart Ditsky, Terry Allen Kramer, Stephanie P. McClelland, James L. Nederlander, Eva Price, Jam Theatricals/Mary Lu Roffe, Pittsburgh CLO/Gutterman-Swinsky, Vivek Tiwary/Gary Kaplan, Weinstein Co./Clarence, Adam Zotovich/Tribe Theatricals presentation, by special arrangement with Elephant Eye Theatrical, of a musical in two acts with music and lyrics by Andrew Lippa, book by Marshall Brickman and Rick Elice, based on characters created by Charles Addams. Directed and designed by Phelim McDermott and Julian Crouch. Music direction, Mary-Mitchell Campbell. Choreography, Sergio Trujillo.

Creative: Lighting, Natasha Katz; sound, Acme Sound Partners; puppetry, Basil Twist; hair, Tom Watson; make-up, Angelina Avallone; special effects, Gregory Meeh; fight direction, Rick Sordelet; orchestrations, Larry Hochman; dance arrangements, August Eriksmoen, vocal arrangements, incidental music, Lippa; production supervisor, Beverley Randolph. Opened, reviewed Dec. 9, 2009. Runs through Jan. 10. Running time: 2 HOURS, 35 MIN. Musical numbers: "Clandango," "Let's Not Talk About Anything Else But Love," "Pulled," "Passionate and True," "One Normal Night," "Let's Not Talk About Anything Else But Love 2," "At Seven," "What If," "Full Disclosure," "Waiting," "Full Disclosure (Part 2)," "Second Banana," "Happy/Sad," "Crazier Than You," "The Moon and Me," "Let's Not Talk About Anything Else But Love 3," "Teach Me How to Tango," "The Swordfight/Tango," "In the Arms," "Move Toward the Darkness."

Cast: Gomez Addams - Nathan Lane Morticia Addams - Bebe Neuwirth Uncle Fester - Kevin Chamberlin Grandma - Jackie Hoffman Wednesday Addams - Krysta Rodriguez Pugsley Addams - Adam Riegler Lurch - Zachary James Mal Beineke - Terrence Mann Alice Beineke - Carolee Carmello Lucas Beineke - Wesley TaylorWith: Michael Buchanan, Rachel de Benedet, Matthew Gumley, Fred Inkley, Morgan James, Clark Johnsen, Barrett Martin, Jessica Lea Patty, Liz Ramos, Charlie Sutton, Alena Watters.

More Legit

  • Hugh Jackman'To Kill a Mockingbird' Broadway

    'To Kill a Mockingbird's' Starry Opening: Oprah, Hugh Jackman, Anne Hathaway and More

    The Shubert Theatre in New York City last was filled on Thursday night with Oscar winners, media titans, and, of course, Broadway legends who came out for the opening of “To Kill a Mockingbird.” The starry guest list included Oprah Winfrey, Barry Diller, “Les Misérables” co-stars Hugh Jackman and Anne Hathaway, Jessica Chastain, Gayle King, [...]

  • Pat Gelbart Obit Dead

    Actress Pat Gelbart, Wife of 'MASH' Creator, Dies at 94

    Pat Gelbart, widow of late “MASH” creator Larry Gelbart, died surrounded by family at her home in Westwood, Calif. on Dec. 11. She was 94. Gelbart was born in Minneapolis, Minn. in 1928 as Marriam Patricia Murphy. When she met her husband, Gelbart was an actress, known for the 1947 musical “Good News,” in which [...]

  • To Kill a Mockingbird review

    Broadway Review: 'To Kill a Mockingbird'

    Against all odds, writer Aaron Sorkin and director Bartlett Sher have succeeded in crafting a stage-worthy adaptation of Harper Lee’s classic American novel “To Kill a Mockingbird.” The ever-likable Daniels, whose casting was genius, gives a strong and searching performance as Atticus Finch, the small-town Southern lawyer who epitomizes the ideal human qualities of goodness, [...]

  • Isabelle HuppertIsabelle Huppert Life Achievement Award,

    Isabelle Huppert, Chris Noth to Appear on Stage in 'The Mother'

    Isabelle Huppert will appear opposite Chris Noth in the Atlantic Theater Company’s production of “The Mother.” It marks the U.S. premiere of the show. “The Mother” was written by French playwright Florian Zeller and translated by Christopher Hampton. Huppert, an icon of European film, was Oscar-nominated for “Elle” and appears in the upcoming Focus Features [...]

  • Could Anyone Follow ‘Springsteen on Broadway’?

    Could Anyone Follow 'Springsteen on Broadway'? Here Are Five Things They'd Need (Guest Column)

    After 235-odd shows, with grosses in excess of $100 million, a Special Tony Award and a hotly anticipated Netflix special debuting Sunday, “Springsteen on Broadway” is an unprecedented Broadway blockbuster. As with any success in entertainment, the rush to replicate The Boss’ one-man show reportedly is under way, with a consortium led by Live Nation, CAA [...]

  • Clueless review

    Off Broadway Review: 'Clueless' the Musical

    How does a musical stage adaptation of Amy Heckerling’s 1995 film comedy of oblivious privileged teens, “Clueless,” play in the era of female empowerment and millennial engagement? True, the principal skills of lead teen Cher Horowitz are the superficial ones of mall shopping and makeovers. But her sweet spirit and independence, plus some added P.C. relevance, [...]

  • Ley Line Unveils Brian Wilson Documentary,

    Ley Line Unveils Brian Wilson Documentary, 'Hugo Cabret' Musical

    Producers Tim Headington and Theresa Steele Page have unveiled Ley Line Entertainment with a Brian Wilson documentary and a “Hugo Cabret” musical in the works. Ley Line said it’s a content development, production, and financing company with projects spanning film, television, stage, and music. Headington financed and produced “The Young Victoria,” “Argo,” “Hugo,” and “World [...]

More From Our Brands

Access exclusive content