When you base a musical on legendary cartoons (as well as a
classic TV show and popular movies derived from the same material), you better
be sure that the original material is referenced and that it delivers the same
level of humor. That means more in the way of faithfulness than originality,
but who cares when it’s The Addams Family?
The touring production of the recent Broadway show, currently onstage at the
Aronoff Center, delivers on humor, entertainment and a faithful recreation of
the oddball characters who revel in the dark side of life.
Don’t go expecting anything but a story that conjures up
Gomez, Morticia, Uncle Fester, Wednesday, Pugsley and the rest of the motley
crew. There is a plot here about Wednesday falling in love (imagine that!),
keeping the news from Morticia and a crazy evening when her boyfriend Lucas
brings his oh-so-square family to dinner at their bizarre estate in an
out-of-the-way corner of New York City’s Central Park. And to add a bit of more
human character to warm the show up for audiences, the show’s re-creators have
played on Gomez’s effusive adoration of the aloof, mordant Morticia for some
story elements and songs about love and honesty.
But what really grabs audiences in this production is seeing
the familiar characters come to life.
Nathan Lane and Bebe Neuwirth created the
central roles in the original Broadway production, and their stamp is evident —
Gomez is quick with quips and ad-libs, while Morticia has a cool presence with
a lot of steam just below the surface (not to mention oozing out of her
décolletage). However, Douglas Sills brings a sometimes silly, sometimes
sincere air to Gomez that works nicely (he’s “Trapped” over keeping secrets and
promises to Morticia and Wednesday, while revealing genuine emotions in “Happy/Sad”).
Sara Gettelfinger, who is tall and leggy, has the right mix
of comic stage presence (“Just Around the Corner”) and sensuality (“Tango de
Amor”) for the role. Gettelfinger is a 1999 graduate of UC’s
College-Conservatory of Music, a fine example of the musical theater talent
produced there, able to sing, dance and act. She’s had a solid Broadway career
since graduating and was recognized at CCM this week with its “Musical Theater
Young Alumni Award.”
The cast has topnotch voices in every role: Cortney Wolfson
is particularly good as the sadomasochistic Wednesday conflicted with positive
emotions, reflected in several excellent musical numbers (“Pulled,” “Crazier
than You”). As demonic brother Pugsley, Patrick D. Kennedy is both brat and
little boy (although drawn to all that scares most kids), and he has a
remarkable singing voice. Although we don’t hear much from Lurch until the
show’s final moments, Tom Corbeil’s operatic bass is the perfect touch for the
Of particular note is Blake Hammond as Uncle Fester. The
role has been conceived as a kind of narrator/emcee/trickster who conjures up
the chorus of Addams ancestors (10 ghostly costumed progenitors from days gone
by). Fester gently nudges them to shape the course of Wednesday’s romance as
well as the up-and-down moments of Gomez’s trials with Morticia. But Fester
also proves to be the show’s other romantic character, professing his love for
the moon. Singing “The Moon and Me,” he levitates from the stage floor and does
a startling midair dance with a glowing globe that’s both funny and sweet.
The family of Wednesday’s love interest Lucas (Brian Justin
Crum), his sappy, platitudinous mother Alice (played by understudy Victoria
Huston-Elem on opening night) and his grumpy, straitlaced father Mal (Martin
Vidnovic), are wholly caricatured. But the story allows them to cut loose and
evolve in some very amusing ways.
The Addams Family
uses a lot of clever stage magic to keep audiences engaged. There’s a red
velvet stage curtain that’s drawn this way and that to allow quick scene
changes and to move us from moment to moment effortlessly. Cousin It makes an
appearance or two, as does the disembodied Hand, so there’s plenty to remind us
of comedic elements we all recall. And Andrew Lippa’s score and lyrics were created
for this production, there are plenty of moments where familiar melodies crop
up — especially as the show starts with the familiar strains of harpsichord and
The show also finds subtle ways to reference musical theater
and pop culture — no need to list them here, but they’re evident and corny,
just the kind of goofy humor one would expect from a show about people we know
THE ADDAMS FAMILY,
presented by Broadway Across America, continues through April 8. Buy tickets, check out performance times and get venue details here.