Review: “The Addams Family The Musical” Wants Full Disclosure – It’s Good, Not Great…Yet!
Broadway in Chicago presents
The Addams Family
At the Ford Oriental Theatre
Music and Lyrics by Andrew Lippa
Based on characters created by Charles Addams
Choreography by Sergio Trujillo
“Stop texting and pick up a book once in a while,” “if you’re going to be a tool, you can sleep in the shed,” and “healthcare,” hilarious punch lines add to the amusement of the new musical, The Addams Family. Broadway in Chicago presents the pre-Broadway world premiere of The Addams Family at the Ford Center for the Performing Arts Oriental Theatre. Based on characters created by legendary cartoonist Charles Addams and later developed into a television show and movie, The Addams Family is an eccentric cluster of kin dealing with relationship issues in a creepy and kooky, mysterious and spooky and altogether ooky style. Marshall Brickman and Rick Elice have developed a story about Wednesday Addams (Krysta Rodriguez) falling in love with Lucas Beineke (Wesley Taylor), an Ohio native poet. The La Cage aux Folles plot centers on the normal Midwestern Beineke family having dinner with the peculiar Addams. Where is the line between normal and odd, pleasure and pain, love and hate? By creating subplots to tackle these answers, Brickman and Elice add another question where is the line between too much going on and not enough?
Two-time Tony Award winners, Nathan Lane (Gomez) and Bebe Neuwirth (Morticia) are the sizzling star power behind The Addams Family. With such distinct personalities and voices, where is the line between Nathan and Gomez, Bebe and Morticia. It’s still Nathan Lane with a mustache and a Latino accent. With Neuwirth it’s even more blurry because her typecast is Bebe/Lilith/Morticia. But who cares? It’s Nathan Lane and Bebe Neuwirth! They know how to entertain! Whether they are singing, tangoing or dueling, it is comedic amusement. They are the FUN in the dysfunctional Addams Family. Lane amusingly leads the family dinner game with the “Full Disclosure” tune. Neuwirth has a particularly enjoyable performance in the song “Second Banana.” No doubt, Neuwirth’s singing will be noted for its Katherine Hepburn-esque quality. Where is the line between personal style and sounds like everybody else?
The supporting cast is a powerhouse of talent. Having some of the funniest lines and non-lines, Jackie Hoffman (grandma) and Zachary James (Lurch) are hysterical. Along with Rodriguez and Taylor, Terrence Mann (Mal Beineke), Carolee Carmello (Alice Beineke), Kevin Chamberlin (Uncle Fester) and even little Pugsley (Adam Reigler) dominate the stage with strong singing. Unfortunately, their songs don’t have the same longevity. Composer Andrew Lippa needs to cross several lines to get past cute tunes to score “stays in your head, humming all the way home” melodies.
The sets are sensational by directors and designers Phelim McDermott and Julian Crouch. From the draping of the curtains to the gated cemetery to the movable staircases, the Addams’ mansion has the creepy elegance of unconventional old money. My favorite visual moment is when the front of the house falls down to expose the family in a portrait pose made infamous by the television show. Fun! There is also a bizarre sequence featuring Uncle Fester chasing the moon. Although the audience loved its quirky black curtain technique, it was a part of a sub plot that had questionable necessity to the show. Is the Fester and moon relationship too much? Is the Wednesday and Lucas attraction not enough?
Chicago has the great fortune to be The Addams Family laboratory. So, what we didn’t get the Olympics? We have the opportunity to influence a pre-Broadway world premiere musical. Over the next several weeks, the creators will gauge the audiences’ reactions to fine tune the show before its April 8th Broadway debut. The Addams Family needs Chicago’s help to blur the line between good and great. “Their house is a museum where people come to see them. They really are a scream. The Addams Family.”
Lurching beside me, Dick describes the show as festerive funny forgettable.
WAITING FOR THE SHOW
My favorite downtown pre/post theatre haunt is Petterino’s, (150 N. Dearborn). Eddie is the bartender with the spooky ability to anticipate a guest’s needs. Within the bustling pre-theatre and after work crowd, Eddie expertly finds a table, pours the wine and times the dining experience within the allotted tight hour schedule. I order the evening’s special, homemade lasagna. It was okay but I like my dad’s better. I help myself to Dick’s wedge salad served with hearts of palm and blue cheese… delicious. His whitefish was also a tasty bite but I prefer a moister version.
Post show, we head over to the trendy rooftop bar at Wit’s Hotel (201 N. State). The rooftop bar is on the 28th floor. The service, from the host to the coat check guy to the server, is friendly and unusually attractive. da da da dah…neat! The room itself showcases a snowy city scene with floor to ceiling windows on three sides. The fireplaces and cozy club chairs give it a hip lounge vibe. da da da dah… sweet! Despite the higher prices (a glass of wine for $14), the crowd appears younger and model-like thin. da da da dah, da da da dah, da da da dah… petite! (snap,snap!) It’s time to go home.