What more could you ask than that a musical comedy version of The Addams Family cast a kooky spell?
The Addams Family: The Broadway Musical. Directed by Phelim McDermott & Julian Crouch. Marshall Brickman and Rick Elice, book, Andrew Lippa, composer/lyricist, Sergio Trujillo, choreographer. At the Shubert Theater, Boston, MA through February 19. The show moves on to The Bushnell, Hartford, CT, February 21–26.
By Michela Smith
To truly stand the test of time, one has to be dead.
The cadaverous clan of The Addams Family has become one of the immortal, American families, seducing and spooking fans since their first appearance in The New Yorker back in 1938. The family, led by the amorous Gomez and mesmeric Morticia, has appeared in various media since being creation by American cartoonist Charles Addams. It was only a matter of time before the creepy cartoon creations hit the stage. A 2010 Broadway musical inspired by the family’s macabre manners, sharpened by the witty writing of former Woody Allen partner Marshall Brickman, is on tour.
The plot is simple enough: the morbid Wednesday inexplicably falls in love and agrees to marry to the “normal” Ohioan, Lucas Beineke. She shares her engagement news with Gomez, swearing her father to secrecy until the judgmental Morticia meets the Beineke family at the evening’s dinner party. The resulting clashes between the Addams and the Beinekes and between Gomez and Morticia predictably drive the majority of the play’s conflict. Those expecting any shocks via a monster-in-your-closet-like happening will be disappointed.
The plot may be basic feel-good, but the cast provides plenty of effervescent life, or rather, death-in-life. Douglas Sills’s Gomez oozes faux-Spanish charisma, and his elastic face provides plenty of spot-on emotional and comedic payoffs. As Morticia, Sara Gettlefinger gives a more subdued performance, more seductive than sinister. Blake Hammond’s Uncle Fester is an inspired comic creation, the silly buoyancy of both his voice and gait providing plenty of laughs.
Interestingly, composer Andrew Lippa’s contribution is rather erratic. His lyrics teeter between cleverly ghoulish allusions (such as “takes the lid off the Id”) and a clichéd reliance on expository rhymes, which often become much-too-much a mouthful. Still, the cast’s powerful vocals, epitomized by Sills and Hammond, make the songs work.
Finally, the art design collaboration of Phelim McDermott, Julian Crouch, and Jerry Zaks should not be overlooked. Enormous, velvet, red curtains are draped in unorthodox angles throughout the performance. This campy ingenuity keeps the visuals fresh and the actors arranged on stage in surprising ways. The most beautiful image in the show is the ethereal weightlessness of the moon that floats through Uncle Fester’s romantic evening. Even the designing trio’s attention to seemingly inconsequential details, such as the shifts in the moonlight on the upstage swing during the climax, add to the sorcery of the scene.
And what more could you ask than that a musical comedy version of The Addams Family cast a kooky spell?