Saturday, April 10, 2010

Review of the Addams Family Musical; theatrical performance from March 18, 2010, Lunt-Fontanne Theatre, NYC

Nathan Lane, is a perfect Gomez with a Spanish accent, suited in pinstripes or smoking jackets and ascots; an infectious laugh; his recalling of ancestral names all sounding like dishes found on a Mexican restaurant menu. His charming, charismatic grins, were most often paired with Bebe Neuwirth's (Morticia) mischievous purr. Neuwirth's solo "Just Around the Corner" takes a moment to tease us by pausing midsong, "Get it? Coroner..." as if to see if we're at all listening to the lyrics. She does the number with a wardrobe conversion that gives her thigh-high, black shiny boots. Neuwirth's Morticia, like Lane, brings to life (and death) our favorite goth parent.

The comedy of Carolee Carmello (Alice Beineke) reminded me of Carol Burnett. She's the mom of Wednesday's love interest and her energetic stage stunts are very much a tribute to Burnett's slapstick. Her husband Mal is played by Terrence Mann and Mal runs into a little trouble in the dungeon with Bernice while trying to bond with Gomez Addams. His song "In the Arms" is cabaret-like and he has a nice duet with Carolee Carmello.

Jackie Hoffman is Grandmama and she is a scene stealer. Hoffman was told to improvise a line each night. Her twisted jokes include singing the lyrics to Buffalo Springfield's "Stop, Hey What's That Sound" and, with Pugsley, who doesn't understand her old references, she commands him to stop texting and read a book! She has a part in "Let's Not Talk About Anything Else But Love" as does Fester, Puck-ishly played by Kevin Chamberlain. Early in the 1st act, he daringly breaks the fourth wall with a lyric asking how the audience is doing in the mezzanine.

Chamberlain's twisted Fester falls in love with the moon and is literally floating high above the stage. Fester's story livens up the second act of the show.

Zachary James plays Lurch, who is a character of few words, more grunts and some phrases of jibberish, and he has many memorable scenes, great timing with the deadpan humor. His jokes are primarily physical. Observing him slowly shuffling to the door like an octagenarian, just drives poor Wednesday mad (or madder) awaiting the arrival of her boyfriend and his parents at the house for the first time.

I get that the trick with the story is to play on the juxtapositions between the preppy boyfriend Lucas Beineke played by Wesley Taylor and the dour Wednesday. The concept is of having their odd romance throws off kilter the rest of the Addams, apparent in the moments where the parents are singing, "Where did we go wrong?". The other side is playing Morticia and Gomez against each other and her concern that she's old. It never was a subject in the cartoons nor in the TV and movies. Their conflict may not have been true to the Addams characters, but the players were still fascinating to watch as they worked it out.

"Pulled" is a solo sung by Krysta Rodriguez (Wednesday) while torturing Adam Riegeler's Pugsley, rather polished and predictably upbeat in typical musical theatre fashion. Here is where one imagines the fans of Christina Ricci's Wednesday Addams would not appreciate the choice for Wednesday to sing with such fervor. "Crazier Than You" is a slightly better song Rodriguez performs with Taylor.

Riegler's song, "What If" is a little sweetly sentimental number about longing to be tortured by his sister, hoping it won't cease, and allows him to interact one on one with Hoffman's Grandmama. The contrasting connotations of the youngest and the oldest is a little contrived, but funny nonetheless.

Closing the show with "Move Towards the Darkness" embraces the bleakness that the Addams cherish and the song is beautifully sung by Zachary James with the rest of the cast joining him.

Fans of the Charles Addams cartoons may see a few references in the Addams Family Musical, set in New York City, which is a location often celebrated in Addams's cartoons for it was a hometown he loved. For example, the bed Pugsley sleeps in is carved in the image in the bed used in one of the cartoons. The family dined on one side of a long table on stage in one of the scenes. It was clear that the Tee and Charles Addams Foundation had a lot of influence on the show. There are references to Thing, the amputated hand, from the TV shows and movies. Cousin It is seen at least once, but unfortunately not a guest at the dinner table. Fester can light up the lightbulbs inserted into his mouth; both from the TV show and movies.

Like in the cartoons, creatures live in nooks and crannies of the house. Bernice is a giant squid living under the stairs in a dungeon area of the mansion. I didn't think that the Venus Flytrap plant had much to do with the story. Pugsley cradles a pet fire-breathing dragon. The puppetry is cute, but a bit corny and, unfortunately, fails to capture the deadpan humor we have seen in Charles Addams's drawings.

It was my choice to view the exhibit of Charles Addams's New York at the Museum of the City of New York within days of attending the musical at Lunt-Fontanne theatre near Times Square. It was apparent from the show that these original characters created by Charles Addams were an adored family and the performances were a tribute to their creator.

Preview the original cast recording album and you'll here how the songs range from upbeat show tunes to ballads. Here are the first three songs.

Other reviews of The Addams Family Musical.

edited for link updates on 6/22/2010

No comments: