Saturday, May 28, 2011

The Addams Family @ The Lunt-Fontanne Theatre

They have been known to be creepy and kooky, but musically inclined?  This is another thing the Addam’s can add to their list attributes in The Addams Family the Musical now lurching its way on Broadway.  This classic comic strip, which as seen life in almost every other form of media from television to the big screen, has the audience snapping in time to the familiar theme song, that brings a smile to everyone’s face before the curtain has even risen.  Unfortunately, the smiles do not last forever as a simple plot and less then memorable songs begin to take over.  However, even with these creative issues, one cannot help but sit through all of the craziness and kookiness without having a great time.  This shows manages to transport its audience into the world of the Addams in such a way that dying flowers, crawling flowers, and hairy cousins are simply beautiful.

This undead, upbeat musical follows the tell tale heart of Wednesday who has fallen in love with a "normal" boy, named Lucas, inspiring her to invite him and his parents over for dinner.  But this isn’t the only thing that is changing and the Addams are not quite sure what to do about it: Morticia fears of growing old, Gomez’s baby girl is slipping through his fingers, Pugsley is losing his sister, and Grandma is just going crazy.  Not to mention that Lucas’s family has their own separate set of issues – his father is money hungry and his mother only speaks in rhymes.  When these two families come together, it will ultimately be up to Uncle Fester to keep love alive and spirits high.  And, Fester has do it all while dealing with relationship problems of his own – his love is just too far away . . . like in outer space . . . as in, the moon.  In this original story, the Addams are put to the test to see if their family is strong enough to defect the dreaded coming of “true” love.

This classic; with countless movies, shows, and cartoons to document their crazy antics can be hard to live up to, but the cast did more than live up to their great name – they killed it. Rachel Potter (making her Broadway debut) portrays Wednesday Addams – a death obsessed, black colored wardrobe extraordinaire with the hormones of a teenage girl in love.  Potter’s performance of Wednesday was perfectly intricate and relatable, with a phenomenal voice that could wake even the stiffest corpse. Wednesday’s moments with Lucas Beineke, played by Jesse Swanson (Spring Awakening), were wonderfully charming, reminding the audience of the golden years of reckless, teenage love. Roger Rees (televisions Cheers and The West Wing) brings lightness to the classic character of Gomez Addams. His wit and comedic timing kept the audience laughing all throughout the play.  However, even more impressive, was the precious father-daughter moment between Gomez and Wednesday.  Rees portrayal of the protective father, learning to let go, tugs on the heart strings and shows a refreshing, emotional side to the character of Gomez.  Bebe Neuwirth (televisions Cheers and Frasier) encompassed the mysterious, sultry, and inexpressive Morticia as only Bebe Neuwirth can.  Providing balance to the chaotic happenings on stage, Neuwirth’s unique voice made the character her own with her signature peculiar sensuality, perfect for the role.  Adam Riegler’s (Shrek the Musical) performance as Pugsley adds that little bit of mischief to keep things interesting in this gothic family affair.  Riegler adds laughs and momentum to the play, delightfully portraying the fears of impish little-brother-losing-big-sister with off-beat sincerity, carried by his acting and vocals, setting the standards for a whole new generation.  The narrator of this zany show is none other than Uncle Fester, played by Brad Oscar (Tony nominated for The Producers).  With his cute mannerisms and huge heart, Oscar works his way into the hearts of the audience as only Uncle Fester could.  And how could this family be complete without Lurch, played by Zachary James (South Pacific). His silent, but deadly comedic timing was spot on as the stern and stoic butler, using his body and facial expressions to deliver some of the strongest moments within the production, adding another hilarious layer to this already six food deep comedy.

The music and lyrics by Andrew Lippa (revised ...Charlie Brown) might not burrow themselves into the audiences’ head right away, but after some time, songs such as When You’re an Addams and Pulled, worm their way into your heart.  Lippa takes into account the careful details of each characters’ personality, with teeny-pop tunes for Wednesday and love ballets for Gomez; bringing a rounded feel to the well loved family.  As for the choreography, done by Sergio Trujillo (Jersey Boys and Memphis), these toe taping numbers range from subtle to all the way to the extravagant; with the opening of the show the Addams ancestors are called on to celebrate the “great cycle of life and death”, but who would have ever guessed that would include Bunny Hopping!  With a set and direction done by Phelim McDermott and Julian Crouch (the team behind Off-Broadway’s Shockheaded Peter), the two deliver the wow factor to this show, building up a mansion of a character all its own.  The stunning illusion of different rooms, doors, and locations were represented by moving couches, staircases, or even the main curtain; making for a very clever and excellent opportunities for our lovably dark characters to make special appearances. The costumes, also done by McDermott and Crouch, rip the family right from the pages of the classic comic strips, staying true to what it means to be an Addams.  The puppetry also created a very unique atmosphere to this show.  From Cousin It, a Venus Fly-trap, the octopus living under the stairs, the list goes on, showing the creative versatility that is Basil Twist (work can be seen through such companies as Lincoln Center and The Los Angeles Philharmonic), adding the black cherry to the top of a dark chocolate Sunday.

If the family is looking for a creepy-crawly comedy of a musical, be sure to skulk, lurch, or even zombie your way on over to the Lune-Fontanne Theatre and pay a call on, “The Addams Family.”  Snap! Snap!
Review By: Morgan Mack & James Russo

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