THE ADDAMS FAMILY MUSICAL

 

THE ADDAMS FAMILY MUSICAL

 

By Gary Murray

Starring Douglas Sills, Sara Gettelfinger, Martin Vidnovic, Gaelen Gilliland and Blake Hammond

Book by Marshall Brickman and Rick Elice

Music and Lyrics by Andrew Lippa

 

Most people have come to know The Addams Family through the 1960s television show which ran for two seasons.  The entire concept started with the Charles Addams cartoons from The New Yorker magazine began in 1933 and eventually took on a life of their own.  In 1991, a major motion picture was released starring the creepy and kooky family of ghouls. 

Then in 2010, Broadway was the next adventure for The Clan of Addams that starred Nathan Lane and BeBe Neuwirth.  The touring version of the musical hits the boards of the Music Hall at Fair Park as part of the Dallas Summer Musical season.

The red curtain with giant tassels graces the stage portal.  The design is used to cover parts of the stage to give one side of the floor action and cover the other side for set changes.  It becomes a novel presentation device. 

The work opens in a cemetery with the Addams family paying respects to all the deceased members, ghosts who come out of the crypt.   The song that introduces the cast is “When you’re an Addams” which is a snappy, finger popping upbeat number.

For the cast, we have Gomez (Douglas Sills) the Latin lothario and his wife Morticia (Sara Gettelfinger).  They are a loving couple who never keep secrets from each other.  Morticia wears a dress so low-cut and sheer that she couldn’t keep any secrets from anyone. 

The two kids are Wednesday (Courtney Wolfson) and Pugsley (Patrick D. Kennedy).  Where young Pugsley is mostly interested in explosives and torture, his sister Wednesday has been discovering life outside the house.  She has met a young man and she is in love.  For the rest of the Addams brood, there is Uncle Fester (Blake Hammond), Grandma (Pippa Pearthree) and Lurch (Zackary James) the butler.

Wednesday has invited her boyfriend Lucas (Curtis Holbrook) and his parents Mal (Martin Vidnovic) and Alice (Gaelen Gilliland) over for dinner.  The family is from Ohio.  The young woman just wants the family to act normal.  It is a feat that the Addams group has a very hard time accomplishing. 

The first act ends with a dinner very reminiscent of De Vinci‘s Last Supper.  The family plays “The Game” sung to the tune of “Full Disclosure” where every member of the dinner party has to confess something.  It sets up the resolutions of Act II.

The second Act is much better than the first.  Uncle Fester sings a touching ballad for his true love, the moon.  The song is “The Moon and Me” and it is the most poignant moment of the entire production.   He floats to a balloon that is meant to represent the moon in a mid-air ballet.  It is warm and heartfelt.

All of the plot-points set-up in the first act become resolved in the second and all the couples mend their hurt feelings.  Morticia and Gomez have a touching duet of “Let’s Live before We Die” that shows off how well their voices go together.  Then, the play thunders toward the big show stopping try of “Tango de Amor” which comes across more as charming than show-stopping. 

The problem with The Addams Family is three fold.  The first is that there are no truly great songs.  A musical is supposed to be a musical but none of the music sticks.  Most of the works do not generate any hooks that the audience wants to remember.  It is an exercise in frustration.    The second is with the casting of Douglas Sills and Sara Gettelfinger.  Neither one puts a personal spin on the roles. It feels as if they are mimicking Nathan Lane and BeBe Neuwirth and not making the roles their own.  The third problem with the work is that some of the jokes are lame to the point of being musty.  This is never going to be considered a classic musical comedy and with every performance past its opening night, the work becomes staler. 

The person who saves The Addams Family is Blake Hammond as Uncle Fester.  He delivers joke line after joke line with an intensity that charms.  There is this vaudeville style of timing that he mimics to perfection.  Time after time one thinks that he is channeling the late, great Jackie Coogan while still making the role his own. 

The biggest find of the entire work is Courtney Wolfson who plays Wednesday Addams.  She has a fine, strong and well-projected singing voice that fills the hall with depth and clarity.  She plays Wednesday as a character and not a caricature.   It is a joy to watch a young performer take total command of a stage and very big things should be ahead for young Courtney Wolfson.

The physical production of The Addams Family is stunning, one of the best touring shows to grace Fair Park in a long time.  The sets are magical in their design and the lighting draws one into the performances.  The flats used in different scenes are so accurate, one images that the actual house is on the stage. 

All in all, The Addams Family is a very mixed bag.  It has some good parts and some weak elements.  To be honest, the older films capture more of the spirit of the work than this touring production does. 

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