Adam Riegler, Jackie Hoffman, Nathan Lane, Zachary James, Bebe Neuwirth, Krysta Rodriguez and Kevin Chamberlin. Photo by Sara Krulwich.
BOTTOM LINE: A thoroughly mediocre new musical that is all the more disappointing because it wastes not only its talented cast, but also its charming source material.
Should you go see The Addams Family? It's hard to say. It is certainly selling well - houses have been filled almost to capacity every week since the beginning of previews. And by all accounts, it will continue to do well at the box office - after all, it is a familiar "brand," it features two Broadway stars (Nathan Lane and Bebe Neuwirth) and a supporting cast of Broadway favorites, and it is one of this season's only new musicals with an original score. It all sounds very promising. The problem is that promises, like any flowers delivered to Morticia Addams, are made to be broken.
Simply put, The Addams Family just isn't very good. It isn't that it is bad, exactly. Well ok, for $130 a ticket, maybe it is. But there are a lot of good elements. Lane and Neuwirth play a fine Gomez and Morticia. Wednesday, Pugsley, Grandma, Uncle Fester, and Lurch are all here too. They are immediately recognizable, and each one has some fun moments. There are cameos by Thing and Cousin Itt. Some of the lines made me laugh, even occasionally out loud. There are some cool effects, including puppetry by Basil Twist. And a big set which constantly moves. And lots of dancing and singing. In short, everything you'd expect from a big Broadway musical. So what's the problem?
The problem is that The Addams Family is boring. The central plot, that Wednesday (Krysta Rodriguez) has fallen in love with a boy, Lucas Beineke (Wesley Taylor), and brings his family home to meet her family - is as old as, well, death. Which doesn't mean it can't work - witness the (far superior) musical La Cage Aux Folles, which is currently being revived two blocks away. But in this instance, nothing much happens. The Beineke family arrives for drinks and dinner. Everyone is weirded out for a bit. They sing a bunch of random songs, most of which are instantly forgettable (except when they're annoying, like the Act 1 closer "Full Disclosure"). Eventually the two families realize they all want the same things. Curtain. Yawn.
Ok, to be fair, there are a few great moments. In the middle of "Full Disclosure," Lucas's mother, played by Carolee Carmello (who is amazing in everything she is in), suddenly breaks into "Waiting," a song in which she expresses her frustration with her marriage. And she does it while crawling on top of the dining room table. This song is so unexpected, and Carmello's performance so full of raw emotion, that I immediately felt like I had been transported into a different musical. "Waiting" shows a glimpse into the score that Andrew Lippa is capable of writing, and quite possibly, the musical that The Addams Family could have been.
There is also Uncle Fester's love song in Act 2, "The Moon and Me." Yes, that's right, Uncle Fester (played by the always delightful Kevin Chamberlin) is in love with the moon. This song is so bizarre, yet simultaneously so sweet, that I again felt like I had been transported to a different show. I even turned to my friend and whispered "what is going on?" It was all so weird and confusing, and thinking back, I kind of loved it.
Unfortunately these moments, in which I felt truly engaged by the action on stage, were rare. Everything else comes off as carbon copy Broadway musical, manufactured for a mass audience, and watered down to appeal to the lowest common denominator. The big joke? The Addams family finds death and disease fun. Variations of this joke keep coming, as if the audience can't handle anything more challenging. The creators and stars of The Addams Family have often said that the musical is primarily based on Charles Addams's original New Yorker cartoons (as opposed to the popular television series). While that may be, it doesn't really come across here; indeed, the two cartoons in the playbill have more charm and wit than the entire musical.
Those who have never seen a Broadway musical may well enjoy The Addams Family. The production elements are well done, and the cast is super-talented. And for those who see everything - well, you're going already. But for everyone else, if you're choosing a Broadway musical and don't have an unlimited bank account, there is inevitably a better option, whether you want a big splashy musical, a musical for the whole family, or just a musical with an original score. Yes, The Addams Family is all of these things. But that still doesn't make it good.
(The Addams Family plays at the Lunt-Fontanne Theatre, 205 West 46th Street. Performances are Tuesdays at 7pm, Wednesdays at 2pm and 8pm, Thursdays at 8pm, Fridays at 8pm, Saturdays at 2pm and 8pm and Sundays at 3pm. Tickets are $51.50 - $136.50 and can be purchased at ticketmaster.com or by calling 212.307.4100. Same-day student rush tickets are available in the mid-mezzanine, two hours before the performance, for $41.50 (1 per ID, Tuesdays, Wednesdays, and Thursdays only). For more show information visit theaddamsfamilymusical.com.)