Friday, June 8, 2012

The Addams Family Gets Snaps From the Audience

Photo credit: Jeremy Daniel

The Addams Family may have had a bumpy road to Broadway but the warm reception it received at the Pantages this week proves this is one kooky family that audiences will love, no matter what the critics say. Gomez, Morticia, Uncle Fester, Wednesday, Pugsley, Grandma, and Lurch (played by Douglas Sills, Sara Gettelfinger, Blake Hammond, Cortney Wolfson, Patrick D. Kennedy, Pippa Pearthree, and Tom Corbeil) offer a steady stream of laughs in Marshall Brickman, Rick Elice & Andrew Lippa’s musical comedy and the audience is on their side from the very beginning.

Musically the show rockets to life with the familiar ‘da da da dum, snap, snap’ before introducing Gomez and his family in the traditional portrait pose singing, “When You’re an Addams.” Joining them are an array of ghostly dead ancestors who emerge from the crypt for the annual celebration of what it is to be an Addams. Energetic numbers like this one and “One Normal Night,” which also features the entire company, gives the musical much of its pizzazz but the score isn’t nearly as interesting as one might think given the subject matter.


Douglas Sills
is delicious as Gomez, a role Nathan Lane originated on Broadway, and much of the delight of the musical comes from Sills’ never-ending ability to crack himself up with his own jokes. The handsome head of the family sports a mischievous smile, sleek mustache, and a charismatic presence sexy enough to induce swoons among men and women alike. Plus, he’s got marvelous comic timing and the best charm song in the show, “Happy/Sad.”

If only Gettelfinger was as lucky. Her songs are largely forgettable and Morticia’s deadpan delivery feels forced and uncomfortable in contrast to Sills’ easy manner. Even her “Tango de Amor,” which you’d expect to be filled with the burning desire of passion after reconciliation is rather unsatisfying.

What reconciliation? 18-year old daughter Wednesday has invited her fiancé Lucas Beineke (Brian Justin Crum) and his über conservative parents (Gaelen Gilliland and Martin Vidnovic) to dinner to meet her family but she asks her father not to tell her mother until after dinner. Gomez has never kept a secret from Morticia before but finds himself caught between his absent wife and the daughter in front of him so he agrees. As expected, Morticia learns of the secret, dinner is a shambles, and everyone’s relationship, including Morticia & Gomez and Alice & Mal Beineke, falls apart, thanks in part to little brother Pugsley.

Luckily, Uncle Fester enlists the help of the ancestors and love wins in the end. Before the night is out each of the couples has been reunited, and even Fester reveals his secret love….for the moon. In “The Moon and Me,” he sweetly sings of his love for the moon before rocketing through the sky to be with her.  You can’t help but smile at his innocent charm, and after this number, you’ll never look at the man in the moon the same way again.

Lurch gets a specialty moment late in the show that is an unexpected hit with the audience, Pugsley has his high-pitched squeals of tortured delight, and that crazy Grandma in the attic is a head-shaking oddity who may or may not be an Addams family member after all. Cousin It makes an appearance and Thing is on hand (pun intended) to page the curtain as needed. Julian Crouch & Phelim McDermott’s touring set is quite simple and effective; it’s most dramatic element is the gorgeous red curtain that shifts its drape throughout the show to denote different rooms and playing areas. The starlit sky, glowing moon and ghoulish graveyard are also highlights.

The Addams Family runs through June 17 at the Pantages Theatre in Hollwyood. For tickets and information go to www.BroadwayLA.org.

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