In this touring musical rendition
of Charles Addams’ macabre cartoon,
The Addams Family
soars past both heaven and hell, landing smack-dab in the middle of purgatory. It’s a musical, so you can’t really expect high art, but the moments in which it shines just prove how much better it could have been. The play, which opened on Broadway in 2010 but has since been revised, begins with Wednesday Addams (Cortney Wolfson) revealing her new love affair to the audience. Uncle Fester (Blake Hammond) overhears and, with the help of a team of singing/dancing ghosts, decides to play Cupid. Why? It turns out he’s in love too. With the moon. Songs ensue, fights erupt, Wednesday’s future in-laws are understandably freaked the eff out, and eventually—as one might expect—love conquers all.
The script often seems to be merely a vehicle for a series of songs; a few lines separate each number, and when characters talk to one another it feels as if they’re just laying the groundwork to justify belting it out once more. That said, the subplot (Fester’s courtship with that big, beautiful satellite) is lovely, and if it were its own 10-minute play it would be a touching, funny work of art. Hammond is hilarious as Fester, and translates the character to the stage with dexterity. One of the best sequences in the production is his love ballad to the moon, “The Moon and Me.” Via puppetry magic, Fester swims his way up through the inky black sky to dance with his beloved, and there were gasps throughout the audience on a recent evening as he appeared to float effortlessly above the stage. Moments like this were scattered, though, and further highlighted how much the rest of the play was lacking.
The skill of the performers shone through, however, despite a lackluster script. They all have the chops to keep the production afloat, but it often feels as if they are collectively going through the motions to reach the musical’s inevitable conclusion. Douglas Sills, who plays Gomez Addams, manages to steal the show, rising above the so-so jokes with delivery alone, earning a good number of laughs from the crowd. Amusing, lovable, and sweetly sinister, Sills pulls off facial expressions and gestures that alone often get a big response. For instance, while struggling to keep a secret from his wife Morticia (Sara Gettelfinger), he spins around to find her standing just behind him. Nose-to-nose with her, he awkwardly tries to come off as calm, but falters. He stammers, mutters something about being startled by her beauty, then just dives in for a hug. Sills extends the moment into eternity, and the tension he creates is one of the funniest interactions in the play.
With the production heading out this Sunday, you don’t have much time to catch it before it rolls out of town. If you’re a fan of the franchise, it’s worth seeing. Or perhaps you’ve got a soft spot for Broadway and all that comes with it (e.g. songs, huge dance numbers, a love story). Otherwise, despite some impressive performances and puppetry,
The Addams Family
suffers from some serious rigor mortis.