The Addams Family musical, now in its second year on Broadway, is based on the artwork of cartoonist Charles Addams and the popular film and television productions that followed. The comedy musical pushes our favourite Gothic family into new territory — into genuine, unironic happiness. Happiness that was not achieved through decapitation, poisoning or the like. It’s kind of weird.
Wednesday Addams has grown up and fallen in love with Luke, a young man from a normal, respectable, if somewhat conservative, family. They met in Central Park, like any other romantic comedy would, but this meet-cute also includes a crossbow. Wednesday confides in her father Gomez that she is secretly engaged and has invited Luke’s family to dinner. She tells her father not to tell the family about the engagement. Gomez is conflicted, having never lied or kept anything from his wife Morticia, but he remains silent and promises his daughter that the family will try to act as normal as they can for the duration of the dinner.
The Addams Family has a book by Marshall Brickman and Rick Elice (Jersey Boys), and music and lyrics by Andrew Lippa (The Wild Party). Douglas Sills, a Tony Award nominee for The Scarlet Pimpernel, stars as Gomez alongside Sara Gettelfinger (Dirty Rotten Scoundrels) as his wife Morticia. The Addams Family also stars Tony Award nominee Martin Vidnovic as Mal Beineke, two-time Tony Award nominee Crista Moore as Alice Beineke, Blake Hammond as Uncle Fester, Pippa Pearthree as Grandmama, Tom Corbeil as Lurch, Patrick D. Kennedy as Pugsley, Brian Justin Crum as Lucas Beineke, and Courtney Wolfson as Wednesday.
I know what you’re thinking; The Addams Family isn’t the best fit with musical theatre. Frankly, you’re right. Their grim outlook on life doesn’t quite fit into the conventions of a musical, but The Addams Family musical does its able best, bringing together a cast that somehow manages to make Gomez and Morticia doing any dance other than the tango believable.
Well, with one exception.
I have one reservation about The Addams Family, a reservation which is also the entire premise of the comedy musical. Though Courtney Wolfson portrays this particular iteration of Wednesday Addams with panache, I could not believe that the character of Wednesday would act so gleefully, unironically in love. To put it in a nutshell: Wednesday giggles and squeals. More than once. It’s disturbing. Though the production was enjoyed unabashedly by the entire audience, I could not get past the fact that the daughter of Gomez and Morticia Addams would giggle. The premise of the musical, that she should be in love, could have been written more in-line with my conception of the character but, unfortunately, it wasn’t. This is more of a “nerd rage” gripe, however. If you can accept this premise, as I vainly tried to do, you shouldn’t have any major obstacles in the way of enjoying the musical. The opening night audience gave the musical a standing ovation, for example. I am clearly in a small minority.
The Addams Family is sometimes infused with observational comedy with pop culture references and this is often a detriment to the script. Rather than deriving humour from its ridiculous premise — the Addams family singing and dancing — the musical relies occasionally on easy laughs. For example, there is a Charlie Sheen joke. It would have been much more rewarding to have a similar humour to the film and television adaptations of Addams family. It’s somewhat disappointing to see this type of humour to be overlooked in preference to uncomfortable jibes at the elderly. There could have been a whole musical number with Wednesday attempting to commit suicide because she couldn’t be with her beloved. Just to stick with convention a la “Romeo and Juliet” because she assumes, miserably, that this is what someone with feelings would do. Wednesday Addams, of course, does not have feelings. I’m sure her younger brother Pugsley would have helped with the potion-making and back-up vocals.
Speaking of Pugsley, the stand-out performance of The Addams Family is one of its smallest (and by its smallest member of the cast if you don’t include The Thing and Cousin It). Patrick D. Kennedy is a delight to watch as the masochistic Pugsley. He is understandably concerned at his sister’s sudden change in demeanor and is alarmed that she will no longer be around to torture him (affectionately). The character of Pugsley as well as his father Gomez and uncle Fester were the most true to the Charles Addams originals, and they are easily the best performances.
The Toronto production of The Addams Family is enjoyable, sometimes bleakly witty, and boasts two or three memorable numbers by an able cast. Unfortunately, I spent the entire musical thinking about how Christina Ricci would be so-not-impressed. I’m sure she still knows how to use that crossbow.