Saturday, August 4, 2012

Theatre review: "The Addams Family." Sunday 5th August 2012

Pittsburgh CLO and the Broadway series have unearthed a traveling version of the musical The Addams Family which closed its Broadway coffin substantially in the black after a healthy life of 20 months. Seeing this cute show can make you realize why it has been a crowd-pleaser. 

For one thing, it can’t hurt that it’s a descendant of a mid-1960s TV sitcom. Black and white nostalgia land. For another, it has a goofy premise about seemingly not quite humans whose enthusiasms inevitably veer towards the dark side. Joke territory. 

Marshall Brickman and Rick Elice’s book digs into a body of solid gags keeping the show funny. The cast plays it with verve, sometimes milking the bits a bit, but all in jolly spirit with Douglas Sills brightening up every nook and cranny as Gomez.

Andrew Lippa wrote the songs. He came up with a heap of clever lyrics and, every so often, a few good tunes, including the sultry “Tango de Amor” and the incongruous but lovely finale “Move Toward the Darkness.” Everyone sings admirably, including doing the best to sell Lippa’s rather standard pushy numbers.

Julian Crouch and Phelim McDermott directed this, also designing the sets and costumes. They make everything look good including “The Moon and Me” an imaginative flying sequence. Plus Gregory Meeh’s special effects and a few puppet tricks by Basil Twist add to a distinctive look and feel.

In this spin-off from massive amounts of macabre New Yorker cartoons by Charles Addams, not much ground is covered in the plot. Post-teen daughter Wednesday (unlike TV’s six year old) has fallen in love with Lucas who comes from the sunnier, “normal” world. She invited him and parents to her home for dinner to meet her family. That’s it. The source for misunderstandings, deceptions, near- farcical situations. The standard stuff of plenty of comedies, live or preserved on film.

You might think that this would try to get mileage out of the weird-people-are-just-as-good-as-the-rest-of-us routine. Nope. What you see is what you get. i.e songs, dances, some good visuals and laughs. To enhance the show with choreographic chorus the writers incorporate the ghosts of the Addams family ancestors hovering regularly on the premises. That works too.

Douglas Sills’ Gomez stays full of style and personality, making his every moment colorful and (dare I say it?) lively. As Uncle Fester, Blake Hammond also constantly charms and delights. The rest of the cast remains capable but not nearly as distinctive, with Sara Gettelfinger doing little to fill in the outlines of the Morticia cartoon.

From the pages of a magazine, spun like a spider web into a TV series, then re-born as a musical. There’s life in the old thing yet.

“The Addams Family” continues through August 12th at Benedum Center, downtown.

412/-456-6666 or,

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