They’re creepy. They’re kooky. They’re currently infesting Baltimore’s Hippodrome Theatre. The Addam’s Family. (And holy Gomez, can they sing.)
What originated as a cartoon, written by Charles Addams, first appearing in the New Yorker in 1938, spawned a classic television show, an entertaining mid-90’s movie, a cult following (and even a bizarre rudimentary video game I once played on a cousin’s Nintendo). The trademark introductory riff and double snap have become a gem of our cultural lexicon.
Moving forward with the country’s Addams love, The Addam’s Family musical debuted on Broadway in April of 2010, with an unparalleled cast (Nathan Lane, anyone?) and more than $15 million in advanced sales. With music and lyrics by Andrew Lippa (The Wild Party) and book by Marshall Brickman and Rick Elice, the show ran for 725 performances, closing last December.
The nuts and bolts of this family-friendly show equal an easy joyride with a hummable tune, and enough gags and left wing punchlines to keep the audience squealing. Lippa’s score is equal parts pop, (“Pulled”) nostalgic standard, (“Happy/Sad”) and comedy routine (“The Moon and Me”). It laughs at the strangeness of the world and of itself. It winks. It pleases.
The plot is a simple one: Young Wednesday Addams (Courtney Wolf) has fallen in love and plans to marry the horrifyingly normal Lucas (Brian Justin Crum), sending the Addam’s family into a splintering state of uproar. Who’s going to torture Pugsly (Patrick D. Kennedy)? Who will break the news to Morticia (Sarah Gettelfinger)? How will Gomez (Douglass Sills) keep his dysfunctional family functioning as perk and poetry creep into their beloved mansion? Uncle Fester (Blake Hammond), inexplicably inspired by the concept of love, intervenes, making his mission the success of the young couple with the help of a legion of deceased blood relations, who are always entrancing under Sergio Trujillo’s choreography. Lucas’s parents (Martin Vidnovic and Crista Moore) soon enter the Adam’s family threshold only to have their wholesome cores drugged, shaken, and spat out.
Never one to underestimate the prowess of a national Broadway touring company, my high expectations were continually exceeded by the sheer force and talent of the cast, under the original direction of Phelim McDermott and Julian Crouch. Upon the vivid opening of “When You’re an Addams,” it became clear that the audience could have just as easily been ensconsed in Manhattan’s Theatre district as the more modest Eutaw Street.
Gettlefinger’s satiny-voiced and stone-foxed Morticia is a true equal of Sills’ Gomez, whose charm and sorrow make the living and dead swoon equally. As Wednesday, Wolfson manages to marry a rainy day disposition to the brightest of voices, and understudy Christy Morton delivered the show’s most uproarious of moments as Grandma Addams, giving true life to a character most likely dead.
I vaguely remember the days before the much-needed re-opening of the Hippodrome Theatre, frequently begging my parents to take me to D.C. or NYC for a much-needed Broadway fix. Now, worry not, Baltimorians. Broadway’s best, classic and contemporary, continue to come to Charm City by way of the France-Merrick Performing Arts Center, a blessing in itself. Bus fare, after all, adds up.
The Addams Family, while arguably lackluster in terms of ground-breaking storyline, is the kind of vehicle Broadway could use more of – giving performers a change to wow, over flying machines or special effects (though Julian Crouch and Phelim McDermott’s pitch-perfect costumes and transformative set design certainly holds up its gloomy, wowing end of the bargain).
The Addams sing, the Addams dance, the Addams tell jokes. The Addams charm. By the end of the evening they’re creepy and the kooky, but more importantly, they’re family. Go meet them.
The Addam’s Family
Music and lyrics by Andrew Lippa
Book by Marshall Brickman and Rick Elice
Originally Directed by Phelim McDermott and Julian Crouch
Presented by the France-Merrick Performing Arts Center
Reviewed by Sarah Ameigh
Running Time: 2 hours and 40 minutes with 1 intermission