Los Angeles Theater and Tour Review: THE ADDAMS FAMILY (Pantages Theatre)

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by Tony Frankel on June 10, 2012

in Theater-Los Angeles,Tours

REAPPLYING MAKE-UP ON THE SAME CORPSE

Your enjoyment of The Addams Family, now on its National Tour, will depend largely on your expectations. If you are a discerning musical theater aficionado who craves a well-crafted story and amazing songs, this will be a head-scratching affair, one which creates more questions than answers. Those who are satisfied with some snappy one-liners and don’t feel manipulated by the fact that this re-tooled Broadway musical is a well-oiled, family-friendly machine, should walk away without feeling as though money was flushed down the toilet.

Tony Frankel's Los Angeles review of The Addams Family at PantagesThe watered-down story revolves around the daughter, original Goth teen Wednesday (Cortney Wolfson, who looks and acts thirty), and her desire to marry a “normal” guy. She asks dad Gomez (a silly but thoroughly engaging Douglas Sills) to keep her desire secret from mom Morticia (Sara Gettelfinger) until after the two families meet for dinner that night. Gomez agrees, and this secret (which is kept for all of one afternoon) becomes the crux of the show! Morticia’s discovery of this trivial plot point incongruently causes her to pack her bags for the sewers of Paris. Because the story is in service to Wednesday,  it sacrifices the fleshing-out of major characters (Cousin Itt, Thing, Grandma), successfully ripping the beating heart from a musical that so desperately needs it. (Clearly this Wicked decision was based on the ticket-buying power of teen girls.) In addition, having the non-traditional Addams Family effecting the “normal” parents for the good smacks of the La Cage Aux Folles formula.

Tony Frankel's Los Angeles review of The Addams Family at PantagesThe reviews of the original Broadway outing (with Nathan Lane and Bebe Neuwirth) were scathing, and funnier than the show itself. Now, the creators have re-written the musical (losing some songs and a giant squid), but end up transferring one set of problems for another. Bookwriters Marshall Brickman (Annie Hall) and Rick Elice (Jersey Boys) have retained their formulaic approach, adding just enough embalming fluid so that this D.O.A. musical can be viewed in the parlor of America before audiences recognize the rotting corpse just beneath the surface. The safe, bland adaptation has none of the creepy, spooky, and mysterious elements that made the cartoons and sketches of The New Yorker’s Charles Addams so deliciously and delightfully macabre. What we end up with is a Zombie musical that, like the butler Lurch (a phenomenal Tom Corbeil), is neither living nor dead.

Tony Frankel's Los Angeles review of The Addams Family at PantagesWelcome to the Broadway Musical of the twenty-first century, whose job it is to have you exit the theater with one word on your mind: fun. Shows such as this are designed not with clarity in mind but as a series of feel-good moments. You won’t be whistling any tunes (the unmemorable songs by Andrew Lippa are meant to be funny, but aren’t), you won’t be impressed with the staging, and you will not be enriched in any way. It’s theater born of the American Family sit-com mentality where multiple conflicts (intergenerational, parental) are tidily resolved, values are learned, important information is withheld, and modern references and topical issues are hurled at you with rapidity. As with fast food, it’s filling-for-the-moment, and loaded with enough tasty ingredients that a public desperate to escape life won’t notice that underneath it all is innutritious balderdash.

photos by Jeremy Daniel

The Addams Family
Pantages Theatre in Los Angeles
scheduled to end on June 17, 2012
for tickets, visit http://www.BroadwayinLA.org or call 800.982.2787

and continuing on tour through December 30, 2012
for dates and tickets, visit http://www.theaddamsfamilymusicaltour.com/

{ 3 comments }

Cris Franco June 10, 2012 at 2:00 pm

Bravo, Tony Frankel! Once again, unafraid to speak the truth about this first-class production of a third-rate musical. The ADDAMS FAMILY score is blessedly forgettable and the sloppy plot is plagiarized. Most offensive is the desperate, last minute “wrap up” where the characters pronounce what we were supposed to learn from the garbled plot. (So much for good storytelling.) I saw the Broadway production twice and can truthfully say that without Nathan Lane this show is hardly worth mounting.

Roy Leake Jr. June 10, 2012 at 6:12 pm

Clearly, the authors just don’t “get” the Addams family! They are neither crazy nor kookie, mysterious nor spooky, and they sure as hell aren’t altogether ooky. They are, for the most part, a perfectly normal group of people who occasionally reference a guillotine or something.

That ain’t it, kid. That ain’t it, kid.

Robert Wills August 22, 2012 at 3:00 pm

A wonderful show! I had a great time. The sparkling lyrics and hummable tunes are so much better than many other current shows. (Are you listening, “ONCE”?)

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