Theater Review: THE ADDAMS FAMILY (Long Beach Playhouse)

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by William C. on July 1, 2024

in Theater-Los Angeles


Every generation, there is an iconic TV family that defines the era. From the perfect clan of The Donna Reed Show to the trashy hellscape of Keeping Up with the Kardashians, American audiences have always been enamored by family drama. After all, is anything more universal than having a semblance of a familial unit growing up? The bizarre and gothic black-and-white Addams Family, based on Charles Samuel Addams’ comic strip, entered the American cultural sphere in 1964. With Gomez, the patriarch of Castilian background, his wife Morticia has roots in Eastern Europe. The designs, aesthetics, costumes, and dances all moved far away from the white picket fences of WASP families. With dark humor as the root of this cultural phenomenon, the musical adaptation inspired by his sardonic New Yorker cartoons should be an easy hit. But, sadly, no such luck.


In this awkward and kitschy retelling of the Addams family, it’s disappointing to see that almost all the edgy parts of the series have been tamed down. The story follows Wednesday Addams’ ruse of getting her strange family to appear “normal” for a single night for the sake of her impending engagement with a non-kooky boyfriend, Lukas Beineke. The whole ruse becomes ever more complicated as the entire Addams family is worked up into a frenzy. It’s a missed opportunity.


Unlike the 90s film adaptations of The Addams Family, with iconic characters such as the murderous Debbie and plastic mean girl Amanda, Marshall Brickman and Rick Elice‘s book for the musical is an absolute yawn fest (this from the duo who brought us Jersey Boys). And this version is a rewrite of the Broadway version with Nathan Lane (many of Andrew Lippa‘s songs have also been changed). From Uncle Fester’s meddling in Wednesday’s love affair with “Normal” to Morticia’s insistence on playing “The Game,” a variant of truth or dare just as boring as the actual game, the whole farce is exceedingly pedestrian. It is really a wonder that the bookwriters removed all semblance of artistic rigor and championed lackadaisical storytelling.


Long Beach Playhouse has always produced mixed results regarding production value and storytelling. In almost all cases, their cast shines brightly due to the pure talent the Playhouse can garner, such as with Urinetown. However, the luster of this really good 18-member cast has been kneecapped by the terrible sound system and out-of-tune band under Stephen Olear. For what it’s worth, a lot of heart has been placed by director Gregory Cohen into making a rather unworkable book translatable onto the stage. The whole cast looks terrific in the numerous tableaus. Amanda Webb is sensational as Morticia Addams. She easily stands out with her graceful demeanor and sensuous aura. The other pleasant surprise was Quinn Vann‘s delightful vocals as Lucas Beineke.


And credit must be given where credit is due. The costumes and makeup are terrific. Christina Bayer and Christina Abbott have poured a lot of heart into creating this world and establishing the color pallets. The scenic design, on the other hand, left much to be desired. The show is pretty prop-heavy, which I am sure took up much of the budget, but the austere backdrop of a family portrait feels lazy and uninspiring. There is one rather delightful moment when Uncle Fester (Milo Cote) flies to his love, the moon, where a cleverly created puppet is triggered to fly into the projection of a moon. The effect was rather endearing.


OK, it’s not a good musical. But to put in all this work and have it hampered by an unreliable sound system is absolutely unthinkable as it significantly impacts production. The same goes for Long Beach Playhouse’s orchestra, I hope they find a better band to work with. Having the singers work with such an off-tune ensemble is a huge disappointment. The whole project would have been better off with just the piano book. Here’s to the next season, Long Beach Playhouse, and the potential for improvement.


photos courtesy of Long Beach Playhouse

The Addams Family, A Musical Comedy
Long Beach Playhouse
Studio Theatre 5021 E. Anaheim Street Long Beach
ends on August 4, 2024
for tickets, visit LB Playhouse

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