I will begin this review by letting you all in on a little secret. At the college I attend, I am a double major in Journalism…and Theatre. Yes! It’s true! Yours truly is a thespian and an avid lover of all things musical theatre *holds skull with jazz hands*. That being said, I have a tendency to judge quite harshly when it comes to musical theatre performances as musical theatre is the genre that I hold nearest and dearest to my Judy Garland obsessed heart. This past weekend, I was lucky enough to catch a performance of The Addams Family musical in Chicago as it was being tested out on us Windy City dwellers before it hits The Big Apple. I’ve been absolutely eager to see this production take flight and I finally was given my opportunity.
I would first like to state that the set design, light design, sound design, costumes, and scene transitions were absolutely fabulous. The Addams house looked creepy, cooky, mysterious, and yes…a little spooky. With monsters that come out of beds move and carry Pugsly away while he slumbers with his six toes, a moon that Fester falls for, and even a gigantic venus flytrap that eats mice on stage while we watch it clump down its throat; the technical aspect of the film was absolutely magnificent.
Second, the sound. I’m normally picky picky picky when it comes to music and I was terribly afraid the music for this show was going to be nothing more than these Gothic and dark songs that did nothing more than depress the audience. I was pleasantly shown otherwise. The music was very catchy and very “Broadway”. The love song, the dance break, the upbeat fiesty “I gotta figure this out” jam, all came power packed with just a hint of the macabre for this show. I found the music to be highly intelligent, as well as impressive. The pit playing had a hell of a brass line and I was very impressed. A lot of people are giving Bebe Neuwirth negative reviews as far as her voice is concerned and honestly, I had no problem with it. She was playing up the character (impecably I might add) as Morticia Addams. This includes her singing. There are parts where her voice switches from her natural singing voice to the “Morticia” singing voice and this shouldn’t be picked on so much. If you listen to the soundtrack to Little Shop of Horrors, you’ll notice Audrey’s voice does the same thing. This is because you can only have a character voice for certain notes before you end up sounding like a lousy singer. I will say that I found Fester’s songs to be a bit excessive. One of the most entertaining parts of the show and yet the one scene I would cut (the show runs a bit long for Broadway) is his love song about the moon. We see him floating in the air and yet as much as I enjoyed it, it didn’t play any necessary part for the storyline. Any producers reading this, cut that scene somehow…or shorten it. The voices of Gomez, Pugsly, Wednesday, Fester, The Beineke family, and the big surprise in Lurch were all absolutely phenomenal. I have made it my unrealistic theatre goal to one day play Wednesday on Broadway and to adopt the little boy playing Pugsly.
The acting was of course wonderful and I will say I have found a new obsession with Jackie Hoffman which is the actress and facial contorting genius behind the character of the Grandmama. Her lines were absolutely hysterical and her delivery was brilliant. She was the standout character of the entire show and a true star.
The show was based on the cartoons rather than the films, but the creators made the very VERY intelligent move by doing a ton of throwbacks to the characters that honestly, we’ve learned from the movies and television series. Fester’s light bulb in the mouth was a huge hit, as well as the special guest appearances of Thing, Cousin IT, and the infamous sword fights. The full arm kisses and the iconic snapping theme song all made the show all the more enjoyable by throwing us audience members a bone.
All in all, the show was awesome. Now it isn’t to say this show is better than Wicked or Spamalot which both recently played in Chicago, but it is definitely worth seeing and if I could scrounge up the funds, I’d go see it again in a heartbeat.