- March 21, 2014
Ah, the Addams Family, how they’ve been burned in our brains. They started out as Charles Addams’ single panel cartoons in The New Yorker. From there, they begat a 1960s television show and Barry Sonnenfeld’s two movie adaptations in the 1990s, and countless other minor adaptations that now molder in the Addams Family crypt. Their latest spawn is “The Addams Family: A New Musical.” Marshall Brickman and Rick Elice wrote the script; Andrew Lippa did the music and lyrics. Their creation has come to life, so to speak, at The Players.
There’s a simple premise, lifted wholesale from “La Cage aux Folles.” (Substitute “morbid, possibly occult upper crust eccentrics” for “two gay dads” and you’re right on the money.) Wednesday (Sabrina Bowen) now in her late teens, has fallen in love with Lucas (David Anderson) a normal kid. Wednesday brings Lucas and his parents (Mark Athridge and Andrea Keddell) home to dine with her creepy, kooky family and asks everybody to “act normal.” So, the painfully normal Beineke brood encounters the freakish Addams family. Chaos ensues. Love conquers all. With the exception of death, of course.
Cute, but off. There’s a false note. Allow me to point it out.
Comedy works when it follows certain rules.
The Roadrunner never hurts the Coyote; he only hurts himself.
Inspector Clousseau thinks he’s a great detective.
The Addams Family has no idea how weird they are.
Yep. They think they’re normal. It’s a basic rule, built into the DNA of the cartoons, TV show and the Sonnenfeld movies. If Wednesday asked her family to “Act normal,” they’d have no idea what she was talking about. Easy fix …
“What are you talking about? We are normal. It’s everybody else who’s weird.”
“Yeah, OK … then act like everybody else.”
“Fine, Wednesday. We can do that.”
See how easy that was?
Now that I’ve got that out of my system, let’s get back to the review …
The musical throws you into the action with dance numbers involving the risen dead, Morticia (Eve Caballero) and Gomez (Chip Fisher) doing a steamy tango, Wednesday electrocuting Pugsley in an act of sisterly devotion, and the sexually ambiguous Uncle Fester (Bill Sarazen) having a love affair with the moon.
Director Jared E. Walker deftly handles the central joke: A warm-hearted story revolving around macabre characters. The actors deliver great performances — and all seem to be having the time of their lives. The play revolves around Wednesday, Bowen’s character. She pulls it off with a stunning voice and true stage presence. She has a future this kid. So does McDowall, judging by his performance as her bratty-but-devoted brother, Pugsley. Fisher and Caballero have true chemistry as Gomez and Morticia. Ruth Shaulis plays Grandma like an aging hippy; Sarazen’s Uncle Fester is a sui generis weirdo. Anderson, Athridge and Keddell are funny as the normal family — Keddell is especially hilarious in the scene where her repressed character drinks the Addams family equivalent of truth serum. Tom Palazzo’s Lurch gets to grunt for most of the play — then bursts into one eloquent song. Thing also puts in a cameo appearance. And gets a big hand.
As if directing wasn’t enough, Walker also does a fine job on the crepuscular costumes and collaborates with Eric Gregory on the exuberant choreography. Props also to Jeff Weber for the inventively creepy set design.
A great production, a witty script (as you might expect if longtime Woody Allen collaborator Brickman had a hand in it), and funny — if instantly forgettable — songs.
It’s a fun show. No matter how weird your family is, you can take heart that the Addams family is weirder.
Unless your last name is Munster.
IF YOU GO
“The Addams Family: A New Musical” runs through Nov. 16, at Players Theatre, 838 N. Tamiami Trail, Sarasota. For more information, call 365-2494 or visit theplayers.org