In its finest moments, the newish musical version of The Addams Family, the road company version of which opened Nov. 29 to rapt cheers and a standing ovation at Proctors, gives us Addams’ characters in all their warped, wicked glory.
Most of these lovely scenes are in the second act. The plot’s been churned through, and the macabre menagerie show off what makes them special in a series of musical showstoppers.
There are the matriarch and patriarch, Morticia (Sara Gettelfinger, appropriately deadpan) and Gomez (Douglas Sills, appropriately ardent), renewing their passion with a delicious tango in a graveyard in the moonlight. Uncle Fester (audience favorite Blake Hammond), deliriously insane, sings a charming song of love to the moon. Morticia cheers herself up with the notion that death is “Just Around the Corner.” Wednesday (Cortney Wolfson) and her boyfriend (Brian Justin Crumb), like a deranged Annie Oakley and Buffalo Bill, try to prove that each is nuttier than the other in “Crazier Than You,” which comes complete with a William Tell scene.
In addition to the living Addams clan, the chorus consists of a dozen white-faced “dead” Addamses, who liven things up nicely.
The entertaining and effective character songs of the second act go a long way toward making up for the surfeit of plot that clogs the first. During the intermission, a patron sitting near me said to her companion, “This is a lot like the last show we saw here.”
I had to stifle a laugh, because this perceptive lady had of course hit on it exactly. Two crazy kids from very different backgrounds fall in love, and struggle to move their very different families toward harmony so that a happy ending—a wedding—can happen. It’s La Cage Aux Folles redux, which is You Can’t Take It With You redux. So Wednesday begs Gomez not to tell Morticia the truth about Lucas, who also hasn’t told his parents about the hoped-for nuptials, and this secrecy upsets Morticia, who can tell something is wrong, and upsets Pugsley, who already misses being tortured by Wednesday.
Even if one grants that they needed some kind of plot to contextualize the characters, one does not have to accept so much of it.
As for the music, the only song that’s not fun is “Full Disclosure.” The term “full disclosure” is legalese—true weasel words—and should not be in The Addams Family lexicon. That it is the name of an alleged Addams family tradition (and the Act 1 closer) defies logic.
Because Morticia’s character is left out of the machinations that power the farce, that leaves Douglas Sills, as Gomez, with the Herculean task of holding our interest through every plot twist. He does this wonderfully. It’s a tough role, in part because other actors (John Astin and Raul Julia) have created indelible conceptions of Gomez; Sills makes the character his own.