Celebrate all that’s ooky with the Addams Family

Let’s not argue about who is the better Gomez, John Astin or Raul Julia. Instead, let’s celebrate a family who was ahead of its time: The Addams Family. The Broadway road show just opened Tuesday (5 June 2012) at the Pantages and the show really is a scre-am and you really out to see-em.

Spend  time with a family who wants to know “the history of the world told in agony and dismemberment” or love the “intoxicating smell of the graveyard.”

When Charles Addams created this wealthy eccentric clan, they were just 150 unrelated one-panel oddities for The New Yorker that ran between 1938 and 1988 (when Addams died).  None of these characters had names until ABC developed a two-season 30-minute TV series and it was Astin who chose Gomez over Repelli. Gomez was madly in love with his suspiciously pale wife, Morticia (Carolyn Jones). They had two children–the older son, Pugsley (Ken Weatherwax) and the daughter Wednesday (Lisa Loring). Included in their household was the bald Uncle Fester (Jackie Coogan) and the witch-like Grandmama (Blossom Rock)and their large, Frankenstein-like butler Lurch (Ted Cassidy). Their other servant is a disembodied hand, called Thing T. Thing. Cousin Itt was the ultimate hairy hippy as the recurring character, Cousin Itt (Felix Silla).

The 2010 musical with book by Marshall Brick and Rick Elice and score by Andrew Lippa diverges from the TV series in a few aspects. Wednesday (Cortney Wolfson) is now a young woman while Pugsley (Patrick D. Kennedy) is a young boy who has yet to graduate into trousers. The family mansion is still next to a cementary, but it seems to hold only their ancestors–going way, way back. Brick and Elice situate the mansion in the middle of Central Park  in New York City.

Wednesday tells Gomez (Douglas Sills) she’s engaged to Lucas Beineke (Brian Justin Crum) and has invited his parents, the rhyming, all-too-sweet Alice (Gaelen Gilliland) and sourpuss conservative businessman Mal (Martin Vidnovic), to dinner. Wednesday asks Gomez to keep the engagement a secret from Morticia (Sara Gettelfinger) although up until now, they have always told each other everything. Gomez isn’t a good liar and Morticia is immediately suspicious.

The dinner is naturally a disaster, but true love will win out with the help of the spirits of the Addams family’s ancestors, who, in spectral form have been asked to help out the course of true love by Fester. Fester himself is in love.

The original Broadway cast included Nathan Lane as Gomez and Bebe Neuwirth. Lane actually resembles Gomez as originally drawn by Charles Addams, stocky and soft-bellied. Sills, who I originally saw in a small theater in Los Angeles, gave up his chance to attend law school to act on Broadway as Sir Percy Blakeney in the 1997 “The Scarlet Pimpernel.” Tall, dashing and handsome, the 51-year-old Sills brings a sense of style and old-fashioned Hollywood leading man charm to Gomez.

In fact, much like “The Scarlet Pimpernel” for which Sills received a Tony nomination, “The Addams Family” as a musical has been revamped with Sills in mind.

While Sills can handled comedy (there are plenty of witty zingers in this script), he not of the same type you’d consider in casting for a Nathan Lane. Yet Roger Rees was also Gomez to Brooke Shields’ Morticia. Rees has an air of sophistication, but not the kind of swashbuckling Errol Flynn quality that Sills can project.

Lane was playing opposite Bebe Neuwirth and you can almost feel that Gettelfinger is channeling Neuwirth for her interpretation of Morticia. The marriage of Gomez and Morticia is the central issue paralleled by the romance between Wednesday and her suitor.

Wolfson’s Wednesday isn’t doing deadpan and while we learn that she used to poison her brother Pugsley “just to get a ride in the ambulance” she’s more normal although let’s make that goth normal.

Lippa’s music is serviceable enough although bars of music might have strayed in from other shows such as “Spamalot.” The “Tango de Amor” seems like a mash-up of several famous Argentine tango pieces, although Sergio Trujillo’s choreography for that particular number was a big fail.

Aside from the infamous theme song from the TV series (see below for the lyrics), the songs in this show aren’t particularly memorable, but the show is fun and the Addams were goth and a bit steampunkish before either of those things were fashionable among the hip Melrose crowd.

So snap your fingers (twice) and get ready to get ooky. The production of “The Addams Family” at the Pantages is a delightful tribute to popular culture–both old and new. Embrace your inner Halloween witch and go spooky in Hollywood.

The Addams Family” continues until 17 June 2012 at the Pantages in Holywood, Tuesdays through Thursdays at 7:30 p.m., Fridays at 8 p.m., Saturdays at 2 p.m. & 8 p.m., and Sundays at 1 p.m. & 6:30 p.m.

They’re creepy and they’re kooky, mysterious and spooky

They’re all together ooky, the Addams Family

Their house is a museum, when people come to see-em

They really are a scre-um the Addams Family

(spoken: Neat, sweet, petit!)

So get a witch’s shawl on, a broomstick you can crawl on

We’re going to make a call on the Addams Family

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