The Addams Family at the Ordway

Pipa Peartree, Tom Corbeil, Douglas Sills, Cortney Wolfson, Sra Gettelfinger, Blake Hammond and Patrick D. Kennedy in The Addams Family. Photo by Jeremy Daniel.

The Addams Family has settled into the friendly confines of the Ordway for a solid two week run (through May 20).  Your intrepid reviewers, Janet Preus and John Olive, attended opening night, then repaired to the Amsterdam Bar for cold beverages and an order of greas—, er, no, make that perfectly rendered freedom fries.  They discussed the play:

John Olive: The audience adored The Addams Family.  They laughed at all the dysfunctional family jokes – “My sweet little cockroach.”  Even after two and a half hours the jokes played – “Are you unhappy, darling? / Completely.”  They applauded every song. Did you see that young woman in front of me?  She giggled and clapped and hopped in her seat.  At the end, the play-goers leapt to their feet in a heartfelt ovation.  What kind of odious churl could dislike a show like this?

Janet Preus: You.

JO:  Janet, you have a lot of experience with music theater; you’ve directed many musicals, created them yourself.  Why does The Addams Family work so well?

JP: It’s well done.  It’s traditional American music theater, clocking in at a solid two and a half hours.  The audience adored the characters, they liked the spectacle, the fun of it.  The songs are solid and lyrics [by Andrew Lippa] in particular are clever.  The songs don’t develop the characters very effectively, but the book writers [Marshall Brickman and Rick Elice] and the composer make sure they pay off.

JO: Uncle Fester’s wonderful “The Moon and Me” may seem completely irrelevant, but the show-makers find a nifty way to make the story it creates end the show.

JP: The Addams Family uses the same basic story as La Cage Aux Folles:  a”straight” family visits and, exposed to the quirkiness of the Addamses, changes drastically. But La Cage has at its core a serious social issue. The same cannot be said of The Addams Family, but it works, and who would complain about a “love conquers all” theme for a musical? This is more about character anyway.

JO: I have assiduously limited my exposure to The Addams Family.  I’m too young to have enjoyed many of the Charles Addams‘s New Yorker cartoons, I didn’t watch the TV series, I’ve seen none of the movies.  Does this make me the perfect Addams Family-goer?

JP: No, you’re the worst.  Much of the appeal here is the audience’s familiarity with the characters.  They’re like old friends.  Did you see the kids dressed up as [the play characters] Wednesday and Pugsley?  The Morticias?

JO: My biggest problem was with the character of Wednesday [Cortney Wolfson] and her one-note desire to get married.  It’s pure story fodder and it makes her quite unappealing.

JP: She’s the ingénue and this is an example of how ingénue characters are often thin and no fun to play.  Her style of singing, peculiar to musical theater performers, is a pet peeve of mine. She has a powerhouse voice and could sing with more depth and richness, so why not do that?  Another problem is Act 2;  a few of the songs are repetitive.

JO: The performances are terrific.  Uncle Fester [Blake Hammond] is surprisingly sweet, lithe and light on his feet, with his mischievous grin.  I enjoyed him enormously.  And the way the show-makers make the tall and gangly Lurch pay off at the end is wonderful.  His basso profundo voice is a marvel.

JP: Not many voices like his get a pay-off like this one. Great fun. Gomez [played by Douglas Sills] is really wonderful.  He’s sharp, focused.  He carries the show.  His song “Trapped” is clever, delivered with finesse and sets up the action perfectly.  And Morticia [Sara Gettelfinger] is also excellent.  Kudos to the costumer[s, Julian Crouch and Phelim McDermott,] for creating her dress.

JO: That “plunges down to Venezuela.”  Yes, I kept my eye on it.

JP: Might have borrowed tricks from the Beauty Pageant or fashion world. They’re geniuses with body glue.

JO:Anyway, what you’re saying, if I can be trusted to place words in your mouth, is that if you’re bothered by static characters, repetitive songs, then maybe The Addams Family isn’t the show for you.

JP: It’s still quite beautiful to look at, particularly the cityscape with moon. And if you seriously dig these characters, if you’re a fan of the films and series, or  if you are in love with the genre, go. You’ll enjoy yourself.

JO: Forgive me, I’m Bogarting the fries.

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