Out of all the theatres on Broadway, I don’t think I’ve ever spent so much time looking around at the theatre itself as I’ve had at the Lunt-Fontanne. The first show I saw here was Beauty and the Beast. I was underwhelmed, bored and a bit unimpressed. Then I saw Disney’s train wreck, The Little Mermaid. I pretty much hated every second of it. And now, I saw the critically-panned musical, The Addams Family. The story, written by Marshall Brickman & Rick Elice, was uneven and not the least bit kooky. The uninspired music by Andrew Lippa was mundane and felt super forced, and overall, the performances were creepily bad.
I laughed once in a show that’s 2 1/2 hours long. Once. There were some light-hearted chuckles by the audience throughout (and of course the children laughed at all of the body humor), but most of the time I was rolling my eyes and shaking my head wondering if this was really, actually happening.
Roger Rees, who replaced Nathan Lane in the part of Gomez, tried to hold the show together with his not-so-witty banter with his wife, Morticia (Bebe Neuwirth) but everything fell flat. The jokes, energy and beats were all missing. You could tell that the character choices had more to do with Nathan Lane than Gomez Addams and Rees just couldn’t keep up. It felt like a bad impersonation of Nathan Lane.
Poor Bebe. With all of the headache and gossip in the out-of-town try-out in Chicago and then the critics panning it once it landed on Broadway, it was a surprise to all that the legendary Bebe Neuwirth signed on for over a year on Broadway. After the performance I saw, Neuwirth only had four shows left. And let’s just say, you could tell she was done. Her voice was shot (sounded a bit like a dying frog), her acting was lackluster and the tango in the second act was forgettable. Brook Shields almost sounds like a better choice.
Wednesday Addams (Rachel Potter) has the only good song in the entire show: “Pulled”. She nailed it too! It’s no doubt that Potter is talented, but her relationship with Lucas Beineke (Jesse Swenson) was weirdly similar to the relationship between Natalie and Henry in Next to Normal. Not to mention they both talked/sung the show in almost exactly the same way as Natalie and Henry does. It felt really strange to me. It came to full fruition when they sang the duet, “Crazier Than You” in the middle of the second act. Watch or listen to that song thinking it was in Next to Normal – it will kind of blow your mind (and not necessarily in a good way).
Grandma (Jackie Hoffman) and Alice Beineke (Heidi Blickenstaff) were highlights in this very dreary show. Both characters made the most of what little material they had. The one line I did laugh at was the Grandma’s comment about peeing herself. Blickenstaff’s transformation from rhyming housewife to crazy sex-goddess in “Full Disclosure” was hilarious, but the Act 1 closer was so awful that I couldn’t wait for it to end.
The only reason that this show has any energy is because of the beautiful reshaping of the set in every scene by the useless “greek chorus” of ghosts. (The ghostly chorus was a really bad idea.) Phelim McDermott and Julian Crouch, directed the show and designed the set. It’s obvious that they knew what they were doing in regards to the set. The slight alterations to create new rooms and settings in the Addams’ house was spectacular. It was the best part of the show! And that part of the show will not be seen when it’s touring across America. I don’t even want to imagine the show without the Broadway set or special effects. This show will lose the only magic that it has when it goes out on tour in a bus & truck.
I honestly thought the critics were a bit harsh with their reviews when it opened last April 2010. I thought it couldn’t be that bad if it’s been selling well for over a year! Well it is that bad, but there’s two reasons that this show has stayed open. The Addams Family is a hugely popular franchise — a name that tourists from around the world will recognize. And secondly, parents have a strong affinity to it because they grew up with the television show and so they want to bring their children to a kid-friendly musical that doesn’t have Disney stamped all over it. There’s a market for that type of entertainment in Times Square (hence the reason why Spiderman Turn Off the Dark is almost sold-out every night). It has nothing to do with the quality of music or how well the book is put together. The tourists want to be entertained so that their children are happy. And somehow, they all walk out of the theatre happily singing, “dun-dun-dun-dun *snap* *snap*” (even though the quintessential Addams Family theme is no where to be found except in the overture and bows/exit music).
For a show that has so much potential (and material to pull from), I felt cheated. Charles Addams, the original creator, is a genius. It’s sad that his work is being featured on Broadway in a spiritless show, full of unimaginative music and a horrible plot. There’s a lot of effort and work in this show for something that feels half-assed, at best.