A couple months back, I had the opportunity to see the Broadway musical "Jersey Boys" as part of the North Charleston Performing Arts Center's Best of Broadway series. Going in, I was kind of skeptical about how a musical about the lives of Frankie Valli and his bandmates in The Four Seasons could make for an intriguing musical, but I came out of the show blown away by how effectively that story was told.
Tuesday night I attended the musical of "The Addams Family." I've always been a fan of the comic strip drawn by Charles Addams, which followed the macabre lives of Gomez, Morticia, and the rest of the famous fictional family. Addams' style was creepy without being gross, morbid while at the same time funny, much like another one of my favorite cartoonists, Gahan Wilson. I also was a fan of the '60s TV sitcom "The Addams Family," which I used to watch in reruns as a kid in the '70s. I had high hopes going in this time, considering I was pretty familiar with the source material. I decided to take my seven-year-old-son, since he is currently taking theater classes.
I left the show with mixed feelings. On the one hand, the creators of the stage version of "The Addams Family" definitely have a love for both Charles Addams' cartoons and the old TV series, and they deftly mix the two. In the show we get to see husband and wife Gomez and Morticia, their children Wednesday an Pugsley, and relatives Uncle Fester and Grandma. The ever-reliable servant Lurch is also in attendance. At the beginning of the show we find the family in the graveyard, celebrating an annual gathering of all family members ("living, dead, and undecided"), which gives us a chance to meet some ghoulish Addams from years past, as well. Those ghosts, which range from a 1920s flapper to a caveman, serve as a sort of Greek chorus for the show.
The plot of the musical revolves around Wednesday, who has met a boy and plans to marry him. First, though, the parents of the prospective bride and groom must meet, and so a dinner is planned at the Addams mansion. Of course, there is plenty of creepily funny high jinks, as one would expect from this family. While the actors did a great job of owning the various iconic roles, and most of the songs were clever and catchy, my chief complaint with the pacing of the musical was that far too often, the musical numbers consisted of two or three characters just standing or sitting while singing to one another. There could have been some more creative blocking in some scenes and a bit more motion by the actors. When they did combine singing and dancing the results were superb. Both Uncle Fester's solo number, "The Moon and Me," and Gomez and Morticia's inevitable tango number were great, and represented everything I love about musical theater.
Unfortunately there were long spots in the show where this magic was almost nonexistent. Rather than dwell on what didn't work, though, let's concentrate on what did. As I stated before, the actors were wonderful. Standouts included Jesse Sharp as Gomez, Jennifer Fogarty as Wednesday, and Shaun Rice as Uncle Fester. Sharp played Gomez more like Raúl Juliá from the two Addams Family movies that were released in the '90s, rather than John Astin from the '60s TV show. Sharp was always on, a blur of activity, and he perfectly portrayed the romantic yet just-on-the-verge-of-insane personality that is Gomez Addams. When he tangoed with Morticia near the end of the show, it was magical.
I'm not sure how Fogarty managed to keep her face dialed into Wednesday's trademark blank stare. I suppose that's why she's a professional actor. Still, she was great in the way she delivered her lines in deadpan monotone, much like Christina Ricci does in the film versions. Even during the dinner scene, which features the lively number "Full Disclosure," Fogarty is wonderfully restrained.
Rice as Uncle Fester provided my favorite moment of the night when he sang "The Moon and Me." The whimsical song found Fester serenading the moon as if it was his girlfriend. The song involved a clever bit of puppetry that made it seem like Rice was dancing with the object of his affection. I won't ruin it by telling you more, but it's totally worth seeing.
"The Addams Family" as a whole is totally worth seeing, actually. It's a fun, lighthearted musical that is suitable for all ages. My son seemed to be fidgeting during some of the songs that featured less dance and more song, but overall he was delighted at the spooky eccentricities of the Addams Family and their home. He's still talking about one very funny sight gag involving a large spider.
"The Addams Family" has one more performance TONIGHT at 7:30 p.m. at the North Charleston PAC. Tickets are still available and are $62, $52, or $32.