Craig Nolan Highley, Deborah Mae Hill, Marc McHone, Conner Breen, Heidi Platt, Hunter Broyles & Cindy Smith in The Addams Family. Photo courtesy Acting Against Cancer.
The Addams Family
Music & lyrics by Andrew Lippa
Book by Marshall Brickman & Rick Elice
Directed by Remy Sisk
Review by Keith Waits
Entire contents copyright © 2015 by Keith Waits. All rights reserved.
Charles Addams’ “altogether ooky” macabre family has been around since 1938, although most people date their introduction to the mass media culture from the 1964 television series. Two popular films from the 1980’s raised the profile even more. Most recently the musical theatre adaptation hit Broadway starring Nathan Lane and Bebe Neuwirth.
The first act sets an appropriately strange, offbeat tone, introducing the family in an inspired graveyard scene that conjures up the ghosts of the Addams ancestors (“When You’re An Addams”), introduces the individual characters, and sets up the rather thin plot: Wednesday Addams (Deborah Mae Hill), here depicted as a teenager, plans to marry the white bread, middle-class Lucas Beineke (Jack Brewer). As you would expect, the idea creates no small amount of conflict. There is a lot of fun to be had with the usual jokes about the family’s fascination with darker pleasures, and the score is just engaging enough, although never truly memorable. Just before intermission, things wind up with an extended dinner party between the prospective in-laws (“Full Disclosure”) that is the high point of the evening. If the entire show had maintained this level of quality, The Addams Family might possibly be a great show, instead of simply a good one.
Then act two kind of falls apart, or at least the material does. Morticia (Heidi Platt) has a pretty good number (“Just Around The Corner”), but most of this portion is taken up by weaker musical numbers that contribute little to the plot, and allow whatever narrative momentum built up during act one to quickly dissipate. The story nearly grinds to a halt except for “Crazier Than You”, in which Wednesday, Lucas, and his parents (Kyle Braun & Lauren McCombs) embrace their own “ooky” side. “Tango de Amor” is intended to be a torrid dance of reconciliation for Gomez (Marc McHone) and Morticia, but it fails to realize that potential. The choreography here is underwhelming, which is striking because until this point it was a crucial highlight of the production. The Addams’ dead ancestors function as a chorus and choreographer Alfred Dale Jones, Jr. puts them to effective use as dancers throughout the two plus hour running time.
Yet, the script is very funny, even if it goes soft on the macabre qualities that define Charles Addam’s work, and Remy Sisk’s production wins the audience over with a cast that displays a surplus of talent, good voices (mostly) and sharp comic timing that lands nearly every joke. There were some technical glitches opening night with sound cues and set pieces, but nary a misstep among the actors. Deborah Mae Hill puts her impressive vocal instrument to good use throughout as Wednesday, and Lauren McCombs nearly steals the show when Alice Beineke breaks out of her shell in “Waiting”. Marc McHone and Heidi Platt are terrific as Gomez and Morticia, Craig Nolan Highley is a delight as Uncle Fester, Cindy Smith is a hoot as Grandma, and Connor Breen is a grim and understated Lurch. Hunter Broyles’ singing is not as strong as the rest, but he does well by Pugsley.
Sisk has also drawn striking work from his design team, with simple, monolithic set pieces that are economical but nicely atmospheric, and Carol Dine’s costumes are rich evocations of Charles Addam’s style. Some of her best work can be found among the “dead people”, who are dressed from various periods and identities: Flight Attendant, Cowgirl, Pirate, Nurse, Roman. The members of the family are required to look a certain way, and that look is also well executed, but Dine’s creativity is expressed more forcefully in the chorus.
If this show is a modest piece of material, it’s commercial profile is a smart choice for Acting Against Cancer, which donates all proceeds, and this season is pursuing a $500,000 pledge to the Addison Jo Blair Cancer Care Center at Kosair Children’s Hospital. Whether it’s the ready-made appeal of this show, or the worthiness of their cause (or both), The Addams Family sold out their first four performances in advance of the opening night, so don’t dally in securing tickets.
The Addams Family
Friday, October 16: 8pm SOLD OUT
Saturday, October 17: 8pm SOLD OUT
Sunday, October 18: 2pm SOLD OUT
Monday, October 19: 8pm SOLD OUT
Tuesday, October 20: 8pm
Thursday, October 22: 8pm
Friday, October 23: 8pm
Saturday, October 24: 2pm and 8pm
Sunday, October 25: 2pm
$19 ($10 on Monday, October 19) and available at kentuckycenter.org/all-shows/the-addams-family
Acting Against Cancer
Kentucky Center for the Performing Arts
501 West Main Street
Louisville, KY 40204
Keith Waits is a native of Louisville who works at Louisville Visual Art during the days, including being one of the hosts of PUBLIC on ARTxFM, but spends most of his evenings indulging his taste for theatre, music and visual arts. His work has appeared in Pure Uncut Candy, TheatreLouisville, and Louisville Mojo. He is now Managing Editor for Arts-Louisville.com.