November 17, 2011

The Addams Family Musical is Snappy and Spooky

They're creepy and they're kooky, and now they're musical! 

Yesterday was the Toronto premiere of THE ADDAMS FAMILY MUSICAL, running November 16 to 27, 2011. DanCap Productions has brought this snappy and spooky Broadway hit to Toronto, and I had the pleasure of being in attendance for opening night. As a long-time fan of everything dark and spooky, I grew up delighted with the modern Addams Family movies yet disappointed by the declining quality of its sequels and spin-offs in recent years. The Addams Family Musical, however, breathes welcome new life into Charles Addams's iconic family obsessed with the dark and deathly.

Mysterious and spooky,
They're all together ooky.
Beautifully elaborate Gothic sets, heavy mist, thunder and lightening, and delightfully creepy puppets help bring to life this original musical comedy. Not much scares a man like Gomez Addams, but in this story he stumbles into a personal nightmare when daughter Wednesday falls in love with an average, normal young man. Worst of all, she starts to act strangely. She smiles. She laughs. She wears a yellow dress. She's - gasp - happy! When Wednesday confesses to her father that she plans to marry her average beau, Gomez is trapped between honoring his daughter's wishes by keeping the plan a secret and honoring his vow of honesty to his ravishing wife Morticia who wants Wednesday back in black like the rest of the family. When Wednesday's boyfriend and his parents come over for dinner, it's a macabre meeting of the families full of laughs, exuberant musical numbers, and high-energy choreography featuring ghosts, puppets, and immersive sets that draw a noose around your neck and pull you head-over-heels into the kooky world of The Addams Family.

Morticia's plunging neckline gives Elvira a run for her money
The Addams Family Musical embraces its kooky premise with an energetic fusion of the macabre and mirthful. The script and lyrics by Marshall Brickman, Rick Elice, and Andrew Lippa are almost vaudevillian as the musical takes winking jabs at politics, married life, sex, and romance, but it's also surprisingly sweet. While the lyrics were hardly memorable in most cases and the story never manages to grab us as firmly as it should, the music (a fusion of dark, moody chords and spicy Latin beats), the choreography by Sergio Trujillo, and the production design absolutely steal the show. It's as much a feast for the eyes as it is the ears.
On and off Broadway, The Addams Family lights up the crowd
Standout performances of the night include Douglas Sills as the peculiar patriarch Gomez Addams and Blake Hammond as Uncle Fester. Taking cues from the iconic portrayal of Gomez by Raul Julia in the movies, Douglas Sills -- looking not unlike Rhett Butler -- plays up Gomez's Latin roots with a hint of John Astin's wry charm from the classic Addams Family TV series. Striding across the stage as a man of passion, Sills electrified the crowd with his maniacal laugh and fatherly tenderness. Speaking of electrifying, Blake Hammond received an enthusiastic ovation for his portrayal of Fester, who acts as a Greek Chorus commenting on the story. Hammond is at the center of a show-stopping musical number in which Fester romances the moon and actually appears to fly above the stage to frolic with his lunar lover.

A chorus line of corpses
Other critics have charged the musical with being corny, and it is. There's no escaping that fact. The jokes are often cheeseball lobs, but The Addams Family on TV and on film has always been a corny premise. I, for one, have a love affair with corny humour like this. Thankfully, the energy of the cast and the excellent set production help propel a somewhat undercooked plot above its limitations. Not only was mist rolling off the stage and into the crowd last night; there was an infectious energy coming off stage that won over the crowd.

The Addams Family Musical isn't perfect, but it's two hours and 30 minutes of unbridled fun, music, and spooky spectacle. For a family that likes to hang out in the cemetery, The Addams Family are alive and well on stage for the Toronto engagment of The Addams Family Musical. I guarantee you aren't going to find anything as lively, engaging, and rousing at your local multiplex.