All in the “Family”:
Broadway San Diego brings out the best in their creepy and kooky musical revival
By Donnie Matsuda
There’s a lot to like about the current national tour of The Addams Family, which spooks its way through San Diego for a week long run, through June 3. Here, let me count the ways (and the reasons) why this musical will steal your heart … and maybe your soul, as well:
|Patrick D. Kennedy (Pugsley), Pippa Pearthree (Grandma), Sara Gettelfinger (Morticia), Douglas Sills (Gomez), Tom Corbeil (Lurch), Cortney Wolfson (Wednesday) and Blake Hammond (Uncle Fester) in THE ADDAMS FAMILY. Photo by Jeremy Daniel.|
First, is the darkly delicious and morbidly tongue-in-cheek humor of America’s most eccentric family, based on the sleek and sinister one-panel cartoons created by Charles Addams. Here, the family’s gloomy outlook on life and their deathly demeanor are brilliantly brought to life by Marshall Brickman and Rick Elice’s slick book which is filled to the brim with clever concepts, kooky characters, laugh-out-loud one-liners, and silly side plots that all pay homage to the masterfully macabre family of its title. Their main plotline here concerns daughter Wednesday as she falls in love with a (gasp!) “normal” boy named Lucas. This wouldn’t be so bad, except that Lucas’ parents are on their way to the Addams mansion to “meet the family” and they have no idea what they are in for. Of course, there are further complications with said family as we find out that dad Gomez has been keeping a secret from his wife Morticia, Pugsley is scheming to sabotage Wednesday’s relationship, and Grandma is high on life (and a few “potions” of her own). It’s all a recipe for disaster, but thankfully for us, things work out perfectly fine in the end - this *is* a musical, after all - and we are treated to some crazy conflict and some hilarious high jinks along the way.
Second, is Andrew Lippa’s sharply tuneful score, which runs the gamut from a zesty tango-inspired “When You’re An Addams” to a soaring up-tempo in “Pulled” to a full Broadway-style song-and-dance extravaganza in “(Death is) Just Around the Corner” to a pop/rock inspired “Crazier Than You.” Lippa has a great ear for catchy melodies and he peppers his eclectic score with a number of meticulous metaphors and highly effective wordplay. Best of all, he ensures that each one of his eighteen originally composed songs has a reason for being sung and is appropriately linked with the style and flair of the character who sings it.
|Cortney Wolfson (Wednesday) and Patrick D. Kennedy (Pugsley) in THE ADDAMS FAMILY. Photo by Jeremy Daniel.|
Third, this touring company cast is filled with Broadway veterans who show off their acting (and singing) chops with the most delectably devilish of delights. Tony nominee Douglas Sills is appropriately suave and skillful as Spanish patriarch Gomez and Sara Gettelfinger is every bit his equal as the deliciously droll and deadpan Morticia. Together, they are a perfect pair with just the right amount of sexiness, silliness, and savvy. As Wednesday, Courtney Wolfson supplies some powerhouse pipes and a compelling stage presence that brings life to her deathly Goth-inspired get-up. San Diego native Brian Justin Crum is easy on the eyes and ears as Wednesday’s love interest Lucas while another San Diegan, Tom Corbeil, brings hilarity (and a lot of height) to the role of towering butler Lurch. And rounding out the uniformly first-rate cast are Blake Hammond as Uncle Fester, Pippa Pearthree as Grandma, Patrick D. Kennedy as Pugsley, Martin Vidnovic as Mal Beineke and Gaelen Gilliland as Alice Beineke. They are all backed up by an incredibly talented song and dance ensemble of ghost-like creatures collectively termed “The Ancestors,” who are old Addams family members who have come back from the dead.
Fourth, the technical elements and inventive stagecraft add a great deal of quirkiness to the piece and each and every slick trick goes off without a hitch. From a bed that transforms into a monster to a gold tassel that surprisingly comes to life (and indulges in some romantic antics with Cousin It) to a stratosphere-stretching pas-de-deux between Uncle Fester and the moon, there is definitely no shortage of wacky and wildly fantastic imagination here. Add to that some ghoulishly grand sets by Julian Crouch and Phelim McDermott, some out of this world lighting by Natasha Katz, and some lurking puppets by Basil Twist, and you’ve got one heck of a show that will knock the socks off even the most lifeless of corpses.
Fifth and finally, the direction by the trio of Phelim McDermott, Julian Crouch, and Jerry Zaks really pops on the large stage (aided greatly by a sleek red velvet show curtain that sweeps back and forth, scallops up and down, and conceals set changes). And adding to the slick staging, Sergio Trujillo provides some delightfully inventive choreography that fits the nature of the piece but still has a whole lot of exuberant fun with some unexpected dance styles, including a couples tango, a “death rattle,” and even a good old fashioned Broadway kick line.
So there you have it. Five rock-solid reasons why The Addams Family is a musical that will continue to delight and devour audiences for years to come. Better catch it while you can … because as Morticia warns us, death is just around the co-ro-ner!
Things to know before you go: The Addams Family presented by Broadway San Diego plays at The San Diego Civic Theatre at 3rd and B Street through June 3, 2012. Running time is 2 hours and 25 minutes with a 15 minute intermission. Ticket prices vary. For more information and to purchase tickets, visit TicketMaster.com, call (888) 937-8995, or visit www.BroadwaySD.com.