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The Addams Family - A Rollicking Walk on the Dark Side of Broadway

May 18, 2010 - by Linda Tagliaferro

So you think your family’s weird? Your most eccentric aunts and uncles can’t compare with the Addams family. From their butler Lurch, who’s been dead many years, to the tentacle-waving giant squid they harbor in their basement, to Grandma and her plethora of potions left over from her Woodstock days, The Addams Family combines hilarious one-liners with dark humor, vibrant songs and high-flying dances -- all against a backdrop of exquisite scenery and dazzling special effects.

The ghoulishly funny Broadway show boasts a star-studded cast. Tony winner Nathan Lane (The Producers) shines as suave, debonair, slightly sleazy Gomez who describes the neckline of his wife’s dress as “plunging all the way to Venezuela.” His fabulous over-the-top tango with the love of his life, Morticia, gives a whole new meaning to “sensuous.”

Meanwhile, Bebe Neuwirth’s reed-thin Morticia seems to float across the stage as she delivers one pleasingly dark punch line after another in a floor-length black gown that appears almost painted on her body. Neuwirth, who garnered Tony, Drama Desk, Outer Critics Circle and Astaire Awards for her performance in Chicago in 1997, shows off some of her best moves in The Addams Family’s fast-paced song-and-dance numbers -- including one where she struts her stuff together alongside a scythe-twirling grim reaper and assorted ghouls.

Kevin Chamberlin (two-time Tony Award nominee) charms the audience as Uncle Fester. The actor beams when he sings a love song to the huge, bright yellow moon suspended in the background.

“Fester has a childlike playfulness about him...he finds glee in everything,” he explains, adding, “It helps that there’s so much high energy in the performances. And everyone in the cast is so funny. I’ve worked with Bebe and Nathan before, and rehearsals were just hysterical. We crack each other up on stage sometimes.”

From the very start, audiences realize they’re in for a not-so-typical Broadway experience as an unseen announcer explains that instruments of torture and the use of flamethrowers are forbidden in the theater, “but strongly encouraged during intermission.”

The “spirit” (pun intended!) of the show derives from the dark humor of legendary cartoonist Charles Addams. His oddly lovable drawings of humorously macabre characters delighted readers of The New Yorker for many decades -- well before they were given actual names and before the TV series debuted in 1964. (The names were so ensconced in the popular culture that they appeared again in the two Addams Family movies during the early ’90s and, obviously, made it to Broadway.)

With songs and lyrics by Andrew Lippa and choreography by Sergio Trujillo, the numbers in The Addams Family musical are so vibrant that they literally wake a troupe of ghosts that spring from the family crypt to perform the twist, the bunny hop and other lively dances. “They may be dead,” Gomez quips about his deceased ancestors, “but they still have rhythm.”

The show’s plot revolves around crossbow-toting daughter Wednesday’s (Krysta Rodriguez) first romantic relationship. As Gomez ponders where the years have gone, he observes she’s growing up so fast before long, “She’ll be Thursday.”

Having met the love of her young life while shooting pigeons for sport in Central Park, she begs her family of eccentrics to “act normal” when they will meet her boyfriend Lucas Beinecke’s (Wesley Taylor) staid Ohio parents (played by Tony nominees Terrence Mann and Carolee Carmello). Needless to say, the result is a gloriously hilarious night of clashing quirks and skewered values.

“One of the hardest things these days is to make an entire audience laugh... [T]here are 10-year-olds and 80-year-olds in the audience,” Chamberlin observes, adding that while tickling the funny bones of such a wide age range is a challenge, “this show really does it!”

The Addams Family is currently playing at Broadway’s Lunt-Fontanne Theatre (205 W. 46th St.). For reservations, call 212-575-9200 or click here.

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