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Theatre Review: The Addams Family Tries to Make Light of Darkness

Bah dah dah dum *snap snap*

They’re creepy and they’re kooky. Mysterious, and spooky. They’re altogether ooky.

Movies turned musicals are all the rage these days. Once and Newsies had strong showings at this year’s Tony Awards. Legally Blonde is making its premiere at the Arvada Center. Even Shrek is coming next year to the Midtown Arts Center. But The Addams Family might be the first comic strip, turned TV show turned movie franchise turned cartoon turned musical ever. The Broadway version was a mixed bag – getting panned by nearly every critic and yet staying a top ticket seller for over a year. After some some significant changes, tour set out and now the nations creepiest family is in Denver.

Family Members Stay Kooky in Musical Version

HE SAID:  This show left me just as conflicted as the press and audiences were for the Broadway version. When I sit and think about this show critically, it was not a great show – interesting but underdeveloped story, unrelated musical numbers, overplayed moments, and some seemingly tentative dance numbers – but I still enjoyed myself. The musical, like the TV show theme song explains, is kooky and I like kooky. Kooky gets me laughing, so I found myself chuckling through a fair amount of the show.

SHE SAID: I didn’t leave the show feeling conflicted– I didn’t feel much of anything, really. Although I grew up with The Addams Family TV show at my channel surfing fingertips, I wasn’t ever a huge fan. I guess I wasn’t the the kind of youngster that was interested in this creepy, morbid family — during the musical, honestly, I identified more with the stuffy ‘normal’ family than with the Addams. I will say that a few of the deadpan zingers written into the script had me laughing aloud, but overall I didn’t think that the plot of the show was worthy of two full acts of a musical — much of the central conflict seemed stretched a bit thin to accommodate multiple songs and scenes.

Cortney Wolfson as Wednesday Addams sings about being pulled in a new direction, while taking it out on her brother

Catchy Songs Punctuate Simple Story

HE SAID: Yeah, Addams humor might be an acquired taste that won’t thrill you if you haven’t found it. The tour stands as a weird example where the first act is definitely more entertaining than the second, which pulls back on punch in attempt to increase the sincerity and heart. The first act has most of the pithy one-liners and most of the tunes we were humming as we left (“When You’re an Addams,” “Pulled,” “One Normal Night”), while the second act tries to resolve the woes of the conflicted lovers but does so amidst a few songs that seem incongruous with the rest of the show, including the funny but unrelated “The Moon and Me”.

SHE SAID: For me, the music has more staying power than initial impact. Although I left the theatre thinking that the songs were just OK, in the few days since we saw it, I’ve been humming “One Normal Night” and even the somewhat irritating “Crazier than You.” Vocally, Cortney Wolfson as Wednesday was wonderful, belting the poppy tunes effortlessly. Douglas Sills as Gomez also showed off some powerhouse vocal chops, and although I wanted to dislike him for his over-the-top performance, I have to admit he also delivered some of the best comedy in the production.

Addams and Mansion are Larger Than Life

HE SAID: Wolfson and Sills as Wednesday and Gomez are the standouts by far, which is fortunate and necessary as a lot of the plot is driven by them. Also, in a wonderful highlight of his own, was Patrick D. Kennedy as the adorably creepy Pugsley, who arguably is the hero of the story. Technically, I wanted the sets to be a bit grander given the Addams’ house is supposed to be museum-like. I did, however, love the lush red velvet curtain that smoothly glided, dancing with the light, into different configurations to reveal the next scene.

The entire cast of The Addams Family in the family cemetary

SHE SAID: I appreciated two-story flats depicting the creepy mansion, but I actually had a different reaction to the red curtain (that was used so often it almost seemed like another character in the show). Although I realize the necessity to have scenes in multiple parts of the mansion, several times the curtain was often drawn to only reveal half of the stage, which felt like a bit of a waste on the huge, gorgeous stage.  The use of the ensemble was strangely similar — I see the rationale for including them, they were talented and energetic, and added a lot to the group numbers, but not only did they not really fit into the plot, their involvement seemed like an afterthought.

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This Creepy, Morbid Family Makes For a Light Evening

THEY SAID: This musicalization of The Addams Family is a cute nod to a characters that have been making names for themselves for decades. The through line, however, isn’t strong enough and the show starts to feel a bit thin towards the end. If you are feeling lukewarm about seeing this show, you may want to follow your gut. Ultimately, talented performers do justice to some catchy tunes, so if you’re a fan of all things Addams, you’ll appreciate this new story.

For more information on The Addams Family, the musical, see the wikipedia page. The Addams Family plays through July 1st at the Denver Center for the Performing Arts. Click the banner for tickets and more information.

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