Broadway Across America, Hobby Center through Jan. 15
By JOHN DeMERS
Surely, those who watched the cheeky old Addams Family TV series, which aired in appropriate black and white from 1964 to 1966, never imagined it would someday be a big-bucks Broadway musical. Then again, the same can be said about those who read that newspaper comic strip during the Depression – you know, the one about the spunky redheaded girl and her dog. And Annie seems to have done okay as a musical too.
The point here is not that anything can be turned into a Broadway show with enough money, though the worst offenders (like Disney) would have you thinking so. The point is that once you reach a certain age, an updated, slightly more cynical and hip version of what you used to laugh at seems one of the best tickets you could ever buy. Thus, we have a New York-savvy version of the Charles Addams-inspired yarn heading out on tour through what New Yorkers see as the provinces, and no doubt packing ‘em in at each stop.
The musical on display at the Hobby Center offers many bits and pieces from various TV episodes, plus a few borrows from the series of terrific films starring Raul Julia as Gomez and Anjelica Huston as Morticia. Add those lustrous names to John Astin and Caroline Jones from the small screen, and the two stars now singing and dancing in Houston have quite a legacy to contend with. And, of course, to milk for all its worth. Handling the Gomez role launched on Broadway by Nathan Lane, Douglas Sills shines a bit more brightly than his counterpart, Sara Gettelfinger – though her cleavage is more daring than any displayed by either the TV (of course) or movie Morticias. In fact, part of the show’s suspense, for many, must involve the concept of wardrobe malfunction.
As the romantic Latin lover, Sills is clearly drinking the Kool-Aid left by both Astin and Juilia: he is wild-eyed and lustful at all times (seldom in entertainment history has so much lust been directed by a man toward his wife!), plus he wears the same kooky grin whenever the couple turns “normal” expectation on its ear – a big part of the fun. In Addamsville, all things dark, painful and feared, starting with death itself, become glorious, welcome and even longed-for. Many a laugh comes from this playful inversion, while Sills shines in his otherwise not-very-interesting songs and especially in the tango-meets-bolero-meets-flamenco number he gets with Morticia near the show’s end.
Broadway veteran Martin Vidnovic is always great to watch, even as the boring, grouchy, judgmental husband to Crista Moore’s flaky, ever-rhyming wife, both from someplace called Ohio. See what I mean about a “New York-savvy” show? When they turn up at the creepy Addams mansion in Central Park to meet the parents of the girl their son likes, the confrontation of lifestyles is worthy of The Rocky Horror Picture Show, in which the Eisenhower era drops in on the transvestite ‘80s. Brian Justin Crum does what he can with their son Lucas, while Cortney Wolfson turns Addams daughter Wednesday into an impressive, torch-singing Broadway belter. Who’d have thunk it?
Pippa Pearthree is fine as Grandma, as is young Patrick D. Kennedy as Wednesday’s torture-loving brother Pugsley – a chubby stand-in for all other boys tortured in one sense or another by their older sisters. And Tom Corbeil as Lurch contributes a properly hulking presence and a stirringly operatic bass voice. Though he has big shoes to fill after manic Christopher Lloyd in the movies, Blake Hammond gives us a funny, lovably insane Uncle Fester. He also makes the most of some bigtime schtick inspired by his love of the moon, spinning off quick, get-it-if-you-can references to Debussy’s most famous harmonies and Ralph Cramden’s signature line from The Honeymooners.