What do you get when you take a large, raven haired family with an affinity for practical jokes and pranks, a propensity for drama, and the habit of exhibiting more unconventional affection than the average family? Well, personally suffering from an acute case of Reality Television syndrome, I would put my money on the Kardashians; however the original loveable, ‘kooky’ family is none other than the Adams Family (snap, snap). The Addams Family began as a cartoon inspired and created by Mr. Charles Addams in 1933. At the tender age of 21, his work was published in The New Yorker, where over the course of nearly six decades, he became one of the magazine’s most cherished contributors. Mr. Addams’ cartoons evolved to television shows in the 70’s and later to major motion pictures. The two Adams Family films starring Christina Ricci, Anjelica Huston, and Christopher Lloyd, were my absolute obsession as a child and I watched them every single Friday after school. As luck and morbidity would have it, this death and torture-obsessed family has been resurrected as a Broadway musical.
The play opened Tuesday December 27th at the Cadillac Palace Theater, and is based more firmly on the original cartoons than on the television show and movies. Now in its second year on Broadway, the Addams Family boasts a Tony Award nominated cast with Douglas Sills, playing the almost impossibly virile Gomez, and Sara Gettelfinger playing the vampy Morticia. The principal cast also includes Tony Award nominees like Blake Hammond who fully committed to one of the most hilarious and witty Uncle Festers I have ever seen. What I most admired about the musical is that although many flocked to reminisce on the antics from the 1970’s television show, the story was not based on any preconceived notions that the audience may have had about the Addams Family. It wasn’t loosely based on anything seen on television or in movie theaters, and so came as serendipity, delightfully surprising the audience with a truly original plot.
Young Wednesday, the melancholy, cross-bow toting, slightly insane little rotten apple of Gomez and Morticia Addams’ eye is finally growing up. As Gomez so eloquently put it, “before you know it she will be Thursday!” Despite her dark disposition, she has found love in the ironic packaging of a ‘normal boy’ from a ‘respectable family’. It is true that falling in love can change a girl, but for Wednesday when the urge to smile involuntarily and exchange her dresses of gunmetal and asphalt for feminine frocks the color of sunshine, has overshadowed the urge to torture and maim her little brother Pugsley; things have become quite serious! Everyone in the family is coping with the sudden change in Wednesday as she tries to orchestrate a dinner at which both families will meet each other for the first time. No one is having a more difficult time than poor Gomez. Wednesday confides in her father that the love of her life, Lucas Beineke, has asked her to marry him. Not wanting to involve her mother, she asks Gomez to keep the engagement from Morticia until the time is right. Gomez is trapped between keeping a secret for his daughter, and the promise he made to his wife to never keep anything from her. He has a very tumultuous and eventful evening keeping both of the important women in his life at bay, and making sure that the series of events that take place on that fateful night do not completely alter or destroy his family.
Addams Family was an absolute joy. It appealed to my dark, macabre, and melancholy side quite effectively and the impressively elaborate sets infused with violent violets and bleak blacks were music to my eyes. Addams Family was a satire of itself, poking fun at its characters as well as importing modern references like Madea and Charlie Sheen as quirky comedic delicacies. The play was ripe with ironic juxtapositions weaved throughout both acts. Torture and affection, life and death, love and hate, pain and passion, normal and bizarre are all subjective and dependent on a specific point of view. It is safe to say that what may seem like a good time to the Addams Family, may not be so well received by others and vice versa. These juxtapositions were recurring concerns for the characters throughout the entire play. While death is a favored topic in the Addams’ household, life is an equally important one. With life comes change and evolutions that cannot always be explained, but must take place in order to bring you one step further over the tightrope of life; and ultimately towards your coffin.
The most endearing quality about the Addams’ is that despite their morbid conversations, deeply pigmented wardrobes, preoccupation with disease, and frequent attempts to torture and murder one another; at the end of the day one still feels the love and warmth oozing from the family like secretions from an unhealed wound. No one does love, charm, or irony quite like the Addams Family, but I am almost sure that is why we adore them so. I strongly urge the gathering of your loved and hated ones to see The Addams Family on Broadway. It is a fantastic and magical 2 hour escape and is as deliciously repulsive as one could possibly ever hope for.
The Addams Family is only at the Cadillac Palace Theater for a limited one week engagement, and will meet its untimely end January 1st, 2012. To learn more about the Broadway smash-hit, or for ticket information please visit www.BroadwayInChicago.com or www.theaddamsfamilymusicaltour.com.