Despite opening night technical difficulties with the sound and a 20 minute delay, the Atlanta premiere of The Addams Family, a musical comedy with music and lyrics by Andrew Lippa and a book by Marshall Brickman and Rick Elice, brought spooky fun to the Fox Theatre.
This retooled version of the Broadway hit is presented by Theater of the Stars, who is also part of the group of theaters called Elephant Eye Theatrical, which produced the Broadway version. For fans of the TV show or movies, everything you love about the Addams Family is presented onstage.
Through the course of the show, audiences are introduced to a new story line involving the famous family. Gomez, Morticia, Wednesday, Pugsley, Uncle Fester, and Cousin It are all onstage along with Thing and a new set of characters. As touching as it funny, the show revolves around the family hiding Wednesday’s (Cortney Wolfson) upcoming marriage from her mother. But things go wrong when one of Grandma’s potions mistakenly ends up causing a bit of chaos.
Brickman and Elice (who also wrote Jersey Boys together) have crafted a book that includes snappy, witty dialogue that brings the family into a modern context. At one point Grandma quips to Pugsley when he doesn’t know who Medea is, “Stop the damn texting and pick up a book once in a while.” Lippa’s lyrics also use contemporary events to create humor. In Uncle Fester’s song “But Love” he comments, “Was rehab right for Charlie Sheen? Who’s to say?”
Musically the show bounces through several genres. While there isn’t a unified feel to Lippa’s score, it works for this production and the uniqueness that each character presents. Gomez’s music, for instance, has a more Spanish feel to it, complementing his character’s heritage. On the other hand, Uncle Fester has a more playful vaudevillian style.
Broadway veteran and Tony Award nominee Douglas Sills excels in the role of Gomez. Debonaire as much as playful, he displays a likable and empathic character that doesn’t try to emulate other interpretations of the role. As Morticia, Sara Gettelfinger creates a delightfully morbid character. Her deadpan looks and stoic demeanor play well against Sill’s jovial Gomez.
The show’s set by Julian Crouch and Phelim McDermott, along with the puppetry by Basil Twist, add to the show’s mystique. The special effects, which are mostly puppetry, are highlights of the show, especially the appearances of Cousin It.
Both Blake Hammond as Uncle Fester and Gaelen Gilliland as Alice Beineke, the fiancée’s mother, have show-stopping numbers that the audience enjoys. Hammond’s quirky “The Moon and Me” (with clever special effects) and Gilliland’s “Waiting” are two of the most memorable moments of the show.
Like the Broadway version, the touring show continues to pack houses and delight audiences. Overall, the show is enjoyable and lighthearted. While the musical lacks emotional and dramatic depth, it certainly makes up for it with its humor and charm.
Full of fun and laughs, The Addams Family plays at Atlanta’s Fox Theatre through August 19. Tickets are available at the box office, by telephone at 855-285-8499, or online. The show’s run time is approximately two and a half hours with one intermission.
– A. Wesley