I’m not a theater critic, but I’m playing one today…
So let me say up front, the opening night performance of The Addams Family at Starlight Theatre didn’t knock my socks off. Just as the musical didn’t for critics and audiences on Broadway. But hey, it’s a musical, based on a television show, based on a cartoon strip.
And it’s reportedly grossed more than $60 million on Broadway and that ain’t chump change.
Since then it’s been tweaked by writers and producers for the touring edition, However in the final analysis there still just isn’t enough in the way of catchy songs, plot or script writing to overcome the sweltering outdoor heat, even though Starlight has bent over backwards to provide complimentary water, ice and misting stations.
That said, an opening night audience of around 5,000 people plunked their money down and seemed to enjoy the show and get a few chuckles out of it in between pounding down cold drinks and fanning themselves.
I’s not like the Addams Family doesn’t try.
It’s just that the humor seems forced and bent on cashing in on Baby Boomer audiences via an over abundance of trite, pop culture references, sexual innuendo, political one liners with predictable dialogue.
Take Gomez (Douglas Sills) reference to wife Morticia’s (Sara Gettelfinger) dress being "cut down to Venezuela."
Speaking of which "It makes it look like she’s about to have a wardrobe malfunction," one theatergoer quipped.
Or thaty Gomez and Morticia’s first date was to playwright Arthur Miller‘s "Death of a Salesman?"
"Oh, how we laughed," Morticia cracked.
At one point the cast breaks into a dance routine that included the Bunny Hop, Twist and Frug. Who remembers those steps under the age of maybe 60…or 70? Morticia’s punchline comes when she yells out to "do the Rigamortis."
There’s not a lot to the plot.
Basically it’s the Addams Family hosting a meet and greet for daughter Wednesday‘s (Courtney Wolfson) fiancee (Brian Justin Crum) and his parents (Martin Vidnovic and Gaelen Gilliland).
On it goes with mediocre music and predictable joke line after predictable joke line.
Such as Morticia’s astonishment that her daughter could fall in love. "Little Wednesday Addams who would poison her brother just for a ride in the ambulance." Or when she says, "Something’s wrong with Wednesday. She’s in the kitchen smiling."
There are some touching, father-daughter moments like when Gomez wrestles with his sense of loss and sings, "Wednesday’s growing up, but I’m not ready."
"There are three things I would never do; lie to my wife, lie to my daughter or tell the truth," Gomez says.
And young son, Pugsley (Patrick D. Kennedy) murdering the childhood limerick, "Wednesday and Lucas sitting in a tree. K-i-l-l-i-n-g."
At one point Morticia leans on Gomez to call off the dinner party by explaining, "You’re the father. The father is the canceler."
Not that there aren’t a few gems.
Like when Morticia explains that, "Normal is an illusion. What’s normal for the spider is a calamity for the fly."
But for me it was mostly too far a stretch with schticks like Uncle Fester (Blake Hammond) quipping, "Was rehab right for Charlie Sheen?" Gomez mistaking Morticia for Cher, then going out of his way to tell her she was far more beautiful; the boyfriend’s mom comparing Wednesday and her son’s romance to, "Something everybody loves but nobody has…health care."
Essentially The Addams Family is a slightly darker version of Meet the Parents.
"Allow me to welcome you to our extremely normal home," Gomez tells his guests. "Sorry I’m late," Morticia says. "I was putting the apple pie on the windowsill to cool."
Then there’s a joke by Gomez about Morticia being "acrobatic" in the bedroom, and Pugsley wonders aloud, "What if (Wednesday) never tortures me anymore? What if she never nails my tongue to the bathroom floor?"
At one point Grandma (Pippa Pearthree) ambles on stage to the Buffalo Springfield song, "For What It’s Worth" and shouts, "I am Spartacus!" before noting "There’s a couple of hotties out there just waiting to chow down on a grandma sandwich."
"We should have put you down years ago," Morticia cracks.
If all of this sounds good, you love seeing shows in the park at Starlight and don’t mind the heat, by all mean don’t miss The Addams Family now through Sunday at Starlight Theatre.
Me, I’ll be at the Crossroads with Fitz and the Tantrums.
Photographs by Katie Grogan