Hearne: Addams Family Heats Up Starlight with Tepid Fare

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’s more...

"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

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15 Responses to Hearne: Addams Family Heats Up Starlight with Tepid Fare

  1. Super Dave says:

    Hearne stop going to shows
    Hearne says, “I’m not a theater critic, but I’m playing one today…”

    Super Dave says, “Stop playing you don’t seem to play well with shows live on stage or the big screen.”

    Well I was there and I must say I saw a different show than you did. Wasn’t the best thing I have seen at Starlight but by far wasn’t the worse thing either. I will say it was a three and a half fingers worth of enertainment. So what do you give it Hearne a single middle finger? But then the last movie you claim to have seen you thought sucked as well. Relax a little enjoy life. Leave the reviews to Jack or a real critic least they always appear to have a sense of humor about it and explain it in way less words than you do.

  2. smartman says:

    Rack ’em up
    Looks like rigor mortis set in on Morticia’s boobies. They appear to be harder than penitentiary steel.

  3. Lee says:

    Mark Edelman lied??????
    This show was a load of crap on Broadway and Mark Edelman telling everyone how much it has been improved is another load of crap.

    I am shocked, shocked do you hear, to see that a producer would lie in order to make a buck.

  4. Super Dave says:

    @ Lee
    I have no idea what the Broadway show was like. I just know what I saw the other night and it was worth the view.

    So just maybe it is better. Have you or did you see the show at Starlight?

  5. Hearne says:

    For the record…
    Mark had zero interest in this show, it was all Starlight.

    And look, I’m a journalist and have been writing and reporting for more than 20 years. Robert Trussell had no theater background per se; he was a rock music writer at the Star who transferred to theater when he got burned out on going to bars and concerts.

    Most of the writers or “experts” SD is vaguely alluding to are people who – with some exception – have little to no background of any significance in theater. That said, being an “expert” has nothing to do with being able to tell if something is good or not. It’s not like this is a science, it’s opinion.

    And opinion is just that, opinion.

    Greg Hall was a landscape guy who called into sports talk radio and faxed soundbites and comments to people before I helped him land a job freelancing at the Star and later the Pitch. The sports editors at the Star had gone as far as to tell him to stop faxing his “columns” because they were wasting paper. Now he’s largely viewed as a sports guy despite the fact that he’s actually a full time computer guy who makes more money landscaping still than he’s ever dreamed of making writing soundbites.

    Well, actually he did dream big several years ago and may still for all I know.

    WHB’s Steven St. John was MU Dog, a caller to KCTE until Greg asked him to be a second banana on a show that lasted less than two months. Greg got fired, St. John inherited the earth and now he’s an “expert.”

    I’m glad Super Dave liked what he saw and mentioned in my review that it was somewhat well received. People weren’t rolling in the aisles though, and the show has been widely panned by critics, so I hardly think I’m alone in finding it lacking.

    I’ve covered many theater shows, movies and concerts over the years – some good, some bad – and it’s not really rocket science, guys. But keep that under your hat if you don’t mind.

  6. Super Dave says:

    Well to be honest have never seen them rolling in the aisles at Starlight either and have been there a lot.

  7. smartman says:

    Clearly, anyone who is a REAL EXPERT at anything is not working for a friggin’ newspaper or blog with free access. Having read both HC’s and BT’s review of The Addams Family, knowing that both pieces are opinions it’s safe to say that BT’s opinion is clearly more informed and structured for the theater-goer. Far too much weight is given to “critics”. As Ruth “Buzzy” Ginsberg so eloquently stated,
    “Those who talk don’t know, and those who know don’t talk.”

    I stay away from Starlight between Memorial Day and Labor Day. Too damn hot to see anything remotely civilized. Last time I was there, CATS, mid 90’s-ish, and the temp was similar. I sat next to an old wrinkled blue hair who had a battery operated fan which was quite distracting. Then during intermission she joked that it doubled as a vibrator. Talk about a Memory!

  8. balbonis moleskine says:

    I can’t wait to see the touring production of Gamehenge there on August 22nd!

  9. KCMonarch says:

    You failed to report on what is important
    We’re you allowed to text during the show or not???

  10. chuck says:

    smartman is right, is that a decolletage,
    or the Maginot Line?

  11. the dude says:

    I had no idea
    Morticia had fake knockers. Learn something new everyday.

  12. mike says:

    What makes anybody qualified to review movies or shows more than the next guy? The only thing I can think of is that they see more movies and shows than most people. However, they still often disagree with each other.

  13. Hearne says:

    I haven’t even read it but I agree that…
    Bob Trussell’s review of the play is probably far and away more detailed than mine. He’s stuck having to play that card because essentially he’s a one trick pony at this tender stage of his career. Yeah, he can still bat outside of the theater box but for the most part his lot in life is he’s being paid to go to shows and do a relatively thorough job of dissecting them for newspaper readers.

    Now were the Addams Family a far better show, chances are I’d have gone into some detail about the sets, the actors and acting, etc. But I think I made my point. And for those who wanted a traditional, straight down the line theater review, it’s not like they couldn’t find it.

    In fact, anyone much interested in theater probably knew this one was a turkey and thought the better of going and submitting themselves to the extreme heat.

    Now try this one on for size; I seriously doubt that a big percentage of the people who attend shows such as the Addams Family at Starlight are what you might call informed theater aficionados. My hunch is they’re mostly regular folks who if they weren’t at Starlight would be at a movie, going for a swim or taking a walk, balancing their checkbooks or just about any other mainstream adult activity you can think of.

    I wrote this review for them.

  14. harley says:

    unforutnately hearne….
    hearne wrote this:
    “My hunch is they’re mostly regular folks who if they weren’t at Starlight would be at a movie, going for a swim or taking a walk, balancing their checkbooks or just about any other mainstream adult activity you can think of.

    your readers are not mainstream adults….they’re guys like smarmyman….basement dwellers like chuckles…
    fat driving/fast moving shakers like glaze….pool feces experts like SUPER DAVE (MAYBE CALL HIM SOMEWHAT
    SUPER DUPER DAVE)….Balbonis….and wild and crazy harley (who helps bring readers and comments to the
    train wrecks here)…..best that you stArt writing reviews for your readers…not some people who swim…take
    a walk or are mainstream…..this crowd of kcc is none of those!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! lol

  15. Hearne says:

    Jack just called and told me Trussell loved it…
    Good for him, but I’ll wager his free seat (paid for by the Star) was right up front and on the aisle where he could actually see the actors expressions (which after about 20 or so rows back you mostly can’t). And there’s a good chance Trussell was close enough to benefit from the air conditioning coming off the stage.

    All of that said, Bob has a good sense of humor and if he got off on those jokes, more power to him. I sure didn’t, but I did share a bunch of them with readers so you guys can decide.

    As for the mundane music, as the Denver Post critic put it somewhat charitably saying, “it’s unlikely to send you out humming the tunes.”

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