Friday, September 24, 2010

Against All Odds, A Mad, Macabre Triumph

"I can be impulsive. I just need some time to think about it."
That's one of the funnier lines in an unheralded though nonetheless star-studded musical that is playing to packed houses right now on Broadway.
And though this big, mega-budget production brings some of America's most beloved and recognizable characters to life, it did not have a smooth ride to the Big Apple.
Which made us wonder whether or not we really wanted to see it.
But then again: Nathan Lane and Bebe Neuwirth and Kevin Chamberlin in The Addams Family, based on Charles Addams' macabre, dysfunctional clan?  How could you go wrong?
We didn't want to have to ask that question. But we thought we might have to as the show began and we wadded through the character intros and plot setup.
But once the premise emerged (Wednesday Addams wants to marry a "normal" young man from Ohio) the possibilities for fun, mayhem and real Broadway magic began to come into view.
When the young man's parents (Mal and Alice Beineke) arrive at the Addams house for dinner things really start to percolate. And then Nathan Lane (Gomez) sings "Morticia" and suddenly reminds us why he's one of Broadway's great treasures -- a rare combination of character. comedy and music. At that moment we see what a real Broadway musical is supposed to look and sound like -- and how it's supposed to make us feel.
From then on, the show moves with high spirit and great panache through a series of events and memorable numbers that celebrate the sort of silliness and hilarious abandon that have been far too lacking on Broadway in recent years. The hijinks are fantastic.
With all cast principals front and center at a huge dining room table, "Full Disclosure" gives the audience the sort of comedic timing and logistics that take its breath away. And this is followed by more: Uncle Fester's rollicking "The Moon and Me,"  the poignant (and still somehow darkly funny) "Happy/Sad" that Gomez sings to Wednesday, the wacky "Let's Not Talk About Anything Else But Love", Gomez and Morticia vowing to "Live Before We Die" and the concluding challenge, "Move Toward The Darkness."
And yes, Lane and Neuwirth and Chamberlin are superb. But the whole cast is wonderful. As the Ohio parents Terrence Mann and Carolee Carmello are first-rate. And Jackie Hoffman as grandma will change the way you think about nonagenarians
Frankly, I can't understand why some of these people didn't get nominated for and/or win Tony Awards.
Cartoon characters are by definition one-dimensional. So, it's damned difficult to bring these drawings to life on the stage. And one must remember that the Addams Family members appear in only a small number of all the drawings that Charles Addams created,
Which is to say that against all odds, The Addams Family triumphs. And though the show may remind you that "Death Is Just Around The Corner," that's really the best reason of all to hurry on up to the Great White Way  and enjoy some real Broadway magic while you still can.

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