Every family has one. This family happens to have 25. Broadway Across America takes you into a deep dark hole – and yes, you do want to go there with their astonishing production of The Addams Family. A new musical comedy with a complete revamp from its time on Broadway lands itself at the France-Merrick Performing Arts Center at The Hippodrome Theatre. The timeless characters from the brilliant mind of Charles Addams rise up from their gloomy graves to encourage audiences everywhere to find their inner Addams, embrace it and move toward the darkness. Tony Award-winning director Jerry Zaks achieves a smashing success with this sensational production in all its dreary glory as number after number has audiences thundering with applause, laughing until they cry and snapping their fingers right along to the familiar introductory tune.
Gomez Addams (Douglas Sills) is confronted with every father’s worst nightmare; his little daughter all grown up and wanting to get married. And what’s worse— Wednesday’s (Cortney Wolfson) asked him to keep it a secret from his darling wife, Morticia (Sara Gettelfinger.) Add to that her normal fiancé, Lucas (Brian Justin Crum) and his normal parents coming to dinner in the not-so-normal Addams Family household you and you have a recipe for hilarious disaster.
Phelim McDermott and Julian Crouch are the inspiring scenic designers. Using a red velvet drape to conceal portions of the stage, genius is executed as the drape shifts and undulates to reveal various parts of the Addams dwelling, almost giving the house the sense that it alive and moving – a perfect creepy fit for such a kooky family. The graveyard scene is perhaps the most intense and impressive scene to be revealed throughout the musical. As the red drape draws open, assisted by a very special member of the Addams’ clan, the looming iron gates conceal the vast derelict family cemetery. Headstones jut out from the floor, the family crypt stands in waiting and you’d swear it was a portrait of the Addams Family standing just behind those gates until they fly open and the opening number, “When You’re An Addams,” begins.
And we find further perfection from the vastly creative minds of
McDermott and Crouch as they are also responsible for the costumes – including Morticia’s drop-dead gorgeous dress cut down to Venezuela. The spidery black number hugs Gettelfinger’s body with accents of purple, restricting her legs just like the original Morticia. And a range of historical costumes, all in powder white, can be found outfitted to the ancestors. From ballooned pantaloons and a Spanish conquistadores hat to a turn of the century flapper-style dress there are a myriad of entertaining, eye-catching costumes for these ghostly ensemble members as they are raised from the grave to assist with present dealings of love in the family.
The real treat lays in the numerous dance numbers as provided by Tony Award-winning Choreographer Sergio Trujillo. “When You’re An Addams” provides perhaps the best example of Trujillo’s choreographic excellence, showcasing most of the cast in a celebratory dance number which involves a line dance, the bunny hop, the twist, and many other unique dance styles showcased as the ancestors and Addams Family sashay through the cemetery to a tango-type beat. We see further incredible examples of large group choreography in numbers like “Secrets” and “Just Around the Corner,” which puts the ancestors to their best use yet as they flank Morticia (Gettelfinger) on either side in both numbers giving breath-taking displays of perfectly synched dancing acrobatics. But the shocker comes from “Tango de Amor” where Morticia (Gettelfinger) and Gomez (Sills) as well as the ancestors own the stage in a complex and perfectly executed tango routine.
And you will never see such iconic characters played to perfection the way you find them here. Wednesday (Cortney Wolfson) and Lucas (Brian Justin Crum) youthful star-crossed lovers that would turn the heads of even Romeo and Juliet; their powerful duet “Crazier Than You” speaking volumes of their crazy feelings. This duet is joined by the Beineke’s Alice (Crista Moore) and Mal (Martin Vidnovic) who in their own right are pretty crazy. Wolfson has a glistening voice that consumes the entire stage in her solo “Pulled” while perfecting her torn emotions – one minute cheery and the other sarcastically doomed. This couple takes the focus when they’re on stage and they let that jovial spry feeling of young love bounce eagerly between them from their huddled make-out sessions to their sporadic fights.
And let’s not forget her pain-loving brother, Pugsley (Patrick D. Kennedy) who sets the whole night in motion with his desperate act to bring his sister back to him. Kennedy has an adorable solo “What If,” where he displays true uncertain terror at the prospect of never being tortured by Wednesday (Wolfson) again. His comic interactions with Grandma (understudied that night by Christy Morton) keep the audience laughing as he hatches a diabolical scheme to break-up his sister and her new boyfriend.
Serving as the medium between ancestors and family, between audience and actors is the great Uncle Fester (Blake Hammond.) His comic well-placed one-liners keep everyone entertained. Hammond has a beautiful love ballad “The Moon and Me” where he croons and swoons to the moon in a romantic whimsical number that drifts his love to the sky. He is the epitome of the character both in looks, vocal quality, and even some of the crazy dancing he does from time to time. His narrative moments directed at the audience are witty and well-timed, providing a more than astonishing experience for all involved. And there’s a scene stealer who plays opposite Hammond, though he is really caught interacting with Fester, Lurch (Tom Corbeil) the family butler has laugh out loud moments throughout the show- but I won’t spoil them! Be sure to keep an eye out for him toward the end.
But what would a musical about the Addams Family be without its matriarch and patriarch? Gomez (Douglas Sills) and Morticia (Sara Gettelfinger) take on the leading roles in this fantastical production leaving nothing to be desired from their stellar performances. Sills exudes the wild Spanish heat of his ancestry with his heavily accented but perfectly articulated voice. His facial expressions tell it all from the giddy hysterics when discussing his devices of torture with Mal (Vidnovnic) to his panicked fear when confronted by his wife and daughter. Sills is a dancing fool so to speak, shaking his body in every number that will let him. His performance is beyond lively while still being rooted in Gomez’s dark death obsession. His two solos “Trapped” and “Happy/Sad” are a phenomenal display of his talented voice. He well matched against Gettelfinger whose expressions remain stoic as expected from Morticia but her voice tells it all. She too dances like mad, despite her costume’s restrictions and owns her character to the fullest extent. Gettelfinger displays the perfect dichotomy of concerned mother and ardent wife, both dictated by her deep seeded tendencies of gloom and doom. Her voice calls like a siren from beyond the grave in her solos “Secrets” and “Just Around the Corner.”
The chemistry between Sills and Gettelfinger is outstanding! There is a vivacious life to their marriage, governed by dark humor and underlined with sexual poignancy. But the tempestuous fire that rages within their hearts bubbles up like hot lava and explodes between them when they are confronted with the everyday problem of keeping secrets. They are well matched in their acting talent as well as their vocal abilities and a more perfect pairing could not have been made for this dynamic duo.
So here’s my addition to the Addams Family’s dinner game — the secret that I’ve never told anyone — you must see this show!
The Addams Familyis a non-stop roller coaster ride of enjoyment, laughs, and dark humor. You’ll jump into a grave if you miss it. Full Disclosure.
The Addams Family plays through March 18, 2012. At The France-Merrick Performing Arts Center at The Hippodrome Theatre – 12 North Eutaw Street, in Baltimore, MD. For tickets, call (410) 547-7328, or (410) 837-7400, or purchase them online.