Valentine’s Day was a happy occasion this year, at least for the crowd in K-State’s McCain Auditorium. There we saw a musical version of “The Addams Family.”
The characters, originated by Charles Addams in a series of New Yorker cartoons, became more widely known as the basis of a 1960s TV show and two hit movies in the early 1990s.
The musical, which opened on Broadway with Nathan Lane and Bebe Neuwirth as Gomez and Morticia Addams, features songs by Andrew Lippa and a book co-written by Woody Allen collaborator Marshall Brickman.
McCain hosted the company on the second national tour of the recent show. And the cast we saw has to be the most generally likable one I’ve seen in McCain in years.
The music, full of faintly Latin rhythms, and the delightful staging, which relied on a complicated series of curtain exposures among its several amusing tricks, helped us through a second act which didn’t seem to have much narrative continuity, though its almost unrelated scenes could themselves be entertaining.
The second act was going to seem less vital after the way the show began. Backed by a good live sextet in the pit (the conductor started the finger snapping to go along with the TV theme song), the cast came out for the opening number, “When You’re an Addams.” They immediately established the familiar characters, the chorus of ghostly ancestors (an idea familiar from “Me and My Girl”), and the family devotion to the ghoulish.
On their first date, Gomez took Morticia to see “Death of a Salesman.” When responding to the living Addamses dancing on their graves, the ancestors joined in a bunny hop. And when the scene wasn’t tunefully kidding, the dancing itself was delightful and the dancers adept.
While we were still sitting, pleased with the big opening, we got the story’s central complication, an appropriate one given the occasion. Wednesday has fallen in love. With a boy from and ordinary family from Ohio. And her family is coming to the ghastly mansion for dinner.
She is worried about how her mother will react to the engagement—young Lucas has already supplied a ring. So Wednesday approaches her father, asking his help in putting the dinner over. This means she must tell him her secret, though. And Gomez has never before kept a secret from his wife.
Morticia senses conspiracy and responds by insisting on a game of “Full Disclosure” after dinner, a game requiring a confession of each participant. Wednesday’s younger brother Pugsley has swiped some “acrimonium” from Grandma. He sprinkles this in the cup of wine from which each participant must drink before they offer up their secret.
He hopes this will lead to the destruction of his sister’s romance, because he fears she will leave the family (and quit torturing him). But the cup passes to Lucas’s mother, and under the influence of the herbal drug, she confesses that her marriage has become boring.
So in the second act we are going to see some resolution to the engagement problem, some peace making between the two married couples, and then Uncle Fester is going to have to do something about his romantic feelings toward the moon.
The resolutions weren’t as interesting as were their set-ups, but the cast continued to please. Good dancing Jennifer Fogarty was the fan favorite playing Wednesday. Shaun Rice, as Fester, radiated slightly demented good-will and seemed to be cracking up the other members of the cast. Jesse Sharp emphasized the humanity of Gomez. Sooner KeLeen Snowgren, her dress “cut down to Venezuela,” showed her dance moves late, when a costume change allowed her to separate her ankles.
The script could be topical—the Obamacare joke got a round of applause, but “Stop that damned texting and pick up a book” was probably the best received of the supply of this sort of quip. My favorite joke in the show was a reminder of the gothic death-mindedness of the family. While chained to a torture device, Pugsley (Connor Barth, with a boy’s upper range) called out to his sister that she and Lucas were “sitting in a tree, K-I-L-L-I-N-G.”
Even those of us whose idea of a second honeymoon isn’t a tour of the sewers of Paris, Gomez’s ideal, had some Valentine’s Day fun watching a good production of the amusing musical “The Addams Family.”