Jan 2012: New Take On 'The Addams Family' A Heartwarmer For All Kinds of Families

Many of us have fond memories of the creepy, kooky, mysterious, and ooky Addams Family—and now we all have a chance to witness yet another incarnation of that spooky clan via the new Addams Family musical, currently playing at the Hobby Center.

The characters known collectively as the Addams Family were originally created as part of a series of New Yorker cartoons by artist Charles Addams, which ran from the late 1930s until Addams’s death in 1988. The characters were relatively undeveloped, even unnamed, until the TV series adaptation of the cartoons began in the sixties. That first Addams Family TV series, which ran from 1964-1966, is still arguably the most familiar and iconic depiction of the characters, and the one that springs to mind for most when the name “Addams Family” is invoked, despite later television, film, and stage adaptations of the characters.

This latest stage adaptation—the Addams Family musical currently touring the country, playing Jan. 10-15 at the Hobby Center—thus must take on the challenge of being the latest entry in almost seventy-five years’ worth of adaptations of these beloved characters. Furthermore, it is itself an adaptation of the first, much-touted Addams Family musical, which opened on Broadway in 2010 with Nathan Lane and Bebe Neuwirth as Gomez and Morticia, to mixed reviews. The original plot of the musical was criticized for a lack of focus, with too little attention given to the titular family and too much emphasis placed on newly-introduced minor characters—deficits that writers Marshall Brickman and Rick Elice and composer Andrew Lippa have addressed and remedied, to considerable good effect.

The musical opens with an adult Wednesday Addams in love and ready to marry—a situation that should, by rights, bring joy to all the Addams clan. There’s a catch, however: Wednesday’s intended isn’t exactly the slimy, skulking prince of darkness her doting relatives had in mind. Instead, he’s a clean-cut, respectable young man from the Midwest, whose straitlaced relatives are as far from the Addamses as day from night. When the two families come together to discuss the impending nuptials, chaos and hilarity ensue.

“It’s a happy show, a silly show,” says Pippa Pearthree, the actress playing Grandma in the current production. “It’s great to watch as the differences in families are resolved. The show addresses the question of seeing people who are different from us and giving them a chance….In the show, we come to see that the Addamses—as strange as they are—do genuinely love and care for their kids, just as much as the more ‘normal’ family, Wednesday’s boyfriend’s family, does. It’s a great thing to see.”

The latest production addresses earlier complaints by tightening the focus on the Addamses and playing up the conflict between Gomez and Morticia, as Wednesday confides the secret of her engagement to her father and the pair scheme together about how best to break the news to her mother. When Morticia finds out that the two have been keeping secrets from her, the conflict between herself and her husband assumes center stage in the play—giving them the opportunity to play out, and the audience the chance to witness, their estrangement and eventual reconciliation in a tango finale that Pearthree characterizes as one of the best moments in the show. Pearthree also cites the family dinner between the Addamses and Beinekes (the prospective Addams in-laws), as a hilarious highlight of the production.

“You watch as [the two families] try to get along and things escalate until the family from Ohio finally storms out, and it really sets up the second act, wondering what’s going to happen to get everyone back together—which, of course, everyone does in the end,” Pearthree says. “It’s a scene that’s meant to be very funny and audiences have really responded to that—it’s great even when they take a minute to get into it, it’s great to watch them figure out the humor and really start to respond.”

Reviews from around the country suggest that audiences have, in fact, responded to the production with great enthusiasm, lauding the cast’s individual and collective performances and warmly praising the musical numbers that have been added since the production’s original 2010 opening. The production has been characterized as unmissable for fans of America’s creepiest family, and, according to Pearthree, the cast is delighted with that assessment and couldn’t agree more.

Pearthree summarizes the experience of the musical thus: “If you want an evening to have fun, forget your troubles, see some wonderful singing and dancing, have some belly laughs and feel a little tug at your heartstrings, and see a wonderful show, this might be the one to see.”

Ticket prices for the Hobby Center production range from $30-$82. Show times are Tues-Thurs 7:30 p.m., Fri 8 p.m., Sat 2 p.m. and 8 p.m., Sun 2 p.m. and 7:30 p.m. Tickets may be purchased by calling 800-982-ARTS.

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