Theatre Review: ‘Crazy is Underrated’

review

The Addams Family, book by Marshall Brickman and Rick Elice, music and lyrics by Andrew Lippa; produced by Starlight Theatre: seen July 3, 2012

I like weird. Always have. Growing up, I wanted to be more than just a brain. So, I embraced being weird as much as an introvert could, taking my cues from Monty Python and Jim Henson among others.

And that’s what I’ve always loved about The Addams Family. I vaguely remember seeing the original sitcom on Nick at Night, but it was the movies starring Raul Julia that led me to realize these characters were based on comics, and that it was much more about ‘putting the fun in funeral’ and true gallows humor than you’d think.

I only was vaguely familiar with the music of The Addams Family musical, hearing the occasional song from the soundtrack on AccuBroadway, and I was even less aware of the plot. But I knew this was a show I was interested in seeing, and was excited when Starlight announced it as part of their season last year.

It’s basically the same plot as La Cage aux Follies (also in this year’s Starlight season). Wednesday Addams has fallen in love with a boy named Lucas, and wants to get married. The only problem? The boy’s family is from Ohio (“a swing state!” Gomez cheerfully cackles, swinging his sword to show his full thoughts on the matter), and Wednesday is determined for the two families to like each other before she gets married, and trouble and hilarity inevitably ensues.

Photo by Jeremy Daniel, and courtesy Starlight Theatre
Photo by Jeremy Daniel, and courtesy Starlight Theatre

Starting with a curtain speech about all the various weapons one wasn’t allowed to have in the audience, the show is riddled with great humor and lines with that Addams Family feel to it. (Gomez’s plea to Morticia, who’s threatening to leave – “This is the last thing I’ll try before the Chloroform” – is probably my favorite line).

The tech gets full stars all across the board. From the (typical of Starlight) excellent use of the fly space and using the gothic curtain to help shield the various parts of the stage getting ready for the next scene to the monster under Pugsly’s bed (which comes out first with a tail, then two back legs, then the two front legs, to the head), I was astounded by all the tech. And for the first time in a long time, there were no sound issues (outside of one mic going out for about a second at the wrong time, and the bass being a bit too loud at the end of “One Normal Night”).

In fact, Fester gets top kudos for the various tech surrounding him specifically, from the light bulb in the mouth to his interaction/dance with his love – and eventual visit – to the moon. There were many times I found myself wondering how the tech crew managed the various bits.

The cast was, for the most part, very good. Douglas Sills – whether intentionally or not – practically channels Raul Julia as Gomez, but in a good way. (And don’t get me started on his awesome southern accent). His “Not Today” impressed me as well. Sara Gettelfinger (Morticia) has some damn fine legs and a voice to match. Their chemistry together could’ve been a bit better – I had a bit of a hard time believing they would both enjoy tying each other up and torturing each other for the thrill. And a special shout out to Patrick D. Kennedy as Pugsley – he sang his lament “What If” (about what he’d do if Wednesday stopped torturing him) so sweetly it was a little disturbing, and hit the high note so well I had to confirm it was a boy playing the role.

However, not all the songs entrapped me – with “Full Disclosure” (and it’s refrain) probably being the weakest of the songs for me, with “Waiting” a close second. Many of them made me go ‘meh’.

I also have an issue with the plot. Wednesday is determined for one normal night, as falling in love has made her feel things she’s never felt before – and this is where my issue is. She now thinks bunnies are cute and birds are sweet, and love has made her want to be ‘normal’, and even goes as far as dressing in bright colors for the evening’s dinner. But the reason I (and so many others) like the Addams Family as characters is their love of the dark, that it shows you can find pleasure in pain, and that sometimes you have to love and laugh at the dark. And while she does come back to the Addams fold (“You’re crazy,” Lucas says, and Wednesday responds, “You say that like it’s a bad thing.”) and Lucas’s family learn to appreciate the Addams family’s ‘weirdness’, I felt she could’ve learned the lesson that there is no such thing as ‘normal’ (and that everybody is weird, just some hide it better than others) a bit better.

The Addams Family is a fun little romp, with some awesome tech. The acting is excellent, but some of the songs and the plot made it a little uneven for me. I felt there could’ve been more there, but that’s not the fault of those in it.

The Addams Family plays until July 8, and more information can be found at www.kcstarlight.com.

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