The Addams Family on Broadway is killing the critics — and not in a good way — despite an all-star cast and can’t miss material from the macabre mind of Charles Addams, who created the family in cartoons for The New Yorker.
The Addams Family cartoons successfully transfered to television in the 1960s and two movies.
The sit-com, which starred John Astin as Gomez, Carolyn Jones as Morticia and Jackie Coogan as Uncle Fester, ran for two seasons but has lived on in endless re-runs.
The Broadway cast is equally noted, led by Nathan Lane as Gomez, the delicious Bebe Neuwirth, who fits the bill as sexy Morticia, and Kevin Chamberlin as Uncle Fester. What could go wrong?
Well, a lot according to early reviews. The show opened on Thursday (Apr. 8).
“If you want to know why musical comedy is such a difficult art form to master, a prime example is now on display at Broadway’s Lunt-Fontanne Theatre,” writes Associated Press critic Michael Kuchwara.
Frank Scheck, writing for the Reuters news agency, had high praise for Lane and Neuwirth, whom he says was born to play Morticia. But the musical itself falls flat.
“Unfortunately, book writers Marshall Brickman and Rick Elice, who collaborated on a little musical called Jersey Boys, seem to have phoned it in with this musical adaptation,” he writes.
The show’s storyline will be familiar to anyone who remembers the television show. Seemingly normal Wednesday falls in love with an outsider, resulting in a clash of cultures between the eccentric Addams household and her suitor’s straight-laced family.
“The hackneyed plot might have been serviceable enough if there were enough funny jokes in the mix, but despite Lane and the rest of the cast’s best efforts, more often than not the humor falls flat,” says Scheck.
Even the New York Post’s usually upbeat reviewer couldn’t find much to say about the show. “It’s definitely a feat of some kind: Broadway’s The Addams Family has watered down one of the quirkiest pop-culture creations ever. And to think it had so much going for it,” writes Elisabeth Vincentelli.
Most critics have noted the similarity between the Addams Family plot and La Cage aux Folles, which is also playing on the street. But that’s only half of it.
“It’s that one minute, the Addamses revel in gallows humor, the next they’re singing about their feelings. Blecch!” writes Vincentelli.
In the end, audiences, including critics, have been exposed to previous iterations of The Addams Family either on television, the big screen, or worse Addams wickedly humorous cartoons. As a result, they have pre-conceived notions about what the show should or shouldn’t be.
But leave it to The New York Times’ Ben Brantley to put the show in its place … and potentially out of its misery.
“Being in this genuinely ghastly musical… must feel like going to a Halloween party in a strait-jacket or a suit of armor,” he writes.
“A tepid goulash of vaudeville song-and-dance routines, Borscht Belt jokes, stingless sitcom zingers and homey romantic plotlines that were mossy in the age of ‘Father Knows Best,’ The Addams Family is most distinctive for its wholesale inability to hold on to a consistent tone or an internal logic,” he writes.
Whew…! What a way with words!
The next snap snap you hear may not be the Addams clicking their fingers as the curtain rises, but the sound of lights going out as the show goes dark.
The Addams Family
205 W. 46th St.
New York, NY 10036
Tuesday: 7:00 PM
Wed-Sat: 8:00 PM
Matinees: Sat, 2:00 PM, Sun. 3:00 PM
Ticketmaster: or call: 212-307-7171,
Opening Date: April 8, 2010
Closing Date: Open Run
Web Site: AddamsFamilyMusical