‘The Addams Family’ was ghoulish.
The renowned TV show, “The Addams Family,” was adapted into a musical by Marshall Brickman, Rick Elice, and Andrew Lippa. It received negative reviews upon its Broadway debut. However, the show underwent significant revisions for its touring productions. The version by Phoenix Ensemble, directed by Shane Webb, is based on this revised script.
While most audiences are familiar with the TV show, the musical draws its inspiration from a series of cartoons penned by Charles Addams. In comparing the TV show to the musical, characters like Gomez, Morticia, their children Wednesday and Pugsley, Uncle Fester, Grandmama, and their butler Lurch are all present. However, Cousin Itt was conspicuously missing. New characters, such as Lucas Beineke (portrayed by James Bird), Mal Beineke (Michael Chazikantis), and Alice Beineke (Chloe Jones), are introduced, representing Wednesday’s love interest and his family. The musical’s plot has faced criticism for its weak structure, lack of compelling conflict, and somewhat flat characters.
The musical kicks off with the iconic TV show theme song, punctuated by the familiar finger-snapping. This nod to the original series is a crowd-pleaser, captivating the audience even before the performance truly begins. Many attendees couldn’t resist snapping their fingers as soon as the orchestra played the tune. Regrettably, few of the musical’s original songs match the allure and catchiness of the TV show’s theme. Most songs seem to merely convey the characters’ emotions rather than advance the plot. This issue is most apparent in “The Moon and Me,” which primarily showcases Uncle Fester’s emotions without serving a distinct dramatic function.
Before the curtain rose, the audience was greeted with a stunning set designed by Breanna Gear, perfectly setting the eerie tone of the Addams Family universe. Two ghostly figures at the stage’s edge further amplified the spooky ambience. Mandy Bosanko’s lighting design effectively highlighted the show’s quirky nature, complemented by costumes, also designed by Breanna Gear.
Several cast members showcased remarkable vocal talents, especially the leading female roles: Morticia (Kate Retzki), Alice Beineke (Chloe Jones—a character not present in the TV series), and Wednesday (Micheal Enright). Their powerful performances captivated the audience. Gomez, portrayed by Alex Smith, navigates the challenging dynamics between his wife and daughter, all within a script that could have benefited from more in-depth development. Nonetheless, his comedic take on the character was delightful.
Pugsley Addams, played by 11-year-old Jeremiah Rees on the evening, delivered a commendable performance of his song, “What If,” especially impressive for his age. Ben O’Regan-Lambert also portrays Pugsley during the show’s run. Uncle Fester, portrayed by Kurt Schouten, is intended to provide comic relief, but the show’s pacing occasionally faltered during his scenes involving the extended family.
The dance sequences, choreographed by Isabelle Quayle, were executed brilliantly. The ensemble, ranging from young ballerina Delilah Bennett to older teenagers, added a unique charm. However, the roles of the Addams Family ancestors, played by these cast members, lacked depth in the script.
The live orchestra, under the direction of Musical Director Nicky Griffith and Assistant Musical Director Lily Colmer, added vibrancy to the performance. Regrettably, on the night I attended, there were some sound mixing issues, making it challenging to hear certain characters.
While the production was great, the script was underwhelming, especially for a musical that graced the Broadway stage. Some elements, like the repeated references to Gomez’s ancestor “Jose Cuervo” (a tequila brand), perpetuate outdated and offensive stereotypes. Additionally, American-centric jokes, such as Ohio being a ‘swing state’ and the ongoing tussle between liberals and conservatives, might not resonate with an Australian audience. Nonetheless, for fans of the TV series and those keen to support emerging talents and community theatre, the show offers ample entertainment. It’s an opportunity to witness some exceptionally gifted performers who are likely to make significant contributions to the theatre world in the future.
‘The Addams Family’ runs until August 26th, 2023 at Phoenix Ensemble. For more information visit their website.