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Addams Family loses edge in musical form

Just in time for Halloween, it was opening night at Seattle’s Fifth Avenue Theatre for the national tour of The Addams Family musical.

The Addams Family theme song is one of the most recognizable theme songs in the history of television, and it puts in a brief appearance at the very start of this new Broadway musical.

Unfortunately there’s nothing in the rest of this two and half hour musical that’s nearly as catchy, musically speaking.

Everything certainly looks right on stage. You’ve got your creepy Victorian house filled with stranger than strange people, Morticia and Gomez as the parents who love all things morbid, Wednesday and Pugsley, their bizarre children, along with loony Uncle Fester, loonier Granny, and the hulking butler Lurch. Cousin Itt and The Thing hand even put in an appearance.)

The opening number is – appropriately enough – set in a cemetery with all the Addams, living and dead, singing and dancing.

This works as an establishing song, because its references to poison, shades of grey, and death are certainly germane to the world of the Addams. But it’s a little off-putting that it’s offered in a full on Broadway song and dance manner. Line-dancing ghosts?

Where is the bite? This is the problem that plagues the entire show. The traditions, or clichés, of the Broadway Musical work against the dark, cynical world of Charles Addams’ cartoons, the inspiration for the show.

Charles Addams’ cartoons are brilliantly perverse, twisted, darkly funny. One of my favorites: The Addams children are fanning the flames of a roaring fire in the fireplace as Gomez says “Oh the little dears! They still believe in Santa Claus.” Now that’s dark comedy.

Addams’ world inverts our ordinary expectations. Societal norms are turned on their head. But this musical version doesn’t celebrate the edginess of the Addams, which is their appeal. Instead it’s all about trying to normalize the outrageous – subsuming it all in the name of love. Love conquers all, it insists. But in the Addams Family?

The basic plot involves a grownup Wednesday who’s fallen in love with a normal kid from Ohio and now the two families have to meet and agree to their wedding.
Wednesday pleads with her family to act normal for just this one night.

‘Can’t we lose the basic black?’ she asks. That sums up the problem with The Addams Family musical. Not nearly black enough. Somewhere Charles Addams may be turning over in his grave.

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