For the next several weeks Chicago’s Ford Center/Oriental Theatre is hosting the pre-Broadway run of a tremendously entertaining new musical version of the goofy, but popular ‘60s television series “The Addams Family.” Tony Award winners Nathan Lane and Bebe Neuwirth star as the charmingly ghoulish pair of Gomez and Morticia Addams in a simple, silly story of these monstrous New Yorkers hosting their daughter’s new boyfriend’s mom and dad.
With an amusing book by Jersey Boys Marshall Brickman and Rick Elice, and fun lyrics by Andrew Lippa this show blends an effective mix of romance, mildly racy adult sexual humor and lame puns that will delight many a theater going crowd.
In much better form than the popular early 90s film versions director/dsigners Phelim McDermott and Julian Crouch capture much of the comic book charm of cult the television series, with a rousing first act opening number “Clandango” which has the Addams’ clan dancing in their graveyard among their tombstoned relatives. And while many of the show’s songs aren’t actually that immediately hummable, each character is offered to reveal interesting aspects of their characters in amusing songs that show their passions for life. Morticia and Gomez’s “Passionate and True” “One Normal Night” and “At Seven” set the tone for the evening’s visit of Wednesday Addams’ boyfriend Lucas’s family, white bread Ohio folks who don’t know what they’re in for with these bizarre New Yorkers. Uncle Fester’s “Let’s Not Talk About Anything Else But Love” is a delightful song and dance number with relatives who come off family portraits to join in the fun.
Throughout much of the show Nathan Lane’s Gomez is featured with dripping Spanish charm and silly dramatic mannerisms; Lane’s comedic timing is spotless. The first song of the show’s second act allows Mortica to literally take the spot light in a humorous song. Neuwirth’s “Second Banana” number is a snappy Broadway show stopper reminiscent of famed Bob Fosse numbers. Not to be outdone Uncle Fester’s “The Moon and Me” is a colorful, Pee-Wee’s Playhouse like dream of one’s love of a celestial body. Topical humor is featured in several amusing references to national health care and excessive text messaging, and special puppet effects create a giant squid that inhabits the closets and cellar.
In additional to the show’s outstanding marquee leads, the show’s supporting players are equally skilled in voice and passion. Kevin Chamberlin’s Uncle Fester, Terrence Mann and Carolee Carmello as the uptight Mal and Alice Beineke, and Krysta Rodriguez’s Wednesday make a great impressions. Love and understanding win out and nearly everyone has a new found appreciation for the things and people they cherish in life.
“The Addams Family” continues its limited pre-Broadway run until January 10, 2010 at the Ford Center for the Performing arts/Oriental Theatre, at 24 W. Randolph in Chicago’s Loop theater district. For ticket information contact BroadwayinChicago.com. After that the show opens in previews on March 4th at the Lunt Fontanne Theatre, 205 W. 46th St. in New York.

About The Author

Syd Slobodnik

Syd Slobodnik has been writing for Illini Media publications since 1975: for The Daily Illini from 1975 to 1978 and from 1984 to 1988, and for buzz since 2003. Syd teaches numerous film courses at the University of Illinois in the English Department. He also cohosts a monthly television program which reviews old films that remind you of recent films you may have seen, called "If You Liked, You'll Love" on the Parkland Channel.

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