Wednesday, April 28, 2010

Bulletin from Broadway No. 4: 'The Addams Family'

Adam Riegler,‭ ‬Jackie Hoffman,‭ ‬Bebe Neuwirth,‭ ‬Nathan Lane,‭
‬Kevin Chamberlin,‭ ‬Krysta Rodriguez and Zachary James
in The Addams Family.


By Hap Erstein

After another downpour Tuesday morning,‭ ‬the rains ended but it got even colder.‭ ‬Don’t the weather gods realize that it is almost May‭?

Nor did I have much luck with theater.‭ ‬I can be fairly Pollyanna-ish when it comes to refusing to believe the prevailing opinion about a bad show until I see for myself.‭ ‬And since Nathan Lane,‭ ‬Bebe Neuwirth and Kevin Chamberlin seem so perfectly cast,‭ ‬how could their show be as disappointing as I have heard‭?

Oy.‭ ‬Of course,‭ ‬I am referring to‭ ‬The Addams Family,‭ ‬with Broadway’s reigning clown as Gomez Addams,‭ ‬the deadpan two-time Tony winner as his slinky wife Morticia and the very talented Chamberlin‭ ‬--‭ ‬who should have played Shrek,‭ ‬don’t you think‭? ‬--‭ ‬as Uncle Fester.

But good as they are,‭ ‬they need material to play.‭ ‬Even though the script is written by Marshall Brickman and Rick Elice,‭ ‬the guys who gave us the drumskin-tight book to‭ ‬Jersey Boys,‭ ‬they came up short here.‭ ‬As many have already observed,‭ ‬the plot of‭ ‬The Addams Family echoes that of‭ ‬La Cage aux Folles‭ ‬--‭ ‬a grown child is embarrassed by her parents‭’ ‬unconventional lifestyle and demands they pretend to be more normal when her prospective in-laws come for a visit‭ ‬--‭ ‬but the show’s focus keeps shifting away from Gomez and Morticia,‭ ‬the only characters we really are interested in.

And Andrew Lippa‭ (‬The Wild Party‭) ‬seems the wrong choice to pen the score,‭ ‬since he is not inherently funny.‭ ‬Things do get a little better in the second act:‭ ‬Uncle Fester sings a love song to the moon that suggests the surreal quality of the show that might have been,‭ ‬and a vaudeville number for Lane,‭ ‬Chamberlin and Jackie Hoffman‭ (‬as Grandma‭) ‬is tasty,‭ ‬even if very reminiscent of the superior‭ ‬Everybody Ought to Have a Maid from‭ ‬A Funny Thing Happened on the Way to the Forum.

The much-anticipated show has a sizeable advance sale and the audience seemed to have a good time,‭ ‬but there was too much talent involved for the results to be so wrong-headed.

‭ * * *

I usually visit Broadway at this time of year,‭ ‬because of all the openings just before the Tonys deadline.‭ ‬In addition,‭ ‬this is the time of the Easter Bonnet Competition,‭ ‬which has nothing to do with Easter and everything to do with the end of Broadway Cares/Equity Fights AIDS‭’ ‬fund-raising season.‭

Now in its‭ ‬24th year,‭ ‬the Bonnet show has grown from a small event in the basement of the Palace Theatre to a two-day celebration on the stage of Minskoff Theatre‭ (‬where‭ ‬The Lion King reigns‭) ‬of the theater community’s work raising money for a great cause.‭

The show is a series of skits by the casts‭ ‬--‭ ‬OK,‭ ‬mostly chorus members and understudies‭ ‬--‭ ‬who wink at their own shows or kid other shows.‭ ‬Each skit then culminates with the arrival of an elaborate bonnet,‭ ‬usually the creation of the technical staff of each show.

This year,‭ ‬for instance,‭ ‬the target of many running jokes were the bloated,‭ ‬stalled‭ ‬Spiderman:The Musical and the‭ ‬Phantom of the Opera sequel,‭ ‬Love Never Dies.‭ ‬The winning bonnet came from the show‭ ‬Memphis,‭ ‬a hat festooned with sticks of dynamite,‭ ‬a follow-up to a skit of camo-clad soldiers in Iraq‭ (‬I think‭)‬,‭ ‬but the bonnet then exploded with colored streamers,‭ ‬revealing a‭ “‬love‭” ‬heart.

OK,‭ ‬you had to be there.

Even if this year’s Bonnet show was a little below par,‭ ‬it remains one of the most enjoyable events of the Broadway season,‭ ‬a rare glimpse at how performers spend their treasured off hours and a lot more entertaining than some of the hot-ticket Broadway productions‭ (‬see‭ ‬The Addams Family above.‭)‬

Next:‭ ‬A Behanding in Spokane and Sondheim on Sondheim.‭

1 comment:

Cheap Broadway Tickets said...

We liked Addams much more than Wicked, the later seemed overly quixotic.