Wednesday, February 22, 2012

Quick Hit Theater Review: The Addams Family -- The Bushnell

Photo courtesy of The Bushnell.
The Addams Family
Music and Lyrics by Andrew Lippa
Book by Marshall Brickman and Rick Elice
Directed by Phelim McDermott and Julian Crouch
Choreography by Sergio Trujillo
Production Supervision by Jerry Zaks

Summary:
 They're creepy and their kooky, mysterious and spooky. They are The Addams family, icons of 1960s pop culture based on characters created by cartoonist Charles Addams. In this made-for-stage version, daughter Wednesday (Courtney Wolfson, who understudied the role on Broadway) has fallen in love. All she wants is for her family to act normal for one night to meet her intended, Lucas Beineke (Brian Justin Crum) and his parents, Mal and Alice (Martin Vidnovic and Crista Moore). Normal isn't the norm in the Addams family manse, oddly set here in the middle of Central Park. Parents Morticia (Sara Gettelfinger) and Gomez (Douglas Sills) make love while fencing and delighting in various tortures, Uncle Fester (Blake Hammond) lights bulbs in his mouth and is in love with the moon, Grandma (Pippa Peartree) collects odd herbs and potions to cast spells and Wednesday's brother, Pugsley (Patrick D. Kennedy) enjoys blowing things up and being tortured. Oh, and there are all those ghosts of the family's ancestors (the ensemble) floating around trying to help the romance along. Alice and Mal, however, are "normal" being from Ohio, Dinner at the Addams, including their weird, moaning butler, Lurch (Tom Corber), who looks like Frankenstein, isn't exactly normal in their world and trouble ensues.

Highlights:
It's always a pleasure to see Sills (The Scarlet Pimpernel) and hear his lovely voice. He puts his own brand on Gomez -- no easy task when following in the steps of John Astin and Nathan Lane. Well done.

Hammond is a hoot as the zany Fester. Puppetry by Basil Twist (drastically scaled down for the tour) is fun and the lighting design, sets and special effects (Natasha Katz, Crouch and McDermott and Gregory Meeh, design) are very well done.

The ensemble is fine and all of the vocals are strong.

Lowlights:
The book, though made more humorous for the tour, is a weak story and includes very few of the things we love about the Addams Family. Thing presents Fester with a musical instrument, but there's no "Thank you, Thing." Lurch answers the door, but there's no "You, rang?" Morticia speaks French just once and we only get a glimpse of Cousin It.  Part of the reason people buy tickets to see this musical is because they liked the TV show and all of these iconic phrases. When the curtain call begins with the legendays da, da,da, dum, da, da, da dum the audience replies on cue with "clap, clap." It could have been so much more fun. There are too many unmemorable songs clogging  up the works. Here, also, a far too robust Gettelfinger is miscast as the creepy Morticia (though the creators dont't give her a whole lot to do except wear a costume designed to keep eyes fixed on her nearly exposed bosom.)

More information:
The show runs at The Bushnell, 166 Capitol Ave., Hartford, through Feb. 26. Tickets are $17to $80 and can be purchased by calling 860-987-5900 or by visiting www.bushnell.org. Performances are Tuesday – Thursday at 7:30 pm, Friday at 8 pm.,
Saturday at 2 and 8 pm and Sunday at 1 and 6:30 pm.
For more information, visit www.theaddamsfamilymusicaltour.com.

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C O N N E C T I C U T
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C O N N E C T I O N

Lauren Yarger with playwright Alfred Uhry at the Mark Twain House. Photo: Jacques Lamarre)

My Bio

Lauren Yarger has written, directed and produced
numerous shows and special events for both secular and Christian audiences. She co-wrote a Christian musical version of “A Christmas Carol” which played to sold-out audiences of over 3,000 in Vermont and was awarded the 2000 Vermont
Bessie (theater and film awards) for “People’s Choice for Theatre.”

Yarger trained for three years in the Broadway
League’s Producer Development Program, completed the Commercial Theater Institute's Producing Three-Day Training and produced a one-woman musical about Mary Magdalene that toured nationally and closed with an off-Broadway
run.

She was a Fellow at the National Critics Institute at the O'Neill
Theater Center in Waterford, CT. She writes reviews of Broadway and off-Broadway theater (the only ones you can find in the US with an added Christian perspective) at http://reflectionsinthelight.blogspot.com/. She
is editor of The Connecticut Arts Connection (http://ctarts.blogspot.com), CT Press Club's award winner of first place for web editing and second place in feature writing for the web in 2012.

She is a contributing editor for BroadwayWorld.com and is a theater reviewer for the Manchester Journal-Inquirer. She previously served as Connecticut theater editor
for CurtainUp.com and as Connecticut and New York reviewer for American Theater Web. Yarger is a book reviewer for Publishers Weekly and freelances for other sites. She is a member of the National Book Critics Circle.

She is a freelance writer and playwright and member of The Drama Desk, The Outer Critics Circle, The American Theater Critics Association and The League of Professional Theatre Women. She served as a judge for the SDX Awards presented
by the Society of Professional Journalists. She also is a member of the Connecticut Critics Circle (awards committee).

A former newspaper editor and graduate of the University of Missouri’s School of Journalism, Yarger also worked in arts management for the Bushnell Center for the Performing Arts,
the Hartford Symphony Orchestra and served for nine years as the Executive Director of Masterwork Productions, Inc. She lives with her husband in West Granby, CT. They have two adult children.

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