by Dwight Casimere
There was a special feeling in the air as patrons walked the Red Carpet outside the Ford Center for the Performing Arts, Oriental Theatre, for the World Premiere of the new Broadway In Chicago musical The Addams Family. With television news crews doing live shots on the sidewalk and camera crews and paparazzi poised to photograph local celebs, it truly felt like a precursor to the success the musical is certain to enjoy when it moves to Broadway to begin previews on Saturday, March 4, at the Lunt-Fontanne Theatre, where it is scheduled to open Thursday, April 8.
With two-time Tony Award winners Nathan Lane (The Producers, A Funny Thing Happened on the Way to the Forum) and Bebe Neuwirth, a familiar face from her TV role as the stern psychologist Lilith in TVs ‘Cheers’ and ‘Frasier’(Sweet Charity, Chicago) in the leads as Gomez and Morticia, the musical brings the beloved haunted family of New Yorker cartoonist Charles Addams and the campy ‘60s TV series to delightfully ghoulish ‘life.’
The music by Drama Desk Award-winner Andrew Lippa, evokes the raucous theme of the TV series, even prompting a clap-along response from the audience. The direction and design by Phelim McDermitt and Julian Crouch (Metropolitan Opera’s upcoming Satyagraha) is a brilliant recreation of the Addam’s Gothic mansion and the choreography by Serigo Trujillo (Jersey Boys) let’s the brilliant cast shine, particularly the gifted Neuwirth who gets an opportunity to unleash her considerable terpsichorean talents (how does she ever keep that dress on with its cleavage “to Venezuela” as Gomez lustily points out in the opening scene).
The plot scheme is a simple one, designed to emit belly laughs. The macabre Addams Family is put to the test when outsiders, the parents of their daughter Wednesday’s Ohio-bred boyfriend are scheduled to come over for an introductory dinner. The straight-laced Beineke’s don’t have a clue as to what’s in store. Needless to say, the results are a madcap night of deliciously macabre mayhem with some terrific singing and dancing as the centerpiece.
There are outstanding performances throughout. Carolee Carmello, the 20-year Broadway veteran and two-time Tony Award nominee, as Alice Beineke, delivers the vampingest torch song ever in ‘Waiting’ and Morticia/Neuwirth showcases her considerable dancing skills (and terrific legs) in “The Swordfight/Tango!” that recalls the glory days of dance legends Cyd Charisse and Rita Moreno.
The Addams Family, A New Musical runs through Sunday, January 10.