PLAYBILL ON OPENING NIGHT: The Addams Family — Pall in the Family

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09 Apr 2010

<I>The Addams Family</i> stars Bebe Neuwirth with Nathan Lane; and Krysta Rodriguez; guests Hugh Jackman, Matthew Broderick with Victor Garber
The Addams Family stars Bebe Neuwirth with Nathan Lane; and Krysta Rodriguez; guests Hugh Jackman, Matthew Broderick with Victor Garber
Joseph Marzullo/WENN

Meet the first-nighters at the opening of the new Broadway musical The Addams Family.

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Break out the black-crepe confetti! The Addams Family, Charles Addams' night-for-day inversion of the ideal American family which lined the pages of The New Yorker in single-panel cartoons for half a century (1938-1988), came home to New York March 8, settling down for a long nocturnal stay at the Lunt-Fontanne. They've lost none of the black-and-white gloom-and-pallor that they had as satiric sketches and as mid-'60s TV-series creatures (1964-1966) — at least for the opening number that establishes their gospel of gallows humor, "When You're an Addams."

But it soon develops — for a "plot" — that the daughter of the clan, Wednesday Addams (Krysta Rodriguez), has, over the years, grown up to marriageable age and found herself a four-squared fellow from picket-fence Ohio, Lucas Beineke (Wesley Taylor). Talk about horror! Her parents, Gomez (Nathan Lane) and Morticia (Bebe Neuwirth), are horrified at the prospects.

When Wednesday descends the stairs of the dilapidated family mansion for a date, she's outfitted in screaming canary-yellow, blinding all about her and burrowing a hole of light into their dark world. Then, guess who's coming to dinner?

That's right: The beau's parents, Mal (Terrence Mann), who sells real estate, and Alice (Carolee Carmello), who writes, and frequently spouts, greeting-card poetry; not only that, she too is decked out in offensively sunshiny yellow (or, as Gomez prefers to call it, "the misunderstood primary color").

Ask not for whom the wedding bell tolls — you don't even have to. This kind of clash of classes, with a marriage in the balance, has animated comedies from You Can't Take It With to La Cage aux Folles, and this show sticks to the track.

To equalize the social barriers, some mischief is instigated by brat-in-residence Pugsley Addams (Adam Riegler), who, realizing his days of rack torture by Big Sis are at an end, decides to drug her into pitch-blackness and scare her suitor away. Grandma (Jackie Hoffman), a wilted flower-child from the "summer of love," has just the potion. Unfortunately, it is intercepted by Alice Beineke, who throws caution to the winds and bumps-and-grinds across the dinner table.

Bald and bulky Uncle Fester (Kevin Chamberlin), making wide, love-mad eyes at the moon, and hulking hunk Lurch (Zachary James), shuffling leadenly about in Frankenstein fits and spurts, are also on hand, as is a whole crypt full of ghostly Addams ancestors who come out at night for the production numbers.

As you may gather, the casting is — to use a not-inappropriate word — dead-on. From Lane and Neuwirth lording with such serious silliness over the proceedings to Lurch's last lunge, it seems made-to-order — and was: Casting was being done as the show was being written, enabling the Jersey Boys scripters, Marshall Brickman and Rick Elice, to customize the characterizations.

[flipbook] So, when the show didn't land right in its Chicago tryout, some very important names were dispatched to the Windy City to assess the damage and suggest the fixes. The result that reached Broadway, bandaged but unbowed, is a testament to scotch tape and craftsmanship, and it was warmly welcomed by first-nighters.

The mystery remains, of course. If the title page is to be believed, The Addams Family was directed by The Invisible Man. The designated directors-designers are Phelim McDermott and Julian Crouch, a Brit team responsible for the grandly Grand Guignol children's musical, Shockheaded Peter. Listed legalistically as "Creative Consultant" is Jerry Zaks, who steered Lane through Guys and Dolls, Laughter on the 23rd Floor, A Funny Thing Happened on the Way to the Forum and The Man Who Came to Dinner — clearly, the man with the key to Lane's inner workings. When asked as he entered the theatre what they called what he did, Zaks put up his "Shhh" finger.

The after-party was held with blissful convenience directly across the street at the Marriott Marquis — but on a different floor than usual: the cavernous Westside Ballroom on the fifth floor, which first-nighters somehow filled up in nothing flat.

In tribute to Gomez, cigar stands were set up by Nat Sherman, "Tobacconist to the World" (quite a title in this day and age), and there were bushels of free apples prompted by Wednesday's archery prowess with her boyfriend. There was also a photo shop equipped to place you on the wall with the Addams family. And the orchestra of Hank Lane (no relation, I'm told) kept the customers dancing long after the reviews came out. There was even a swag bag as you exited — the first in many seasons — but the "swag" consisted of only an Addams family writing pad.



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