Monday, June 06, 2011
The Addams Family
Okay, the critics were right, The Addams Family is a total mess. Its creators were clearly so caught up in devising their own unique blend of extra-schticky vaudeville, self-referential pomo show, ‘80s mega-musical and Golden Age-throwback that they forgot to write a coherent book, develop much in the way of approachable characters, bother composing memorable songs, or devising lyrics that made even a little bit of sense. The show trades in groan-inducing jokes and double-entendres, not-especially-dazzling choreography, a few vaguely impressive belters, and the familiarity of the characters, who are drawn less from the classic comic strip than from the somewhat less-classic TV show. So, you know, not the greatest musical in the world, even as lowbrow standards go.
But you know what? A few hours of especially dumb humor can be awesome if you’re in the right mood for it. And in this case, I was, for a whole number of reasons, none of which involved taking drugs or drinking copious amounts of booze before curtain-time. Having read all the terrible reviews over a year ago, I had particularly low expectations. I paid less than forty bucks per ticket (thanks, as always, TDF!), and went on a pleasant Sunday afternoon with two very good friends and our three very good, delightfully enthusiastic eight-year-old kids, at least one of whom has been asking repeatedly to see the show since it opened. Labor of love, I figured. Plus, I like Bebe Neuwirth, who I suspect is bionic, and Roger Rees, who seems here to be having an absolute blast playing Nathan Lane as Gomez Addams. Plus, the very sight of the brilliantly weird Jackie Hoffman always makes me guffaw like an idiot.
But wait! I’ll admit to even more: Sometimes, I like to put my avowed snobbishness aside long enough to revel in a few astoundingly stupid dick-jokes or, it turns out, to giggle uncontrollably at songs about sexing up a giant squid. Back in the 1990s, I got sick to death of all the stage gimmickry that was in vogue then, but I nevertheless still rather enjoy the occasional trick involving puppets, black lights, hydraulic lifts and trap-doors. The Addams Family, of course, offers up all this stuff, and then some: The stage of the Lunt-Fontanne is swathed by a huge, red velvet curtain that has its own choreography, and that might well be worth the price of admission all by itself.
The upshot? Our kids were mesmerized, and as tickled by the puerile humor as I was (well, they totally dug all the poop jokes; the bluer ones soared mercifully over their heads). And I enjoyed myself, too. Would I have felt the same way had I paid top-dollar for this show, or seen it with comparatively humorless grownups, or less scatology-obsessed children? Hells no. Was it Great—or even Remotely Good—Art? Double hells no. But as it was, I have no regrets—nor am I as embarrassed as I thought I’d be to admit that I came away rather charmed by this stone-soup mess of a musical.