Review: The Addams Family (Dancap)

I entered the Toronto Centre for the Arts for the opening night of The Addams Family swept up in a gaggle of young teens, all wearing coordinated black, white and dark-purple outfits, chattering excitedly in anticipation of the show. Accompanied by someone’s patient Dad, who distributed tickets while accepting stern instructions from his daughter not to go near them until the show was over, I found myself carried away in their enthusiasm. I hope they enjoyed the show as much as they wanted to; I must confess that I found it rather uneven.

Like many musicals that begin as films or television programs, a delicate balance must be struck between taking liberties with characters and conventions and remaining true to the franchise. The task of converting The Addams Family, a cranky and clever television show, into a musical about a love story could not have been easy. This one has been through several incarnations, bouncing around North America in search of the right balance which, despite miles logged, I just don’t think is there.

This is not to say there’s nothing to enjoy. Douglas Sills is quite good as Gomez, and really does his best with what he’s given. What he’s given is a lot – really a lot – of solo songs, many of which are full of witty throwaway lines (some of which, dear producers, need to be updated for Canada). Also, quite a few interludes with his sabre and any number of double entendres. These are, if I can be forgiven the same crime, limp. Sills sells it to anyone buying, nevertheless.

Blake Hammond, as Uncle Fester, steals every scene he’s in, fluid and hilarious and perfectly camp.I would have been delighted with ‘An Evening With Uncle Fester’, to be honest, other cast members to-ing and fro-ing briefly, for emphasis. Hammond, who evidently also played Edna Turnblad in a North American tour of Hairspray! somewhat recently, has a magnetic charm and surprising grace for a man who is neither young nor lithe.

The rest of the cast does their best, wringing as much humor as they can find out of what seem like rather tired jokes – we have a laugh at the expense of gays and another one courtesy of transsexuals, we laugh at the idea that old people have sex; we’re treated to a succession of ever-more-ridiculous Spanish names (many of which are actually food items). It’s not mean, exactly, but the guy behind me took to a classic rimshot under his breath after each one-liner. It was hard to blame him.

Though he doesn’t get a great deal to do, I have to take a line to praise opera singer Tom Corbeil as Lurch and whoever cast him as well. Every time he opened his mouth and let that delicious bass pour out, I shivered a little.

I understand that The Addams Family television series is set in the big, creepy Addams manse and some amount of that must be present in the staging. But song after song, presented in front of a nearly monochromatic and certainly monolithic brown scrim painted to look like a wood-panelled library was far too many. And for the number of cast members and the verbal sparring, this show was strangely devoid of stage business or, really, any blocking at all. never have I seen so many people on a national theatrical tour stand stock still for so long. I too prefer characters not wander, but directors aren’t suddenly being charged per step that characters take on stage, are they?

I didn’t see the same teenagers after the show, so I’m not sure what they thought. I suspect that with their enthusiasm and relatively uncritical eyes, they probably liked it – just being in the live presence of their favorite characters may well have been a big thrill. I hope so. For me, regrettably, the thrill was elusive – I couldn’t get swept into the story or music at any point. Not my favorite evening at the theatre.

Details:

  • The Addams Family is playing at Toronto Center for the Arts (5040 Yonge St, Toronto) until 27 November, 2011
  • Shows run Tuesday to Saturday at 7:30PM and Saturday, and Sunday (plus 23 Nov.) at 2 PM.
  • Tickets: prices range from $62-$180 including all service charges and HST
  • To order, visit www.DancapTickets.com or call 416.644.3665 or toll-free 1.866.950.7469
photo of principals by Jeremy Daniel

One thought on “Review: The Addams Family (Dancap)”

  1. … above, the author says, “Like many musicals that begin as films or television programs, a delicate balance must be struck between taking liberties with characters and conventions and remaining true to the franchise.” … interesting observation generally, but a quick note for the addams family specifically — it didn’t begin as a film or television program. the original addams family is a series of cartoons by charles addams that appeared in the new yorker

    otherwise, great review!

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