And so it is with great pleasure that I offer my A+ review of the Broadway Cast Recording of The Addams Family. (Haters feel free to stop reading here!)
Label: Decca Broadway
Format: Single CD
Case: Single Jewel Case
Booklet: Full color production photos; complete lyrics (Note: Another of the nicest such booklets I've seen with a cast recording in some time.)
Of the Show and Its Stars, I Wrote: "I am being 100% truthful when I say that by far (and I mean FAR) The Addams Family is the funniest new musical, not only of this season but the one before it, too. And it isn't that snarky, in-joke, self-aware kind of funny that wears thin, either. It is genuinely hilarious, expertly packaged and delivered by perhaps the most completely talented cast assembled in years. the writers (book by Marshall Brickman and Rick Elice, music and lyrics by Andrew Lippa) have done, I think, a fantastic job of reining it all in, while still giving the audience little bits of the TV show (Fester lights bulb with his mouth, Grandma is part stoner, part potion maker, Cousin Itt and Thing make cameos) and the film (both Lane and Neuwirth pay subtle homage to both Raul Julia/John Astin and Anjelica Houston/Carolyn Jones). But mostly, they stick to the comics while creating a new story for the family to get through."
"No one can deliver a punch line and seem like he means it better than Nathan Lane, whose Gomez is a mess of emotions, Latin flair, and family pride; and no one on the Broadway stage can downplay glibbery better than the ice cold Bebe Neuwirth as the cold as a corpse Morticia. (Her kick line number and tango solo are character-driven and exciting, even as she maintains the frozen veneer, too!) Adam Riegler is one of the best child actors to come along in some time. Never once does he over do the "cute" and he never mugs to the audience. Rather, he plays a kid like a real kid, and plays the visual gags completely straight, an approach that elicits huge reactions. Zachary James - as the towering, walking dead Lurch - is literally a scream. It is hard to imagine anyone else getting as much out of walking slow and wailing out guttural sounds. Tony nominee Kevin Chamberlin, ever the consummate professional plays Fester to the hilt, bringing him to the edge of the overkill canyon, but artfully drawing him back just before he gets to be too much. His moon number is a highlight of the second act, and every time he takes the stage, it is a just a bit brighter because he is there. Broadway's quintessential dirty old lady, Jackie Hoffman, is literally and figuratively the dirty old lady here. As Grandma, she gets to dispense aged wisdom, a potion or two, and some really funny zingers that should blister anyone within a ten mile radius. As always, her delivery is impeccable, she gets a huge hand every time she says anything, and she is a delight throughout. It is a shame that she makes it all seem so easy and effortless. She deserves recognition for her vast array of skills. Finally, Krysta Rodriguez as Wednesday, about whom the plot revolves, pretty much has the show at her mercy. And we are all the better for it; this girl can handle her own show! What a voice - her belt is crystal clear, and her range impressive. And that she can make the notoriously glum, non-emotional Wednesday emotional and believably so is no small fete."
Of the Score, I Wrote:
"Many have derided Andrew Lippa's score, to which I say, cut the guy a break. He is working under a pretty strict set of parameters. Like the script, his lyrics must contain rapid fire punchlines and turns of phrase that are black comedy and macabre in tone, all while trying to reveal something new about characters we already think we know, as well as advance the plot. That he does so with one hummable, toe-tapping number after the other is no small achievement. That he reveals character with song types here is a great way to expand our knowledge, where under lesser capable hands, it could have sounded like a bunch of disparate songs in pastiche. Lippa gives Gomez a tango edge to his numbers, Morticia gets old fashioned song and dance numbers, Fester has a couple of vaudeville turns, while Pugsley and Wednesday get more contemporary sounding numbers - she gets the RENT meets Spring Awakening without letting go completely of Annie number "Pulled in a New Direction" while torturing him on the rack (much to his pleasure), and he gets the act two revelation number reminiscent of such numbers in In the Heights and next to normal, all while sounding like the little kid he is. Can you imagine a more delicious way to musical theatre-ize teen angst than by sending up the shows that celebrate it?"
Of This Recording, I Write: I am even more sure of my comments above having listened to this terrific cast recording several times in recent days. Lippa's score mostly stands up to any scrutiny. The orchestrations by Larry Hochman, August Eriksmoen and Andrew Lippa himself are a feast for the ears. The recording is lush and of the density of sound that people always complain is missing in modern Broadway musical recordings. (It sounds pretty much the same live, too!)
All of the strengths of the score are even more noticeable in isolation, the flaws of the piece less so. The modern numbers are scored as such, while the traditional numbers are scored in the old-fashioned way. Perhaps my only qualm with the recording is that, even with a full synopsis, the Beineke numbers out of context might not make full sense, particularly Carolee Carmello's "Waiting" and Terrence Mann's "In the Arms". Still, the other "action numbers" like the thrilling "One Normal Night" and "Full Disclosure", are just as exciting and entertaining in the recording as they are live onstage. And that is due in very large part to the fine performances rendered here by the entire company. And the anthemic closing number, "Move Toward the Darkness" - a parody of those overblown 80's finales, while still maintaining a semblance of thematic closure - is a "just right" way to end our visit with this wacky family and their wackier guests.
The Standout Numbers: In addition to the numbers I highlighted above, I'd be remiss not to mention the quality of Miss Rodriguez's "Pulled" - teen angst in song, and the surprisingly emotional "What If" sung by Reigler as Pugsley, and the downright tearful delivery of Nathan Lane as father struck by his love for child in "Happy/Sad". All of these numbers have the requisite tongue-in-cheek, but to miss the sincerely emotional undercurrents is to really miss out on some great show tunes. Finally, it has to be said that this score includes the most thrilling Overture and dance piece ("Tango de Amour") heard on a cast recording in many a year.
So, think what you want, say what you want publicly. There are my thoughts, and I am out, loud and proud! Long live The Addams Family!
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