Now in previews: “Get Smart!,” the musical

This is a review of the new Broadway musical The Addams Family, with a book by Marshall Brickman and Rick Elice, music and lyrics by Andrew Lippa, and apparently directed by three people:  Phelim McDermott and Julian Crouch and, yes, Jerry Zaks.  (Shit, inside theatre references already.)

I hate to type it, but Ben Brantley mostly gets it right.

In a media age that’s been mostly democratized (for better and for worse; thank you, Internet!), the chief theatre critic of The New York Times still retains a disproportional amount of power, though no one’s quite sure why, it seems.  (Perhaps because very few other mainstream media outlets devote so much ink to the theatre.)  And in his review here of the new gee-whiz, theme-park-big musical The Addams Family, he mostly gets it right.

One could expect more from a book whose writers include the guy who co-wrote Annie Hall (just typing that title gives me goosebumps) and Manhattan.  The show veers wildly in tone, recycles a kitschy plot (though the film reboot made it work), and, well, who deserves the benefit of the doubt if you waste the incredible Bebe Neuwirth?

But, Mr. Brantley gets a few things wrong, too:  Kevin Chamberlain (Mason Gross grad!)’s Uncle Fester is absolutely delightful, and surprisingly endearing;  Jackie Hoffman’s Grandma almost steals the show (and she does a flawless John Lennon voice);  and of course Nathan Lane milks everything he can and more, and does nothing but earn your begrudging admiration.  You will like his performance, damn it, you will have fun tonight!

My father, who’s a big fan of the Addams clan in all its many incarnations (go back and catch those Paul Rudnick-penned flicks with the totally underrated pairing of the late Raul Julia and Angelica Huston; maybe Mr. Rudnick should’ve been bought in!), loved the show.  And certainly we are in big theme park Broadway, bus in the out-of-towners! land here.  But as I said the night I caught the show:  It’s damn hard, almost impossible, to do a big-tent show these days, and they’re not doing too bad a job.

That night was in between repeat trips to the theater for Cole Porter’s Anything Goes, and of course Mr. Brantley’s dead on when he identifies one of the biggest problems with the show as the totally lackluster songs.  It’s not fair to Mr. Lippa, of course, to compare him with, you know, Cole Porter, but can no one, no one in this day and age write a musical comedy tune anymore?  (I think the last show I actually bought the soundtrack and walked out humming was Avenue Q.)  The only tune you’ll hum walking out of The Addams Family is the same one you hummed walking in, complete with the ‘snap, snap.’

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One Response to “Now in previews: “Get Smart!,” the musical”

  1. now in previews: “Nashville” « Wally's Blog Says:

    […] on the way out you weren’t humming on the way in.  Now consider the ones not nominated:  The Addams Family.  Short of snapping your fingers, there’s no piece of music I can recall from it some […]

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