Coming to Sydney in March 2013 is the musical version of The Addams Family, fresh from its run on Broadway. What this means is that there will very soon be a call out for an Australian cast. The Addams Family features a book by Jersey Boys co-writers Marshall Brickman and Rick Elice, and music and lyrics by Andrew Lippa (You’re A Good Man Charlie Brown, The Wild Party). This musical version also features an entirely original story, focussing on Wednesday falling in love with a “normal” guy, and inviting him and the family over to her place for dinner, and to meet her parents, Morticia and Gomez.
Having heard and read a few different reviews, with wildly varying opinions, I thought it might be good to take a listen to it myself. With the soundtrack in the car, and an open mind, I took the time to hear what the fuss (or cries of disaster) were all about.
Now, let me put something straight. I know you can’t judge a show purely based on the soundtrack – but it is a pretty good guide to what the show is like. After all, it is a musical, right? And further, I don’t think of myself as a reviewer; I’m a composer, and in turn, what right have I got to make any comment about a show that has been on Broadway when I haven’t even got one off-off-off-Broadway? But I guess everyone’s gotta have an opinion, so for what it’s worth, here’s mine. And I’ll only comment on what I hear from the soundtrack.
I didn’t like it. I didn’t hate it, but I didn’t like it.
Now before you start sending in emails and return tweets calling for my hanging, let me explain why.
I reckon it all comes down to the tone of the show. When listening through the soundtrack, it was the uneven tone of the music in its entirety that really jumped out at me. You would think that the music would be quirky, slightly left of centre, and with dark humour that caressed its way through the piece.
But instead, it feels like Lippa has tried to draw from too many different musical wells. When listening, you never feel like he’s happy to settle on a particular genre or style. There are nods to Rent, then Les Miserables, then Next To Normal, then the classic shows of the 40’s and 50’s, before jumping to Phantom Of The Opera, and then occasionally there’s moments that you would expect to hear in the original TV show. It’s difficult to listen to, and you don’t ever really become comfortable with the musical tone of the piece. The first big number “When You’re An Addams” certainly starts the show off well, but the moment you hear “Pulled” you literally feel like you are shoved into another theatre watching another completely different show.
There’s a similar problem lyrically as well. The characters never seem to find their own voice. Gomez, an iconic character, uses language that suits his experience and “age” (for want of a better word!), but there are times when he uses modern vernacular, which appears completely out of step with who he is. Likewise with Morticia. The only person who seems to have her voice is Wednesday, and yet the music never really places her at the centre of the piece. Sure, she has her solo (“Pulled”) and the obligatory duet (“Crazier Than You”), but to have a storyline that seems to revolve around the chaos she brings with her new beau, and then not use it as the key focus seems contradictory.
What is the major focus then? Love. Yep, love. Now, every person and their dog can name at least ten movies and musicals that use love as their central theme, but you would think that in an environment and with characters like those in The Addams Family, the creative team could have come up with something more … twisted. Unconventional. Eccentric. Idiosyncratic.
And maybe that’s the problem. With a cast of characters that have such idiosyncratic personalities at your disposal, why not tap into them and use them to their full effect? Listening to the soundtrack, I never felt much of those characteristics come through. Instead, rather than fleshing out the characters, you get two-dimensional parodies of them. Of course, what musical doesn’t have its fair share of 2D characters, but I think that audiences are expecting more today. Further, with such pedigree as the Addams’, it wouldn’t take a lot to flesh them out further.
But will it work in Australia? I’m not sure. Many of us know The Addams Family TV show – we saw it as kids. But it’s still quite American. Will the humour take? Maybe. There are moments that are genuinely funny, but they are too few and too far between. And I don’t know if the “in-jokes” will resonate, simply because Aussies aren’t as well-versed with the original show – even the original comic. (Comic? Yes, it was a comic before the TV show … who knew!)
At the end of the day, it’s up to you, dear reader, to make your own decision. Have a listen to the show for yourself.
If you’re a fan of anything Addams’, then I’ve probably offended you. My apologies. Am I sitting on the fence a bit? Absolutely! But draw your own conclusions. Will I see it? Maybe. Am I driven to see it? No. Listening to the soundtrack hasn’t sold me – however much of a fan of Nathan Lane I am.
Until next time,
Blog ya later!