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Feb 26, 2013

The Addams Family

By Michal Jansen Miller

"If the New York production of The Addams Family had been as good as the version currently (touring), the show would have been a cinch for the 2010 Tony Award and would still be running on Broadway".
-Lawson Taitte, Dallas News

Most of us probably first met The Addams Family in the 1964 ABC television show that ran until 1966, or more likely the 1991 Paramount Pictures movie starring Raul Julia and Angelica Huston and the subsequent sequel, Addams Family Values, both of which were huge box office hits. But in fact, The Addams Family first made its creepy way into the American psyche in 1938 with the single panel cartoons drawn and created by Charles Addams.

So it's not completely fair to count this among the countless Broadway shows that came to us directly from the movies. What is fair to say is that the 2010 Broadway production was fodder for many critics and theatre folk who love to hate the behind the scenes drama that makes TV shows like today's Smash on NBC such guilty pleasures.

It started in 2008 with workshop and private industry presentations (to get funding from backers) and led to its out of town tryout in Chicago. The New York papers were giddy with the high drama swirling around the production. Changes were made to the book and new musical numbers were inserted what seemed like nightly. The Bebe Neuwirth and Nathan Lane conflicts with the creative team were legend.

All of this off-stage turmoil came to a head when The Addams Family finally opened at the Lunt-Fontainne Theatre in April 2010, just in time for possible Tony Award contention. The critics, who had been watching in the wings like gargoyles since Chicago, were vicious.

But something amazing happened. The Addams Family consistently sold to 100% capacity and saw box office success similar to Wicked and The Lion King. It defied the critics and the snub from the Tony Awards and went on to play 725 performances before closing in December.

Then something really amazing happened. The creative team, including director Jerry Zaks decided to take a deep (short) breath and make the show something more critically pleasing before simply taking their financially successful production on the road. Audiences and critics who have seen the new incarnation have been very well pleased.

Lawson Taitte of the Dallas News says that with the changes, the show is "suddenly laugh-out-loud funny". He reports that the Dallas audiences were so into the event that they snapped their fingers every time the orchestra inserted the old TV theme song.

Further praise for the changes in the touring production come from the Kansas City Star's Robert Trussell. It's "first class with unexpected pleasures at every turn," he writes.

And finally, from New Orleans, where the tour first found its new heart, Dominic Massa of the CBS affiliate there says the new tour is "full of charm, wit and surprises that explain why it's a HIT on its national tour".

Get your snappin' fingers ready, Lexington. The creepy, kooky and altogether spooky show that defied tradition and cranked up the best for its life after Broadway finds its fiendish way to the Lexington Opera House just in time for March. Madness, indeed!

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INSIDER TIP: The same weekend the musical is playing at the Opera House, the original Lurch from the 1991 movie and Cousin Itt from the 1960's television show are appearing in town at the Lexington Comic and Toy Convention across the street. That's just spooky.