If there are two things in pop culture I love, it’s the Addams Family and musicals. Therefore, it would only make sense for me to love The Addams Family, the musical, right?
I really want to like this show, I really do, but I also feel like the very plot undermines what makes the Addams Family so unique. Let’s discuss.
In a previous post, I declared my love for the Addams Family, especially Morticia. Although Morticia is usually the character I relate to most at this stage in my life, it wasn’t always like that. When I first became enamored with the Addamses at age 16 or so, I related most to Wednesday Addams.
Wednesday Addams is almost portrayed as a morose, individualistic, analytical young girl with a sharp mind and big aspirations. She can usually be seen cutting the heads off of her dolls or tending to her pet spiders. She also has a great love of history, folklore, and the Bermuda triangle. Boys? Who has time for boys? The only thing on her mind was homicide. See the following quote from 1993’s “Addams Family Values”, the most popular incarnation of Wednesday…
The musical’s version of Wednesday is, honestly, nothing special. Reviews of the show tend to begin with the words “like any average eighteen year old…”, and that’s a bad sign. In this show, she is the teenage daughter stereotype stand-in. And, unfortunately, the plot of the Addams Family Musical centers around Wednesday bringing a boy home and announcing she wants to marry him. At first, I actually thought it was a joke.
Indeed, the whole premise of the musical is a bust. Wednesday would never worry about a boyfriend meeting her family. Even if he wasn’t creepy, kooky, mysterious, OR spooky, the Addams love everyone for their individual quirks. Gomez Addams is almost as selfless as Ned Flanders when it comes to helping his neighbors, and Morticia is a hopeless romantic who would probably love to see her little girl in happily in love. After all, she married Gomez after only knowing him for a few days according to the 1960s sitcom. Their picky, cynical little girl met somebody spectacular? Wow! He must really be something special!
Unfortunately, Wednesday’s boyfriend, Lucas, is as bland as unbuttered toast. He doesn’t CHALLENGE her throughout any of it. In fact, HE’S supposed to be the smart one.
Instead of pining for someone she can sword-fight with and torture in good fun, she found Beaver Cleaver. It isn’t even played for comedy; his blandness is seemingly unintentional. What a waste. I’d love to see a musical in which Wednesday finds a boy fascinating because he’s so damn boring. I can easily picture her examining his backwards ballcap like it came from the Bermuda triangle and shivering in delight when he talks about fantasy football. How strange! How frightening! Here? Nothing of the sort.
And don’t get me wrong here: I’m not saying Wednesday Addams CAN’T fall in love. But she’s got a lot to live up to if she’s following in the footsteps of her parents, and she’s an interesting character who deserves a remarkable romance.
Unfortunately, the other members of the Addams family don’t fare much better. Upon Wednesday’s begging, the characteristically faithful and doting Gomez decides to hide the fact that Wednesday and Unlikable Arthur Dent are getting married. This is supposed to be the setup for hilarious hijinks. I was not laughing.
This is made even worse when the usually poised and confident-in-love Morticia is bizarrely suspicious and jealous throughout the entire musical. She has been married to Gomez for over 25 years when the musical is set. Oh goody, there’s nothing I love more than watching my favorite fictional couple bicker for over two hours.
(Also, Gomez has been coded as Latino for a really long time, which I’ve always understood to be a sort of commentary on the fact that POC men were for a long time coded as literary monstrous in fiction and on film?? I don’t understand why anyone thought Irish-American Nathan Lane would be perfect for this role??? Help????)
Grandmama, who is only called “Grandma” for some unexplained reason, is just your average cranky sitcom grandmother. No fun, no wild silver locks flying in the wind, just there to complain. She isn’t even so “easily lead” as Charles Addams originally characterized her. She just doesn’t do much.
Lurch has no emotional connection with anyone in the family and is hardly regarded at all. You rang? No, we didn’t.
Fester has given up on women at this point, despite his unlucky-in-love status usually being the source of comedy in Addams stories. He’s in love with the moon now. How… strangely pointless.
As a side note, I’m tired of seeing Fester Addams get so much damn attention in newer adaptations of the Addams Family. His character really isn’t all that dynamic, and he’s more fun when relegated to the sidelines as a comic relief character. I’d rather see Fester have fun with mad science projects or hanging out with the kids than whatever the fuck they keep doing with him. He does not have the charisma of a leading man, period.
Pugsley takes the cake for strange character interpretations, though. You know how Louise Belcher and Lisa Simpson are younger than their brothers, but act like the older guardians? This dynamic has also been present in the Addams Family incarnations for decades. For some bizarre reason, though, Pugsley is now seven whole years younger than Wednesday instead of two years older, which makes the fact that she’s torturing him extremely uncomfortable to watch and not funny. With such an age gap, “Is There a God” seems like less of a playful game between siblings and more like someone needs to call Child Protective Services right now.
The torture itself is actually quite graphic, disturbingly so, which kills any light and fluffy musical mood they were going for. Pugsley cries because there are no monsters under his bed in one scene, and fears constantly that he’ll lose his sister torturing him. Watching the musical, I felt such genuine visceral concern for this child.
Fearing that there are no monsters under the bed is a very Addams thing to fear… but not at eleven years old. The protective, nurturing Addams parents would never put up with their son being so terrified.
And again, to reiterate, Wednesday shouldn’t be torturing her brother anymore. She should be focusing on real life, approaching like a speeding train. Her arachnology degree, with a minor in criminology. Perhaps, when she’s not at university, she and Lucas could travel to macabre locations (I personally recommend the Sedlec Ossuary).
I’d like to say “at least the music was good”… but it wasn’t. Imagine the most mundane songs from all your favorite shows were slapped together in one place and that’s pretty much what you’ve got. In my opinion, no showstoppers.
…And definitely no death-defying waltzes.
As some consolation, at least MGM just announced a new 2019 animated Addams Family feature. To be honest, I have high hopes. Oscar Isaac as Gomez Addams? I don’t know if there’s anything cuter than that.