Highly Recommended ***** My hat is off to L Walter Stearns and his majestic Mercury Theater Chicago! Oh, what a night! The perfect opening night for a musical comedy that was “born” in Chicago with none other than Nathan Lane taking on the “caricature” role of Gomez Addams, the patriarch of this family. While Lane is an extraordinary talent and was brilliant in his portrayal, the entire show appeared to be more a “star vehicle” for him, and thus did not make it as big as it could have. The writers with veteran director Jerry Zaks retooled the production and what we see on the stage of the far more intimate Mercury Theater is an amazing “ensemble” piece! A two hour and thirty minute musical that far exceeds what we witnessed pre-Broadway.
Chicago theater audiences know L. Walter Stearns and his musical director Eigene Dizon are dedicated to exceeding the expectations of the audiences who purchase tickets to see their shows. Exceed is a mild way of expressing the production that they have placed on this tiny, but efficient stage on Southport. Stearns has assembled a cast that fills every role to a “tee” and we, the audience truly benefit from the creativity that Stearns and his crew put together. Brenda Didier’s choreography is amazing and again, working on this intimate stage and making huge dance numbers happen is another miracle on Southport Avenue.
With a book by Marshall Brickman and Rick Elice and music and lyrics by Andrew Lippa, “The Addams Family” is based on an old TV sit-com and the cartoons of Charles Addams. In this particular episode (the musical Episode) we learn of their daughter Wednesday (the always adorable Dara Cameron) wanting her eerie parents to meet the “normal” parents of her true love, Lucas (gingerly played by Henry McGinniss, who grows in stature right before our eyes). The Addams household is led by Gomez (a spectacular portrayal by Karl Hamilton, who truly brings out the Spanish flavor of the character and makes him more real than previous actors in this role) and his spouse, Morticia (amazingly played by the very sultry and sexy Rebecca Prescott). Their son, Pugsley is a divine character brought to life by the very talented Brennan Dougherty) and the rest of the household , well, the live household , is made up of Uncle fester (Harter Clingman will knock your sox off) and their butler, Lurch (another amazing characterization -this one by Jeff Diebold, who should be proud of his ability to bring this character to life, or is it death?)
Lucas’ normal parents are played by the always reliable Cory Goodrich and Jason Grimm. They are the small town family come to New York as country bumpkins and despite their straight-laceness, become the parents that they should have been, now allowing Lucas to step out of the shadows. Back at The Addams family tree, there is also Grandma, who may or may not be related to anyone in the show, but has been living there for years. Amanda Hartley is adorable in this role. The rest of the characters are the ancestors who come alive on this magical day to bring Wednesday the love she deserves. They are: Sarah Hayes, Leah Morrow, Sawyer Smith, Jared Rein, Alexander Walker and Lucy Zukaitis- these actors prove that there are no small parts and that each and every member of a cast is as important as the next. That is why this piece is as strong as it is and could probably run in the 290 seat Mercury for months on end.
The set, a very flexible and easy to change one is designed by Bob Knuth, allowing the actors to go from graveyard, to home, to cellar, to bedroom. The lighting (Nick Belley), sound (Mike Ross) and costumes (Frances Maggio) are all part of Stearns recipe for a perfect show. These are not tunes you will hum on the ride home, but this is a theatrical experience that you will recall for some time to come. I have no doubts that no matter what type of day you had, the laughter you will enjoy will take you to a “different place”, one that you will rejoice in as you leave the Wrigleyville area.
Wednesdays at 7:30 p.m.
Thursdays at 3 p.m. and 8 p.m.
Fridays at 8 p.m.
Saturdays at 3 and 8 p.m.
Sundays at 3 and 7 p.m. (starting on 3/5-4/2)
Tickets range from $25- $65 and are available at the box office, by calling 773-325-1700 or online at www.MercuryTheaterChicago.com
Valet parking is available ($11.95) and there is street parking (metered) in the area. Lots of restaurants on the street and two that are connected to The Mercury, Deleece and Cullens.
To see what others are saying, visit www.theatreinchicago.com, go to Review Round-up and click at “The Addams Family-The Musical”