By Alex Distefano
By Scott Snowden
By Anna Merlan
By Steve Almond
By Jena Ardell
By Jon Campbell
By Alan Scherstuhl
By Tessa Stuart
The Addams Family takes the wry cartoons about a gloomy family that gives each other anthrax for the holidays and turns them into a hard-sell, anything-for-a-laugh show that screams, "Get it?"
In fact, in a remarkable moment for the history books, Morticia actually says, "Get it"? after a joke lyric! And she gets a laugh!
By that point, you're not exactly surprised. A lavish product for boomers, the mixed-bag musical throws deadpan out the window in favor of everything but the kitchen sink. Brace yourself for fourth-wall-breaking, shameless laugh-milking, topical jokes, a song idea reminiscent of Sondheim's "Sorry/Grateful," another one ripped out of The Producers, dancing dead ancestors lifted from Mel Brooks's other musical, and a power-ballad-belting teenage girl à la Wicked.
And watch out, Winona Ryder! (Get it?) All of that shticking hangs on a plot that mixes the premises of La Cage aux Folles and The Rocky Horror Picture Show and comes out somewhere between Young Frankenstein and Shrek, two other ghoul/troll shows patched together from contrasting swatches of lowbrow and highbrow.
Carrying the whole megillah while still waiting for Godot, the normally magnetic Nathan Lane works way too hard as a Gomez who's clearly a refugee from the vaudeville circuit, full of wackily accented line readings and a nasal upper register reminiscent of Anthony Newley's. He annoys! Bebe Neuwirth is a classy presence who scores big laughs, but her singing sometimes wobbles more than the movable furniture, and Jackie Hoffman is a game Grandma who ultimately succumbs to the character's gratuitousness. (After two men duet, the old bag pops out of a door, says, "Did someone mention love?," and starts singing along with them on an unasked-for reprise! That bit breaks the fifth wall.)
I did appreciate the clever puppetry, the many jokes that landed, and the moments when the show's in character and not trying to impress—like Uncle Fester's dreamy song in which he floats to the sky while singing his "la-la-la's." As a result, this is far from the Tourette syndrome musical of a few years back, but in mourning for what could have been, I'd have to give this Family the sound of one disembodied hand clapping—the same one (namely "Thing") that opens the curtain at the outset.
Elvis Presley and three less famous ghosts appear to bump their pelvises from beyond in Million Dollar Quartet—a/k/a Memphis Boys—a high-priced tourist attraction that makes you feel more like you're eavesdropping on a Vegas impersonators' convention than on a legendary recording session. There's no hard sell in the easygoing presentation of tunes, tiffs, and biographical data, but there's a whole lotta fakin' going on and it felt a whole lotta boring to me much of the time. What I did cotton to was openly gay Levi Kreis's feisty Jerry Lee Lewis, and when he got called "Liberace" by Carl Perkins, it was fun to imagine the real Lewis rasping, "I may be a pedophile, but I ain't no queer!"
Another hip-swiveling rocker, Hedwig and the Angry Inch, will be resurrected whenever another Broadway show (like one of the aforementioned?) drops into the afterlife and a theater becomes available. Is star/creator John Cameron Mitchell anxious to revisit his old part? "I'm going to have to go to the gym," Mitchell told me, smiling, when I ran into him on the street. "Maybe it's a midlife crisis. Some people get a sports car, I'm doing Hedwig. But it'll probably give me a reburst of energy." And surely there's a part for Kelsey Grammer, too.
Rather than go to the gym in my sports car, I checked into Musical Mondays at Splash and found scads of theater queens of both genders gleefully singing along to clips of The Sound of Music and Susan Boyle. This event is as unkillable as Phantom itself (if not the sequel, which the kids are calling Paint Never Dries). In the crowd, a whole other theatrical event happened when drag star Rajene urged me to come to her Wednesday-night contest there called America's Next Top Bottom. I'll not only come, I'll be rooting for Ricky Martin.
Aiming for the top, I agreed to be a guest on Marion Grodin's talk-show pilot at Gotham Comedy Club because she's hilariously observant and also because I knew that her dad, actor/writer Charles Grodin, wouldn't disappoint me backstage. He didn't. As someone handed him a video of Rosemary's Baby to sign, Grodin turned to me and said, "Polanski was an asshole! And that was before he raped the 14-year-old!" "And before his wife got killed," chimed in another guest, comic Colin Quinn. "I played the gynecologist," continued Grodin, "and Mia Farrow says to me, 'I feel like I'm giving birth to the devil.' Now, most of my clients probably haven't given birth to the devil, so I felt I should pause before I say, 'You may be right.' Polanski said, 'Don't take pause!' That's how he talked.
"I pleaded my case," continued Grodin, not taking pause, "and you know what he said? 'I get paid big money to do this!' I thought, 'At this point, I may not get paid big money, but I have a big reputation. I'm wanted everywhere.' " He and the asshole eventually worked it out, but co-star John Cassavetes had developed his own allergies to the Polish auteur version of Jerry Lee Lewis. "John wanted to punch him out," related Grodin, simply.