Not that Creepy, but Plenty Kooky—The Addams Family Comes to Garfield High

Before being asked to do this review, I, like many of you, didn’t even know there was an Addams Family musical—and I’ve been a lifelong fan of the Addamses. Now that I have seen the Addams Family musical, I understand my own prior ignorance. The show, which apparently ran for a little over a year on Broadway before being released to community theaters and high schools around the country, doesn’t quite capture the Addams Family spirit. That being said, however, the flaws of the show are largely the failings of the script and composition; its execution by the students of Garfield High was quite remarkable, and exceeded my expectations for a high school production.

Nowhere is this captured more succinctly than in the music. Aside from the orchestral arrangement of the traditional Addams Family theme song contained in the overtures to both acts, the music was thoroughly forgettable standard Broadway fare, containing none of the creepy minor keys or washboard-and-musical-saw instrumentation that the Addams franchise fairly screams for. Bland as it was, though, this music was impressively executed by a live orchestra of talented young musicians in the pit and sung with gusto (if not complete accuracy) by the actors onstage. The night I went did have some trouble with the sound balance—the singers’ microphones were too quiet relative to the orchestra, such that the lyrics to the songs were largely drowned out. As this is an easy technical fix, though, one hopes that it will not plague the rest of the run. The musical highlight of the night was easily Uncle Fester’s lovesong to the moon, with senior Eli Breidford diving in to hit a truly impressive high falsetto note at the finale.

The dancing that accompanied this music was unreservedly extraordinary. Three choreographers, including director Stewart Hawk, worked on the production to create truly impressive group dance numbers that excellently showcased the talents of the students. A huge chorus of zombified Addams family ancestors—fantastically costumed—made for several large-scale and really quite complex unison dance numbers, including a unique combination tap/tango at the finale. Again, though, where there was failure it was in the writing: despite being woken from the dead at the beginning of the play ostensibly to help the family through a moment of crisis, this undead chorus contributes exactly nothing to the plot and mostly hangs around awkwardly in the background until it’s time to dance, making it obvious that these ancestors were included only to provide a source of warm (cold?) bodies for the big musical numbers.

If there is one area where Garfield’s execution did fall a bit short of its mark, it would be in the acting. While there were many genuinely funny moments in the show—particularly anytime Lurch (played with perfect comic timing by senior Quin Lagmay) was onstage—there was also quite a lot that fell flat, particularly because this was a high school production. The legendary passion of Gomez and Morticia (the romance that launched a thousand internet memes) was of course totally absent despite the many references to it in the script. Likewise, while I was pleasantly surprised by the production’s boldness in leaving in the show’s many curse words and sexual innuendos, each and every sex joke fell awkward coming from the lips of high schoolers for an audience made up largely of their parents, and generated more discomfort than laughter. When the subject of the joke was innocent, though—linguistic puns or politics—the show could be quite funny at times.

The end result was fun (great dancing, quirky jokes), but not particularly odd, eerie, or off-putting in the trademark Addams Family style. Instead, this is a fairly standard (albeit well performed) stock high school musical. If you’re interested in seeing a group of talented young people show off the considerable skills they’ve acquired by dancing or playing instruments their entire childhoods, go. But don’t go in expecting to see a great new addition to the Addams Family universe—the show’s writers and composer simply haven’t given Garfield High enough to work with, and the few bones they’ve thrown just aren’t right for a high school production to pick up and run with. Garfield High’s Addams Family Musical is an entertaining night of theater, but only if you go in with the right attitude, and knowing what to expect.

The Addams Family: A New Musical Comedy. Garfield Theatre Department, Quincy Jones Performance Center, 400 23rd Ave., Seattle. Wed-Fri (plus Sat, June 4) at 7pm. Thru June 4. Tickets: http://gstage.booktix.com/

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