Theatre Review: Concert Production of ‘Addams Family’ Reanimates the Garden Theatre
Throughout the pandemic, Short North Stage and its sibling Columbus Immersive Theater have adroitly navigated layers of regulation and shifting levels of social comfort, with live streams and in-person/streaming hybrids.
After my second dose of the vaccine, I returned to the Garden for the first time in over a year to see Columbus Immersive’s delightful new Quarantined Concert Version of The Addams Family, the Broadway hit by Andrew Lippa (music and lyrics), and Marshall Brickman and Rick Elice (book, adapted from the cartoons of Charles Addams), directed by Edward Carignan.
This concert version with a stripped-down (though still impressive, designed along with costumes, by Carignan) shortens the play to a tight 90 minutes with no intermission. That’s both a boon for limiting the time audiences breathe each other’s air – a mask requirement throughout the show and the spacing between parties as part of the limited capacity also helped ease some concerns – but it also worked artistically.
Earlier productions I’ve seen of The Addams Family felt like scattered gems were drowning in a static, two-and-a-half-hour sea with an interminable series of fake endings; it felt so long and convoluted nothing quite had the chance to connect. This edit – credited to the original creative team in the virtual program – under Carignan’s direction and choreography (with Dionysia Williams as associate director and associate choreographer) turned a 180. Adding nothing new I could discern, the show revealed sharp, fully-defined characters and sparkling songs I walked out humming. It no longer jabbed me in the eye with lessons about finding the good in other people. The empathy at its heart shines organically.
The singing and acting are at their usual high level throughout. The clear affection and chemistry between Gomez and Morticia – one of the great couples of popular culture – get phenomenal conduits in Jordan Stocksdale and Tess Marshall. Stocksdale balances the aw-shucks goofball dad and wild man of mystery better than I think I’ve ever seen. Luke Bovenizer makes the most out of frenetic, intense highlight Uncle Fester.
This production, without shorting the titular family, actually lends excitement and interest to the other family entering their madcap lives, the Beinekes from Ohio. Keegan Sells puts across what besotted Wednesday Addams (a terrific Avery Bank) about Lucas Beineke. And there’s genuine heat and delight in one another between Brian Gray’s Mal and Dionysia Williams’ Alice, shining in the parallel song “Crazier Than You” and a bravura turn by Williams embedded in “Full Disclosure.”
Whether its synthesizers or live instrumentation – the program doesn’t name any musicians – Jonathan Collura’s perfect musical direction is appropriately lush and unsettling, matching the unbridled enthusiasm and ornate, classical forms of the material. And dancing, always a highlight at shows at the Garden, gets its due with crackling choreography from Carignan and Williams, frequently involving Fester’s crew of press-ganged ancestors. The heat and the tight pacing owe a lot to both these corners.
For a show I’ve had mixed feelings about in the past, I had a great time at this. It’s a distillation of what this company does well: traditional musical comedy sung and danced as well anywhere and it emphasizes what’s made these characters so beloved for over 80 years.
The Addams Family runs through May 30 with performances at 7 p.m. Thursday and Friday, 2 p.m. and 7 p.m. Saturday, and 2 p.m. Sunday. It is also available for streaming during this period. For tickets and more info, visit columbusimmersive.com/addams.