Posted by Broadway Doctor Monday, August 2, 2010
WHAT THE ADDAMS FAMILY SHOULD HAVE DONE:
1) Scrap the entire story. Some things are too late to save, and there's no way to fix this concept for a show. The story follows a La Cage Aux Folles scenario where Wednesday Addams invites her boyfriend's parents to meet the family. This is an excellent way to setup the comic juxtaposition between a normal family and the Addams. However, this sit-com worthy format, gets tired too quickly and the story becomes more about Wednesday's love story/self-loathing, Morticia's old age, and other forced drama.
What they should have done?
The Addams family members are two dimensional characters; literally cartoon characters. So to fully live up to their existence, you can't give them any kind of internal conflict. I.e. Wednesday is in love/ Morticia's fears about getting old. Instead what you need to do is have a plot that surrounds an external conflict, an antagonist that arrives from outside, to oppose or disrupt the Addams' wants and desires. There is still room for comic juxtaposition there. In the end, the family comes together to defeat the foes, and remains as they are. This film version is written with external conflict for a reason, The Addams Family cannot work with internal conflict. These are not complex Sondheim characters.
2) Recast Wednesday. My apologies to Krysta Rodriguez who is immensely talented, but some of the unbelievability comes from her being too old and mature for the part. It's not her fault, it's the creators'. The only reason she's as old as she is, is so she can have a boyfriend character. But Wednesday has never been characterized this way in any other adaptations, and I think that is why some people don't connect; especially since she's the central character. She doesn't feel like the Wednesday we know and love.
3) The score needs to be re-imagined. Weak song styles; there are no memorable tunes. I know it's a matter of opinion, but there needs to be songs that sound complete, and don't have too much plot in them. ...Songs that high school girls and boys are going to want to sing in future musical auditions. Currently there are only a few in The Addams Family. Again, if there were a better/stronger/more relevant plot, there would be better material for the music to exist on. Since each character gets one song of their own, the song should not be about their internal wants and desires. The song should be about them as a (2 dimensional) character. The songs need to say "This is Wednesday's Song," and, "this is Morticia's song." Each song should live forever as perfectly capturing the characters of Wednesday and Morticia, etc.
4) Would somebody please give Bebe Neuwirth something to do? If she had a stronger character to play, then she wouldn't need to start her own line of Morticia nail-polish. The show needs to be about Gomez and Moriticia, not the kids. 'The Addams Family' franchise has always revolved around the mom and pop. Having two of Broadway's biggest stars, the show should surround them, follow them, and lift them up. I see the temptation to make the show about Wednesday, because The Addams Family is branded as a "family" show you can bring your kids to. But I think this is important. "The Simpsons" television series critically suffered in it's early seasons when writers were wanting the make the episodes/show more about Bart Simpson. This persisted until Conan O'Brien helped shape the show more around Homer Simpson, and the show was a smash every year after that. In the same way, The Addams Family needs to be about the parents; if that means the show is less family and more comedy, then that's the way it goes. I don't necessarily think of "The Addams Family" as a kids franchise. However it's easy to go that route, right now, when there weren't any other kids musicals to open on Broadway last year.
5) Continue to promote the show as Broadway's most magical experience. People know this is a big budget show, and so people want to know there are illusions, beautiful sets (which they are) and mystery. Not that this show needs more or less promotion while in the million dollar club, but still, there should have been less branding as a family experience, and more on branding as spectacle. Each are equally commercially important, but in conclusion, The Addams Family would have been more critically successful in league with The Phantom of the Opera, and not Shrek.