When "The Addams Family - The Musical" first previewed in Chicago back in December 2009 before moving to Broadway and it launched with an all-star cast starring Nathan Lane as Gomez and Bebe Neuwirth as Morticia, I was one of the critics immediately sold on this stage celebration of everyone's favorite creepy family.
Alas, it had a short New York run, but then a Broadway national tour returned to Chicago for a week of performances in December 2011, and it should be noted the show was dramatically rewritten by its creators with the support of veteran director Jerry Zaks. This time around, I was less impressed.
Mercury Theater in Chicago, nestled away just a stone's throw from Wrigley Field at 3745 N. Southport Ave., has just opened what they are billing as "the spooky kooky production" of "The Addams Family - The Musical," and now, after what I experienced at Thursday's press opening, I'm back on board with this off-their-beam bunch.
Mercury's run goes until April 5 and this is a ticket you don't want to miss, so "snap to it."
The fun and macabre new musical comedy is created by "Jersey Boys" authors Marshall Brickman and Rick Elice, and Drama Desk Award winner Andrew Lippa. This production is led by Jeff Award winners L. Walter Stearns as director and Eugene Dizon for musical direction and Brenda Didier for choreography.
The story shared with audiences is simple, primarily focused on now grown-up dark and brooding daughter Wednesday Addams, played so brilliantly by Dara Cameron and following the family confusion and disappointment because she has fallen in love with "a sweet, smart young man from a respectable family."
Also starring in this production is Karl Hamilton as Gomez, who is hands down, the master of this role and even far better than what Lane ever accomplished in the Broadway stint. He is diabolically dashing, comfortable in Gomez' signature pin-striped suit and a wiz with his every tongue-in-cheek line. Wow, does this guy have his timing down. This being said, Rebecca Prescott as Morticia has a tough act to follow, but manages nicely.
The rest of the frightening family includes Harter Clingman as a perfect Uncle Fester, Brennan Dougherty as Pugsley, Jeff Diebold in top form, giving new life as Lurch and Amanda Hartley as a very quirky Grandmama. Playing the "square family" finding themselves face-to-face with the Addams clan are Jeff Award winner Cory Goodrich who gives a performance so entertaining, I know I'm going back again to see her big moment of cut-lose escapades. Jason Grimm and Henry McGinniss are great as the rest of the family of Ohio squares. The ghostly chorus of Addams ancestors have some of the best ghostly make-up I've seen in recent memory and crypt confetti is deserved for this production designed by Jeff Award winning scenic designer Robert Knuth with fantastic costumes by Frances Maggio, lighting by Nick Belley, sound by Mike Ross and magic effects by Neil Tobin.
Performances are 7:30 p.m. Wednesdays, 3 and 8 p.m. Thursdays, 8 p.m. Fridays, 3 and 8 p.m. Saturdays and 3 and 7 p.m. Sundays. Tickets are $25-$65 (773) 325-1700 or MercuryTheaterChicago.com.