The 2016 theater season is off to a strong start, but two musical offerings are closing this weekend. Keep reading for our capsule reviews of The Addams Family and Tell Me on a Sunday, which both end their runs with final shows on February 27.
The Addams Family. The musical The Addams Family relies on our enduring affection for the group of death- and darkness-loving misfits created by New Yorker cartoonist Charles Addams in the 1940s. His work inspired several television shows and three films before morphing into this show by Marshall Brickman and Rick Elice, with music by Andrew Lippa. The original cartoons were never very scary, and the television shows were aimed at children, so it’s no crime that the musical sweetens things up a bit further. Uncle Fester becomes a kindly old soul, given to addressing the audience directly and, he tells us wistfully, hopelessly in love with the moon. It doesn’t hurt that at BDT Stage he’s played by Wayne Kennedy, who knows how to charm your socks off. Grandma, embodied with humor by Barb Reeves, is more like your average aging hippie dealing new-age herbs and potions than an evil-minded witch. And we see in looming, stiff-jointed Lurch — another fine performance, this one by Casey Andree — traces of the warm-hearted family retainer. The plot is conventional. The Addams’s daughter, Wednesday, falls for a regular boy, the son of straitlaced parents Mal and Alice Beineke, and though her father, Gomez — who turns out to be a real softie — comes around pretty quickly, rigid mom Morticia insists on the integrity of the family ethos. A complication that makes an already thin story a touch thinner is that Gomez, torn between his wife and daughter, is forced to prevaricate, when a commitment to absolute truth is the foundation of his longstanding and passionate marriage. Then again, you’re not really here for sophisticated plot, but rather for jokes that come thick and fast, songs that range from melodious to hilarious, energetic dancing, and all kinds of exuberant hijinks. There’s serious skill on display at BDT — from set designer Amy Campion who’s been working here for so many years that she understands precisely all the strengths and defects of the playing area and knows just how to utilize it to best effect, to costume designer Linda Morken, to Neal Dunfee, who heads the excellent orchestra. All of the performances are strong. Sarah Grover, starring as Wednesday, sings with strength and passion, fully exploring the inner struggle between exuberant teen and appropriately sullen Addams misfit. Presented by BDT Stage through February 27, 2016, 5501 Arapahoe Avenue, Boulder, 303-449-6000, bdtstage.com. Read the full review of The Addams Family here.
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Tell Me on a Sunday. Tell Me on a Sunday is a one-woman song cycle created by Andrew Lloyd Webber in 1984, with lyrics by Don Black. Although the Avenue Theater is giving it a meticulous production, there's not a lot of payoff for the care that went into the set, the ever-changing video images on the back wall that faithfully reflect the protagonist’s mood and circumstances, the musical direction and the casting of multi-award-winning Megan Van De Hey, with her fine voice, in the lead. A story unfolds during the roughly hour-long evening, but it’s a thin one. A young woman dubbed Girl has just arrived in New York from North London — but we don’t know why she made the move. She has no serious plans for getting a job, no friends that we know of, no skills or ambitions, no identity. She lives to catch a man, someone who will love her and help her get her green card — and it won’t hurt if he’s powerful and rich. Over the course of the evening, she goes through four, or maybe five, possible loves. One is a shallow Hollywood bigwig, one much younger than she is, one married. Each new love is greeted with hopeful, happy singing – and the sad, disillusioned songs that follow are so predictable that after a while you’d be disappointed if you didn’t get them and Girl ended up happily partnered instead. The songs require fluidity, subtlety and dramatic changes in dynamics and pace — all of which Van De Hey’s rich voice is more than capable of supplying. Trent Hines's accompaniment on a solitary piano is skilled and lively. There are a couple of melodious numbers, including “Unexpected Song” and the piece that gives the show its title, “Tell Me on a Sunday.” But generally the music feels as undifferentiated as the characters. Presented by Avenue Theater through February 27, 417 East 17th Avenue, 303-321-5925, avenuetheater.com. Read the full review of Tell Me on a Sunday here.