The Addams Family began as a small featured comic book strip in a magazine, and transformed through many resurrections, and inceptions until the gothic family became a household name. Put to music, and dancing the macabre bunch may seem like an odd choice for a musical adaptation – but the public took to it. Here’s how it became a phenomenon…
Comic Strip Beginnings
Charles Addams birthed the gothic family in a series of one-panel gags in 1938 for The New Yorker. They were created as a satirical inversion of the ideal American family; an eccentric, wealthy clan who delight in the macabre and are unaware that people find them bizarre or frightening.
In the words of the creator himself: “Gomez and Pugsley are enthusiastic. Morticia is even in disposition, muted, witty, sometimes deadly. Grandma Frump is foolishly good-natured. Wednesday is her mother’s daughter. The house is a wreck, of course, but this is a house-proud family just the same and every trap door is in good repair.”
In 1964, the ABC created a live-action The Addams Family television series based on Addams’s cartoon characters, that was shot in black-and-white and ran for two seasons. During this time The New Yorker editor William Shawn refused to publish any Addams Family cartoons, as he regarded his magazine as targeting a more refined readership and did not want it associated with these characters. They were welcomed back by the publication following his retirement in 1987.
In 1973, the family was resurrected in a live-action musical variety show pilot that failed to pick up for a full series. Later this year the first animated series ran for a younger audience that lasted just one season. In 1977 a television reunion movie, Halloween with the New Addams Family, aired featuring the original cast of the ’64 production. For another two decades the family lay to rest until two more unsuccessful television adaptations were made: The Addams Family: The Animated Series in 1992 that lasted one season, and the live-action The New Addams Family in 1998 that once more was a one season flop. No television show has been attempted since, showing that for some reason this family does just not work on the small screen.
In the 1990s, Orion Pictures had inherited the rights to the series and developed a film version, The Addams Family. (However, due to the studio’s financial troubles at the time, they were forced to sell the US rights of the film to Paramount Pictures who released it in 1991 to tremendous success. The movie earned over $190 million, was nominated for a Golden Globe, as well as an Academy Award, and spawned its own documentary feature, and soundtrack.
As with any successful movie, following the immense popularity a sequel was commissioned Addams Family Values that was widely regarded as the superior movie. Opening number one it took home over $113 million, and once again scored nods at both the Golden Globes, and Academy Awards. A third movie was rebooted in 1998, separate to the previous entries, that was created for direct-to-video starring a new cast. In 2010 a stop motion version was planned but eventually cancelled, and in 2013 an animated revival was said to be in the works.
Due to the on-and-off success of The Adams Family brand, their likeness has been used in a range of subsequent media. Five video games in total have featured the gang, mostly in the late 80’s and 90’s. An arcade shocker was released around many countries, and a pinball game was released in 1992 following the movie which has become the best-selling pinball game of all time.
As well as these the family have been immortalised in three novels – one of which features over 200 cartoons, both published, and previously unseen, by Charles Addams.
After an ill-fated adaptation of the 2004 movie Saved!; this was the second adaptation of popular source material from producers Roy Furman, and Stuart Oken, under their joint company Elephant Eye Theatrical, after the pair obtained the rights from the Tee and Charles Addams Foundation to create a musical adaptation of The Addams Family for Broadway. The Addams Foundation continued to retain control over the show’s content and insisted that it be based solely on Addams’ cartoons, rather than the many movie, and television adaptations.
To create the perfect show, the pair approached Grammy-nominated Andrew Lippa to create the songs following his successful work on You’re a Good Man, Charlie Brown; as well as enlisting writing duo Marshall Brickman, and Rick Elice, who had penned Jersey Boys to write the book. Improbable theatre founders Julian Crouch and Phelim McDermott were tapped to direct, and design the musical following their dark, and twisted take on stage show Shockheaded Peter. Sergio Trujillo rounded out the cast, having already worked with the production company on Saved! for which he was nominated for a Lucille Lortel Award (an award in recognition of excellence in Off-Broadway theatre).
After mixed-reviewed tryouts in Chicago, the show began previews on Broadway at the Lunt-Fontanne Theatre on March 8, 2010, with an official opening night one month later on April 8. The production was estimated to cost between $10 and $15 million. Again, it saw a rather mixed reception which praised the performances, but ired at the actual story.
The show won a Drama Desk Award for Outstanding Set Design, and Broadway.com Audience Awards for Favorite New Broadway Musical, Favorite Performance by a Featured Actor in a Broadway Musical, Favorite Breakthrough Performance, and Favorite Onstage Pair – proving it to be more commercially popular than with the critics. The Broadway production closed on December 31, 2011, after 35 previews and 722 performances.
Since closing on Broadway the show returned to Chicago to unanimous rave reviews, toured the United States as well as internationally to which it is still running strong.
The show was never destined to be in the running for Tony Awards, or the top spot of iconic stage show but it is a fun, and nostalgia-filled comedy that will keep you entertained while you’re watching. It’s a great, kooky, and engrossing show that will have you snapping along.
- “Overture” – Ancestors
- “When You’re an Addams” – Addams Family, Ancestors
- “Pulled” – Wednesday, Pugsley
- “Where Did We Go Wrong” – Morticia, Gomez
- “One Normal Night” – Company
- “Morticia” – Gomez, Male Ancestors
- “What If” – Pugsley
- “Full Disclosure Part 1” – Company
- “Waiting” – Alice, Ancestors
- “Full Disclosure Part 2” – Company
- “Opening Act II” – Ancestors
- “Just Around the Corner” – Morticia, Ancestors
- “The Moon and Me” – Fester, Female Ancestors
- “Happy/Sad” – Gomez
- “Crazier Than You” – Wednesday, Lucas
- “Let’s Not Talk About Anything Else But Love” – Mal, Gomez, Fester
- “Let’s Not Talk About Anything Else But Love (Reprise)” – Grandma, Gomez, Fester †
- “In the Arms” – Mal, Alice, Ancestors
- “Live Before We Die” – Gomez, Morticia
- “Tango de Amor” – Orchestra
- “Move Toward the Darkness” – Company