Thursday, June 7, 2012

Reverend's Interview: One of the Family

The macabre yet whimsical creations of cartoonist Charles Addams have been entertaining on the printed page and small and large screens since the 1930's. More recently, Gomez, Morticia and their "creepy kooky spooky ooky" brood made a leap to the Broadway stage with 2010's The Addams Family: A New Musical Comedy. After a tortured development process that saw the work of original directors Phelim McDermott and Julian Crouch (Shockheaded Peter) ultimately supervised and tweaked by veteran Jerry Zaks (Mame, A Funny Thing Happened on the Way to the Forum), the production opened in New York with Tony-winning headliners Nathan Lane and Bebe Neuwirth and enjoyed a huge advance in ticket sales. Fellow critics, however, gave it a less than rapturous response.

The musical has been substantially re-worked since its Broadway run and before going on tour. Now playing at Los Angeles' Pantages Theatre through June 17th with Douglas Sills (having a lot of infectious fun) as Gomez and New York favorite Sara Gettelfinger as Morticia, I found the end result highly enjoyable if hardly groundbreaking. While the book by Marshall Brickman and Rick Elice and Andrew Lippa's score are largely routine (although two songs, "Happy/Sad" and the finale's "Move Toward the Darkness," are hauntingly beautiful), the show contains so much humor, impressive stagework and clever puppetry that I must recommend it to all but the most jaded theatregoers.

San Diego native Brian Justin Crum is featured as Lucas Beineke, arguably the most "normal" character in the show, whose engagement to Wednesday Addams (the impressive Cortney Wolfson) serves as the central point on which the musical's rather slight plot pivots. At only 25, Crum has already racked up an impressive set of credits that includes Next to Normal, Wicked and Grease on Broadway, as well as an acclaimed turn in the title role of Disney's Tarzan at North Shore Music Theatre. He is also an out & proud gay actor. Crum took time out of his busy schedule before arriving in LA to speak with Reverend.

"Our director always says the final product (i.e. The Addams Family) in New York was not meant to be the final product," Crum related. "They re-wrote the script, cut some songs and added others for the tour, which has gotten a great reception." The major revision in the book of the current version is Wednesday now confiding in her father the truth of her and Lucas' engagement, which creates tension between Morticia and the formerly always-honest Gomez.

"The whole plot of the show," continued Crum, "is this 'normal' family from Ohio that meets the Addams family. The show challenges what we think is normal or crazy and gets us to look at things from a new perspective." Indeed, at one point Morticia pointedly states "Define normal," which drew a cheer from the opening night crowd in LA.

I asked the talented and (it should be said) attractive Crum if the show has a highlight for him. "I love 'Crazier Than You,' the scene before and the song; Cortney, who is a great friend, and I have great chemistry." Crum also speaks highly of Tony nominee (for The Scarlet Pimpernel) Sills. "We're so lucky to have Douglas. He's become like my father; I've gotten so close to him. I can't say enough how wonderful he is both onstage and offstage to work with."

Crum had complimentary things to say about the entire Addams Family ensemble. "I've been with the tour for nine months now, and I've gotten to be great friends with so many of the cast and crew." I naturally had to ask whether Crum, as a young gay man touring the US of A, was single. "I'm single-ish," he laughingly replied without elaborating.

I also felt compelled to ask what was next for the up-and-comer, or if he had any dream roles he'd like to play. "I always draw a blank when I get asked that," he replied. "I like to think that my dream role hasn't yet been written." In the meantime, "I'm with the (Addams Family) tour until mid-August and then back to New York. I'm really excited and really blessed."

I encourage everyone to check out Crum and his temporary Family while they are visiting southern California, or wherever they may be found on tour this summer.

Interview by Rev. Chris Carpenter, resident film critic of Movie Dearest and Rage Monthly Magazine.

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