It seems to me that there is a dearth of Thanksgiving related shows and musicals. I guess there isn’t that much to use the holiday for, except maybe the backdrop of a scene. But since it seems that Christmas gets started earlier and earlier each year, it becomes more obvious to me that the fourth Thursday of November lacks the same entertainment punch given to other holidays. There are plenty of classic TV episodes and the film classic Planes, Trains and Automobiles, but for the most part Thanksgiving remains firmly ensconced in educational theatre.
One of my favorite Thanksgiving-related theatre moments comes from the film sequel Addams Family Values, in which Wednesday (current Broadway star Christina Ricci) and Pugsley (Jimmy Workman) are forced to go to the sunniest, most saccharine summer camp this side of Mary Poppins. After a summer being treated as misfits by the insufferably cheerful campers and counselors (hilariously played by Peter MacNicol and three-time Tony winner Christine Baranski), the duo and their outcast friends enact their revenge during the climactic (and hilariously politically incorrect) Thanksgiving pageant. Among the mothers in the audience on screen are theatre faves Harriet Harris and Julie Halston. Enjoy.
Two musical productions that most excite me this season are The Addams Family and the revival of Ragtime. Here is the first glimpse of the former in Vanity Fair. Bebe Neuwirth and Nathan Lane star as Morticia and Gomez. Jackie Hoffman is Grandmama, Kevin Chamberlin is Uncle Fester, Zachary James is Lurch, Krysta Rodriguez is Wednesday and Adam Riegler (Cubby Bernstein) is Pugsley. Not pictured are Terrence Mann, Carolee Carmello and Wesley Taylor. The new musical has its world premiere in Chicago on November 13, and starts preview performances at Broadway’s Lunt-Fontanne on March 4.
Then there’s the revival of Ragtime. I’ve already seen it once, and am going back again next week. The show opens at the Neil Simon Theatre on 11/15. Acclaimed photographer Joan Marcus was in taking new press shots of the Broadway company, and this striking image is one of my favorite stage pictures of the evening – the tableau of the entire company seen as the curtain rises.
It’s been long in the works, but now it’s official. The Addams Family will be coming to Broadway as a musical next spring starring two-time Tony winners Nathan Lane and Bebe Neuwirth as Gomez and Morticia. The cast also features Kevin Chamberlin as Uncle Fester, Jackie Hoffman as Grandmama, Krysta Rodriguez as Wednesday and Adam Riegler (best known as impresario Cubby Bernstein) as Pugsley. Also on board are Terrence Mann, Carolee Carmello, Wesley Taylor and Zachary James.
Andrew Lippa has provided the score and Marshall Brickman and Rick Elice have written the book, which is actually original and not a screen to stage adaptation. From the offical press release: “Storm clouds are gathering over the Addams Family manse. Daughter Wednesday, now 18, is experiencing a sensation that surprises and disgusts her – caring about another person. Young Pugsley, jealous of his sister’s attention, begs her to keep torturing him, severely, while mother Morticia, conflicted over her daughter’s lurch into womanhood, fears being upstaged and discarded…. like yesterday’s road kill. All the while, father Gomez – master of the revels, mischievous and oblivious as ever – would prefer everything and everyone remain as it is. But when outsiders come to dinner, the events of one night will change forever this famously macabre family – a family so very different from your own…or maybe not.”
The musical has had industry workshops and readings, involving Lane and Neuwirth and will have an official out of town tryout at the Ford Center for the Performing Arts in Chicago starting November 13. The opening night in New York is slated for April 8, 2010 at a Nederlander Theatre to be announced.
Truth be told, I haven’t warmed to many of the newer musicals that have been opening, but I find that I cannot wait for this project. Word of mouth on the chat boards from insiders was very positive and signs point to this being a good musical comedy. Personally, some of the excitement for me lies in seeing authors doing something different with an established body of work. Instead of seeing the film or TV series just slapped onstage with self-referential and generic musical numbers, the creators are doing something unusual: being original.
Oh – and interesting fact: this will mark the first time that Bebe Neuwirth has ever created a role in a new Broadway musical. She replaced in A Chorus Line, Dancin’ and Fosse and won her two Tonys for revivals of Sweet Charity and Chicago, and was Lola in the ’94 revival of Damn Yankees.