Arts » Performing Arts

Hit shows in Charlotte's crosshairs

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Whether you're interested in catching an early peep at the blockbusters headed toward the Charlotte's PAC, or you're curious about the edgier fare that our smaller homegrown companies are drooling over, the places to go are Broadway and off-Broadway. That's where the Queen City's deciders sneak off to as they fashion their theater menus, and that's where my wife Sue and I go at least once every season.

We went a little later this year. Not late enough to miss the ginormous snowfall that has made the Great White Way even whiter in 2010-11, and not late enough to catch the official press opening of Spider-Man: Turn Off the Dark, which has slung an unprecedented web of postponements. On the other hand, we caught The Addams Family and Love, Loss, and What I Wore during our 15-day invasion, two properties that are definitely in the PAC's crosshairs.

Intrepid surfers can also check out CL's past reviews of In the Heights, Next to Normal, Million Dollar Quartet, and Memphis for additional assessments of present and future touring fare. That handy inventory will expand in the next two weeks as we complete our roundup of theater, opera, and jazz for 2011.

Here's a juicy sample:

The Addams Family — While the TV series is the jumping-off point for Andrew Lippa's music and lyrics, Marshall Brickman and Rick Elice seem to have ransacked You Can't Take With You even more thoroughly than the famed Charles Addams cartoons for their book. How Wednesday Addams and Lucas Beineke would have met, dated, and committed their hearts to one another are apparently superfluous dimensions in this sketchpad universe, but we do get ignition and lift-off when the bland Beineke Family from Ohio are somehow maneuvered into the grandly decaying Addams manse.

Until then, the creepy celebration of eccentricity induces only a modicum of longueurs, thanks to the musical comedy exploits of Nathan Lane as Gomez and Bebe Neuwirth as Morticia. But their conventional "Where Did We Go Wrong" in Act 1 hardly prepares us for the splendor of their "Tango de Amor" deep in Act 2. Kevin Chamberlin ably reprises the requisite Jackie Coogan geniality as Uncle Fester, and understudy Valerie Fagan filled in superbly as snaggle-toothed Grandma.

Carolee Carmello seethes with sitcom libido as the undersexed Alice Beineke, but Terrence Mann as the stuffed-shirt dad seems terribly wasted until his showstopping "In the Arms of a Squid." Krysta Rodriguez and Wesley Taylor as the lovebirds have their best moments in the "Crazier Than You" duet with its cheesy William Tell tech. "Just Around the Corner," with its kick-line of Addams ghouls, is even more on-target — and sure to travel well.

Love, Loss, and What I Wore — Adapting the book by Ilene Beckerman, Nora and Delia Ephron confounded my expectations. For the show isn't as girly as Girls Only nor as wholesome and sanitized as My First Time, the two most comparable shows we've seen here. A revolving galaxy of celebs play the five roles, reading their parts from behind music stands at the intimate West Side Theatre.

Like the best staged readings, Love, Loss bears the imprint of fastidious rehearsals, thanks to the stylish direction of Karen Carpenter. One of the five actresses, Anita Gillette through Feb. 13, sort of frames the parade of narratives with successive installments of "Gingy's Story," a lifelong saga presented with illustrations of the pertinent outfits. Meanwhile, a wide swath of subject matter — purses, bras, boots, sweaters, and the inevitable bridal dress — gets a brisk airing from the other four actresses.

Yes, there are some feminine stereotypes mined with sharp stand-up comedy wit, but parts of this show are surprisingly tender and touching.

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