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Haunted Addamses

April 3, 2010 | 11:00 am

For Bret (2) The Arts Club in Chicago is a tony member’s eatery favored by architects and artists.

It was no coincidence that Stuart Oken, the Chicago-based producer of “The Addams Family: A New Musical,” chose it as the locale to reveal his new Broadway show to the world.

On that bright morning last May, Oken’s message was clear. This was not to be another by-the-numbers, screen-to-stage exploitation. This was no “Legally Blonde,” no “9 to 5: The Musical.”

Oken’s “Addams Family” would be an arty, serious, $17-million endeavor put together by an eclectic and unconventional team of artists. It would not be based not on the beloved 1960s ABC-TV show, or the 1990s movies starring Raul Julia and Anjelica Huston. Instead, it would be drawn from the pure, sweetly minimalist Charles Addams cartoons, shaped into an original but respectful book wherein Wednesday Addams, now 18, would fall in love and her boyfriend’s normal family would come to the topsy-turvy Addams mansion for dinner.

But as things turned out during a tempestuous trial run in Chicago, Oken’s desire to develop a progressive and original musical and protect it during its delicate incubation period ran right into the conventional clatter and chatter of modern Broadway. As painful as the process was for Oken — a passionate, intense and serious-minded producer — he had to realize that “The Addams Family” came with some built-in traps.

As “The Addams Family” prepares to open on Broadway on Thursday after some hefty changes in book, score and directorial style, the remaining question is whether the current creative team has found a sweet spot somewhere between the arty complexity that Oken first wanted and, well, “Da-Da-Da-dah — (Snap! Snap!)”

To read the full report in the Arts & Books section, click here.

-- Chris Jones

Photo: Adam Riegler, Jackie Hoffman, Bebe Neuwirth, Nathan Lane, Kevin Chamberlin, Krysta Rodriguez and Zachary James in "The Addams Family: A New Musical."

Credit: Joan Marcus.