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Thursday, February 2,2012

Lighter side of darkness

'Addams Family' haunts the Wharton Center

by Paul Wozniak
They're cheeky and they're goofy/Not too mysterious but playfully spooky/They perform quite musically/“The Addams Family” (Snap! Snap!).
It's yet another adaptation of the Charles Addams cartoons, this time for the Broadway stage. But this show is hardly a reanimated sellout. It is mostly funny and highly entertaining for its target audience, which would be parents who were raised on the 1960s TV show. Think of “The Birdcage” mixed with Tim Burton's Gothic aesthetics and you have the essence of “The Addams Family.”
The family home located in the middle of Central Park is dilapidated with care, complete with real monsters under the bed and torture devices from the Grand Inquisitor Torquemada himself. The opening number, “When You’re an Addams,” introduces virtually every favorite Addams character, from The Thing (pulling back the red curtain) to the grimacing but agile Lurch (Tom Corbeil).
The characters have grown up enough to introduce a formulaic love story between two precocious teens. When young Wednesday Addams (Cortney Wolfson) falls for Lucas Beineke (Brian Justin Crum), she swears her father to secrecy regarding their upcoming nuptials. Now, Gomez (Douglas Sills) must choose between honoring Morticia (Sara Gettelfinger) by never telling a lie, and honoring his daughter's request. After Wednesday's parents meet Lucas' parents, plans go awry and truths finally emerge.
“The Addams Family” may be a musical, but the emphasis is on the jokes cued by long beats and longer stares. Many are morbid but most are just groaners. Example: When Lucas' mother Alice (Christy Morton) asks if the Addamses have a “little girls room,” Gomez responds, “We used to, but we let them all go.” Get it?
Fortunately, the entire cast plays into the show's tongue-in-cheek vibe. Classic vaudeville humor is updated with modern musical staples, such as when Morticia calls out Gomez for breaking into song.
He’s a sincere “Spanish Lover” who takes his wife “into his arms” at least once a day. While Gomez’s laugh sounds like Batman's maniacal nemesis the Joker, Gomez is warm-hearted and anything but psychopathic. Gettelfinger perfectly mirrors Sills' flamboyancy with her deadpan delivery. Their chemistry is electric, setting an ideal for any married couple to aspire to.
As the star-crossed lovers, Wolfson and Crum’s rapport feels a little more strained, but their individual performances are stunning.
But it's Morton who almost steals the spotlight with her sultry showstopper, “Waiting,” at the end of Act One. After drinking a dark-truth serum, Alice transforms from a Little Mary Sunshine type into a desperate housewife in a noir-dingy bar.
The strongest numbers appear in the second act including Uncle Fester's “The Moon and Me” and the Gomez and Morticia duet “Tango de Amor,” although the entire production flows smoothly.
Striking Victorian- to flapper-era costumes by Julian Crouch and Phelim McDermott more than make up for the sometimes chintzy looking two-dimensional sets. “The Addams Family” succeeds by being truthful to its source material in all its forms, living and dead.
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