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Addams Family is Ghoulish Fun

May 3, 2012

Popular thought has it that there are only so many scenarios at play in the musical theater, and it’s how you dress those themes that can mean the difference between success and failure.

“The Addams Family,” which opened this week at Madison’s Overture Center for the Arts, has embraced one of theater’s most basic narratives: boy meets girl (albeit from a creepy family), boy loses girl, boy gets girl. Along the way, both sets of parents learn something about themselves and each other, and they all live happily ever after … adjacent to a graveyard.

Dull stuff? Not at all. “The Addams Family, adapted from the 1960s television show of the same name which itself was adapted from a series of New Yorker cartoons beginning in the 1930s by Charles Addams, crackles with colorful characters, funny dialogue and the wild turnabouts embraced by the pseudo 19th century Gothic horror family that fans of both previous iterations have come to enjoy.

In the story by Woody Allen collaborator Marshall Brickman and Rick Elice, Morticia (Sara Gettlefinger) still clips the blossoms from the flowers before arranging the stems in a vase, Gomez (Douglas Sills) is still the passionate Latin lover, Uncle Fester (Blake Hammond) still twists a lightbulb in his mouth to turn it on, and servant Lurch (Tom Corbeil) still lumbers silently through the house like a cousin of the Frankenstein monster.

But Fester also flies in pursuit of his love, the moon, and Lurch proves his worth as an operatic baritone of no small talent. The ghosts of Addams Family ancestors serve as both a Greek chorus and key collaborators helping bring Wednesday (Courtney Wolfson) and her beau Lucas (Brian Justin Crum) together.

Earlier versions of the production were criticized for not including enough backstory to enable generations who had never before heard of The Addams Family to understand and enjoy the show. Unfamiliarity still might be a problem for some, but it doesn’t detract from the show’s enjoyment.

“The Addams Family” still has a sitcom quality to it, and there is no show-stopping numbers. “Contrivance” is a word that occasionally comes to mind during the two-and-a-half hour performance. But the Grand Guignol-as-slapstick quality still gives the show an endearing quality, making for an enjoyable night at the theater.

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