'The Addams Family' Review: Creepy, Kooky Comic Delight

'The Addams Family' Review: Creepy, Kooky Comic Delight

The Addams clan refuses to stay dead.

“The Addams Family” began in the 1930s with a series of one-panel cartoons from the pen of Charles Addams. The touring production of the “Addams Family” Broadway musical kicked off its Denver run last night and will hit 10 more cities before 2012 draws to a close.

Media devotees will recall the characters from either the 1960s sitcom or a pair of “Addams” films which hit theaters roughly 20 years ago. Either way, the production’s slick comic machinations and hearty songs should make it catnip even to those who never watched Gomez, Morticia or Wednesday in any previous incarnation.

The musical opens with “When You’re an Addams,” a number blending traditional dance moves with some playful undead shuffling. We’re told in an abrupt fashion that young Wednesday (Cortney Wolfson) is secretly engaged to her very normal boyfriend (Brian Justin Crum). The announcement comes as a shock to Gomez Addams (Douglas Sills, the production’s blazing standout), a devoted father who doesn’t want to see his little girl growing up.

The bigger problem for Gomez is keeping the news a secret. Meanwhile, Wednesday worries her boyfriend’s family will see her clan is far too weird and dash off as fast as possible.

We know what she means.

The Addams Family formula, one mined beautifully both here as well as past pop culture incarnations, finds the clan embracing everything dark and dreary. Flower petals must be snipped away, not sniffed. Death, dismemberment and torture should be admired, not feared. And the color yellow simply shouldn’t exist in one’s wardrobe.

That core premise is behind virtually every gag in the musical, and the hits overwhelmingly outnumber the misses.

When Gomez is told about Wednesday’s plan to invite her boyfriend’s family over to dinner, he cries, “We’re who we are … and they’re from Ohio!”

The touring musical feels like its had a minor tweak or two to keep up with current events. Charlie Sheen gets named dropped, and a quip about texting gets some easy applause. The production also insults home schooling with one punch line, but overall the potential flyover country insults are kept to a minimum.

A tried and true production like “The Addams Family” long ago worked out any kinks in the comic timing. This cast proves no different, although Sills manages to make the most of his pregnant pauses and spontaneous romantic outburts. Sara Gettelfinger’s Morticia effortlessly blends the character’s sex appeal with her robust maternal side, while her signature decolletage threatens to become the latest stage “wardrobe malfunction.”

Blake Hammond’s Uncle Fester gets the most scenes to steal, although a second Act number, “The Moon and Me,” is simply too silly to embrace.

The touring production’s stage effects are basic but first rate. The enormous moon, the iron Addams gates and the dusty home’s interiors all register without making themselves too obvious.

What “The Addams Family” fails to pull off is the subtle notion that all families are weird, and that the oh, so straight laced Ohio clan should be respected for living a seemingly clean and emotionally healthy life.

“The Addams Family” runs through July 1 at the Buell Theatre in Denver.

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