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Theater review: 'The Addams Family' a crowd-pleaser

Art Snob Blog

“The Addams Family” can be accused of many things. Subtlety is not one of them. The cheerfully macabre, at times delightfully vulgar and consistently entertaining musical thrilled a nearly full house on opening night at the Atwood Concert Hall.

Put another way: During a sprightly solo number called “Death is Just Around the Corner,” Morticia (KeLeen Snowgren) stopped in mid-twirl and asked if the audience truly got the joke: “Just around the corner. Corner. Cor-o-ner.” When viewers laughed, she bowed gracefully and resumed her song-and-dance piece.

In a way it was creeping to the choir: The audience was clearly primed to enjoy anything that Morticia and the rest of the gang threw out. It’s likely that most were already fans of either the TV or the popular films based on the offbeat cartoons by Charles Addams. (Hint: As soon as the orchestra struck up the familiar theme from the television show, audience members snapped their fingers on cue.)

Yet this was not a slavish reproduction of the television version or even of the two popular films in the “Addams” franchise. Containing elements of vaudeville, Broadway musical, modern sitcom and “Monty Python’s Flying Circus,” the show is by turns raucous and sweet.

Sure, you get your zombies doing the bunny hop or a straitlaced visitor who, unhinged by a truth potion, lets her husband know what’s really bugging her. But you also get Gomez (Jesse Sharp) singing a bittersweet song about the hopes and fears he has for the little girl who’s suddenly grown up, and Fester (Shaun Rice) suggesting that even “a fat bald person of no specific sexuality” could feel love.

Children under 6 or so might be bored during the exposition, which goes like this: Wednesday (Jennifer Fogarty) is in love and wants the other Addamses to lighten up when her boyfriend’s family comes to dinner.

Shades of “La Cage Aux Folles” – you know this can’t end well. Or, as Wednesday puts it: “We’re who we are, and they’re from Ohio.”

While Gomez and Morticia dominate the action as heads of the family, each cast member finds a way to stand out. Grandma (Amanda Bruton) got the biggest laugh and sustained applause for a dressing-down of Pugsley, who complains that he doesn’t understand a classical reference: “Well, stop texting and pick up a book once in a while.”

Another line that brought the house down was “normal” mom Alice explaining that she wrote poetry “about the one thing everyone needs and so few have.” Morticia’s reply: “Obamacare?”

Subtle? No. But you don’t go to “The Addams Family” for incisive wit or social commentary. You go to see the Grim Reaper use his scythe like a hook to yank a hamming-it-up Morticia off the stage, or to learn where Wednesday hunted the goose they’ll be having for dinner (“Petting zoo”), or to listen to an admiring Gomez describe his wife’s attire as “a dress cut down to Venezuela.”

Viewers howled at the broad humor and snickered at the double entendres. The language is once or twice coarse and at times the sexuality is fairly specific in word or deed. If you’re bothered by a comment about a grateful queen rewarding an Addams ancestor named “Alfonso the Enormous,” stay home.

(Donna Freedman, a former Daily News theater reviewer, writes about personal finance for Money Talks News and blogs at DonnaFreedman.com.)


By Donna Freedman
Anchorage