Tacoma Musical Playhouse’s production of “The Addams Family,” directed by Jon Douglas Rake, does not pretend to be great theater.
It aspires to nothing more than lighthearted entertainment. It’s a fun, fun, silly romp of a musical loaded with bizarre humor and catchy cultural references, from pointing out that Ohio is a swing state (especially topical in this election year) to Uncle Fester (John Kelleher) telling Alice (Michele Bettinger) that he’s going to the moon in a clear riff on “The Honeymooners.”
The story is weak and contrived. It gets very sappy halfway through the second act, but is redeemed by a delightful finale featuring a surprising and awe-inspiring solo by the mostly silent Lurch (Jonathan Bill).
There are no memorable and catchy songs that will be sung for decades, such as we find in many hit musicals. That’s the downside. The upside is the constant flow of happy one-liners, an outstanding cast and marvelous costumes, most notably those of the undead Addams ancestors — zombie-like people from various times who are described at one point as “living, dead and undecided.” Kudos to costume manager Jocelyne Fowler.
The story centers around Wednesday (Savana Smith), the strange and morbid little girl who is now grown up and has fallen in love with a “normal” man, Lucas Beineke (Erik Furuheim). He brings his too-normal family to dinner with the Addams family with the intention of announcing their engagement.
The cast is marvelous, from the leading characters, Gomez, Morticia and Wednesday, right down to the ensemble cast.
Rafe Wadleigh plays Gomez, the head of the family, as a loveable sneering Spanish mobster type who seems more Italian than Spanish, but tosses off a lot of Spanish names and dances flamenco-style. Wadleigh is well named, as he plays raffish like nobody else. He sings wonderfully, with a powerful and growly voice.
Linda Palacios is suitably sexy and commanding as Gomez’s wife, Morticia, and she sings nicely, most noticeably on the coming-death dirge “Just Around the Corner.”
Kelleher is marvelously light-hearted and flirtatious as Uncle Fester. He is campy, sweet and endearing. His love song to the moon, “The Moon and Me,” is the absolute comic highlight of a show filled with comic highlights, many of which zip past almost too quickly for the audience to catch.
Throughout much of the performance, Smith plays Wednesday as stone-faced, yet conveys joy, surprise, infatuation, anger and disgust through subtle but effective changes of expression and a purely demonic stare. This is Smith’s first appearance on the playhouse stage, and the first time I’ve seen her perform anywhere. Her stage presence is mesmerizing.
The musical is based on the cartoon by Charles Addams and not the television show, but because the TV show is so well-known, it became almost incumbent on the director to type-cast according to physical appearance, which was done excellently, especially with Lurch and Fester. But the actors do much more than look like these popular characters — they become them.
The makeup is excellent (no one credited in the program for makeup), and the set is nicely done. Again, no one is credited. Longtime set designer Bruce Hassle is no longer with TMP. Whatever individual or group is responsible can take a bow for a job well done.
Patrons should take notice the playhouse is doing their evening performances a half-hour earlier this season, so don’t be late.
Check Alec’s blog at alecclayton.blogspot.com for reviews of other area theatrical productions.
The Addams Family
When: 7:30 p.m. Fridays-Saturdays, 2 p.m. Saturdays-Sunday through Oct. 16.
Where: Tacoma Musical Playhouse at The Narrows Theatre, 7116 Sixth Ave., Tacoma
Information: 253-565-6867, tmp.org.