A rather delightful little show that greatly exceeded my expectations, The Addams Family is a musical that consistently plays to its own assets. On the strength of its individual parts, it’s hardly a masterpiece; Marshall Brickman and Rick Elice’s book is a dabbler, incorporating elements of he-said-she-said farce, black comedy, zinging topicality and baroque camp without showing mastery of any of them.
But taken as a whole, these elements don’t seem like a craven attempt to cobble together a passable show based on well-worn theatrical tropes and a pre-sold property, but a series of affectionate, good-natured homages. Similarly, Andrew Lippa’s music borrows high and low from the show tune songbook, recalling Stephens Sondheim and Schwartz, along with a healthy dose of Flamenco inflection, but it’s a sturdy score.
Significantly revised since the critically drubbed Broadway run that began in April 2010, the national touring production of The Addams Family is on stage at the 5th Avenue Theatre through Nov. 11. The show repurposes a couple of well-worn narrative ideas in its creation of a new Addams story — daughter Wednesday (understudy Lizzie Klemperer, integrating with the cast smoothly) has been aged up a bit and has fallen in love with a white-bread Midwestern straight arrow, Lucas (Curtis Holbrook). His parents are coming to dinner and the entire Addams household is in an uproar over the impending meeting with a “normal” family.
Complicating matters is Wednesday’s secret that she and Lucas are already engaged, a bit of info she shares with father Gomez (Douglas Sills, displaying perfect comedic timing) with the explicit instructions not to tell anyone else. Gomez, not used to keeping secrets from his wife, Morticia (Sara Gettlelfinger), struggles not to crumble under the pressure, but when Lucas’ parents Mal and Alice (Martin Vidnovic, Gaelen Gilliand) arrive, he may have other things more pressing to worry about.
Thankfully, Brickman and Elice’s book doesn’t strain too hard to create farcical misunderstanding out of this set-up, opting instead for a number of well-observed character moments between people whose relationships are evolving — some in uncomfortable ways. This also allows room for several great standalone moments from characters less connected to the main narrative. The best is a silly and almost sublime puppetry-assisted aerial ballet where Uncle Fester (Blake Hammond, relishing every campy line) dances with his love, the moon, in a bit that recalls Charlie Chaplin’s similar dance with the Earth in The Great Dictator.
The Addams Family is wonderfully executed entertainment that’s learned from past problems and emerged with a polished national touring production. Tickets for the show’s Seattle stop are on sale at the 5th Avenue’s website.