Full disclosure: 'Addams Family' is sweet fun at Wharton Center

Yes, they're still creepy and kooky and all together ooky – and we wouldn't want Charles Addams' lovable family of eccentrics any other way. And that's exactly what Marshall Brickman, Rick Elice and Andrew Lippa deliver in their new musical comedy, "The Addams Family."
Onstage now through this Sunday at East Lansing's Wharton Center, Addams' characters translate to the stage quite well. Mixing popular elements from the popular 1960s TV series with the single-panel cartoons that appeared originally in The New Yorker, the result is a much funnier night at the theater than what I expected – with a plot that is universal and as old as storytelling itself.
But with a twist, of course.
Teenager Wednesday Addams (Cortney Wolfson) arrives home with big news she shares only with her father, Gomez (Douglas Sills): She's in love. Not known for her sunny disposition, Gomez is surprised by his daughter's revelation, but assumes it is a passing fancy. But Wednesday assures him it's true, and that she's invited her fiance and his family to dinner that night. However, there's a catch: Gomez can't tell Morticia (Sara Gettelfinger) – his wife, her mother – for fear the news may upset her and cause her to ruin the evening.
That presents Gomez with a couple of problems.
For starters, Lucas (Brian Justin Crum), Wednesday's husband-to-be, and his family are respectable conservatives from Ohio. But more importantly, Gomez has never, ever kept a secret from his beloved spouse – and to do so now could seriously damage their 25-year marriage. Yet he's promised his daughter he'd keep her secret.
"I'm trapped," Gomez sings early in the first act. Which he is, of course. And then the fun truly begins!
While boy-meets-girl stories are a dime a dozen, this "macabre girl meets a normal boy" story is an entertaining tale about relationships – no matter your age, political affiliation or weirdness. Authors Brickman and Elice stay true to the characters audiences have loved since the '60s, endowing them with witty dialogue that includes snappy one-liners and timely references, and adult-themed wordplay that goes way over the heads of the little ones in attendance (as evidenced by the reactions of the 6-year-old sitting next to me).
If the script goes slightly off track, it's a subplot regarding Uncle Fester (Blake Hammond) and his love for the moon. It stretches an already-thin creditability and requires a little too-much suspension of disbelief. But without it, we'd lose the excellent number "The Moon and Me" in the second act. And a chuckle at the end.
The aforementioned actors all play – haunt? inhabit? – their characters quite well. Sills is charming, Gettelfinger is sexy, and Hammond's Uncle Fester steals the show. One surprise is Patrick D. Kennedy as Pugsley; a high note he hits will amaze you. Another is Tom Corbeil as Lurch; his rich, deep baritone comes out of nowhere and is likely the most impressive voice in the show.
Also notable is Christy Morton, who played Lucas' mother, Alice, on opening night. Had I missed the notice inserted in my program, I would never have guessed Morton is the role's understudy. Every aspect of her performance was delightful.
Also deserving of high praise are the show's technical elements. The ingenious set by Julian Crouch and Phelim McDermott (who also directed the show) moves like clockwork and helps the story flow from scene to scene with little or no interruption in between. The lights by Natasha Katz help create the appropriate moods for every scene.
And I can't forget to mention the puppetry by Basil Twist that delighted both young and old alike on opening night. (What that entails I won't mention.)
So while not all of life's problems can be solved by a tango, get your witches shawl on and a broomstick you can crawl on, and pay a call on "The Addams Family." At the very least, it will certainly help brighten your day! (snap, snap)

'The Addams Family'
Wharton Center's Cobb Great Hall, Michigan State University, East Lansing. Daily through Feb. 5. $30-70. 517-432-2000. {URL


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