ALL IN THE FAMILY The Addams clan.
Musical comedies can sometimes be cartoonish, but rarely are they drawn from actual cartoons. Charlie Brown was a successful attempt back in 1967, but the comically ghoulish characters from single-panel cartoonist Charles Addams had droller potential for our sardonic time. Thus The Addams Family, which opened on Broadway in 2010, is getting a run at the Providence Performing Arts Center through March 25.
Music and lyrics are by Andrew Lippa, who contributed some new songs to the 1999 revival of You're a Good Man, Charlie Brown. The book is by Rick Elice and frequent Woody Allen co-writer Marshall Brickman, the team who also collaborated on the 2005 musical Jersey Boys.
Although the central plot branches off elsewhere, the story that captures our interest is the romance between Gomez Addams (Douglas Sills) and wife Morticia (Sara Gettelfinger). Our emotional involvement in all this silliness is eventually wrapped up in Sills's delightful characterization of Gomez as, basically, a mischievous schoolboy with a puppyish love for his wife. Gettelfinger does well as the dour, slinky Morticia, but since the character is as stiff as a broomstick, it's up to Sills to keep us interested.
The complete Addams family of the cartoon (and sitcom) is here, including Uncle Fester (Blake Hammond), tossing out quips as occasional narrator; Lurch (Tom Corbeil), their zombiesque servant; and a peppy Grandma (Pippa Pearthree).
There is another couple in this romantic comedy. The dark teenaged daughter of the family, Wednesday (Cortney Wolfson), is in love with a "normal" boy, Lucas Beineke (Brian Justin Crum). It must be the real thing for her, because before long she loses interest in torturing her gleefully masochistic brother Pugsley (Patrick D. Kennedy), puts aside her funereal black and turns up in a bright yellow dress. The romance is the opportunity for the young couple to get both sets of parents together. The elder Beinekes consist of a stereotypical stern businessman, Mal (Martin Vidnovic), and his predictably meek wife, Alice (Crista Moore), but she does have the unusual habit of rhyming her responses when she's nervous.
Originally, this musical didn't do so well with the critics on Broadway, but the national tour has been revised under the supervision of Broadway veteran Jerry Zacks, who retreaded the original direction and added some snappy choreography by Sergio Trujillo. Songs have been dropped and added, an amorous giant squid designed by puppeteer Basil Twist has been eliminated, and the relationship between Gomez and Morticia has been complicated for the sake of plot tension. Just ignore that the complication makes far too much of Gomez keeping a secret from his wife — to the point of having not one but two songs, to amp up the significance. "Secrets," sung by the two wives and ensemble females, tries to make the issue a male-female conflict; and the toe-tapper "Full Disclosure," by the whole company, inflates misdemeanor secret-keeping into a felony.
Some of the other songs are rousing crowd pleasers. In "Crazier Than You," Wednesday tries to loosen up the Beineke family, and in "Tango de Amor," the next-to-last number before the final curtain, there finally is some fiery chemistry between Morticia and Gomez, who are joined by the rest of the company.