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Not spooky but plenty ooky

The Addams Family musical is too bright for such a dark family

TMP’s production of The Addams Family features spirited performances, but an unsatisfying script. Photo credit: Tacoma Musical Playhouse

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I'm absolutely certain that there's a way to make a musical version of The Addams Family that lives up to the source material's macabre inscrutability and iconic style, but I've unfortunately yet to see one. The Addams Family musical - with a book by Marshall Brickman and Rick Elise, and music and lyrics by Andrew Lippa - has serious tone issues; for every time it nails a character beat (as with Pugsley's genuinely subversive song about desperately desiring to be mutilated by his sister), it miscalculates several others (such as Gomez being relegated almost entirely to a harried sitcom dad, indistinguishable from the so-called normal people they so fear).

This is not to say that there's no fun to be had with TMP's take on The Addams Family musical, directed and choreographed by Jon Douglas Rake. To an Addams, each family member is well-cast and does their best with the material they've been given: Rafe Wadleigh's Gomez is a mix of John Astin's charming facial expressions and Raul Julia's impassioned mania; Linda Palacios lends Morticia a formidable authority to counter her sultriness; John Kelleher's Uncle Fester is part Curly Howard, part hopeless romantic; Callan Barth shines in the small-ish time allotted to Pugsley; and Shelleigh-Mairi Ferguson and Jonathan Bill sneakily snag the funniest moments as Grandma and Lurch, respectively.

But, the real standout of The Addams Family is Savana Smith's Wednesday - though her storyline proves the biggest impediment for the show. Smith, looking uncannily like Christina Ricci did when she played the part, embodies the dour spirit of Wednesday well, but we only get to see that attitude very briefly. As the play begins, Wednesday has fallen in love with a normal boy (Gomez learning the boy comes from Ohio was one the bigger laughs I had), and so immediately begins to shed away the things that make her an Addams.

What follows is a mix of The Birdcage and The Rocky Horror Picture Show, with love interest Lucas Beineke (Jake Atwood) and his conservative parents Mal and Alice (Erik Furuheim and Michele Bettinger) coming over to the Addams' house for dinner. What should be a zany culture-clash ends up feeling like a 22-minute sitcom story stretched to two-and-a-half hours, with largely forgettable musical numbers sprinkled throughout (save for a couple, like Fester's ode to the moon, which amped up the silliness to a height I wish could have been maintained).

I feel that the characters of The Addams Family should be timeless, which makes this version's frequent pop cultural and political references all the more jarring; if anyone would be apolitical, I'd think it would be Gomez Addams. Still, The Addams Family musical hammers home the point, in no uncertain terms, that the Addams' are meant to represent the free-spirited left-wing, while the Beineke family are the uptight right-wing. While the political jokes hit the ear a little off, they're far better than alluding to Pugsley texting or Uncle Fester evoking Charlie Sheen.

Too long and too bizarre for young kids, and with jokes largely too toothless for adults, but with spirited performances, The Addams Family is a shaggy curiosity - a stab at a subject that could do with a second pass.

The Addams Family, Fridays and Saturdays through Oct. 16, 7:30 p.m., Sundays, 2 p.m., $22-$31, Tacoma Musical Playhouse, 7116 6th Ave., Tacoma, 253.565.6867, tmp.org

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