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The Addams Family Kooks Up a Great Show at the Arsht Center

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While watching The Addams Family musical last night at the Adrienne Arsht Center, we were struck by the realization that the entire pop culture phenomenon is basically an extension of the idea of "opposite day." Bad is good, gloom trumps happiness, death is preferable to life, weird is normal, and hideous is beautiful. 

In keeping with this theme, we'd have to say the play was just terrible (as in great). It was witty, socially relevant, and sometimes surprisingly racy (we'd feared it'd be Disney clean). Its subtle stage stunts and zombie-like choreography -- all set to a decent musical score -- made for a simply disgusting theatrical debacle. The audience was so appalled, it took to its feet for three minutes at the end of the show, pounding its hands together in an aggressive display of disapproval.
Set in the Addams's mansion in the middle of New York's Central Park, the musical centers around a grown-up Wednesday Addams and her forbidden love for a "normal" boy named Lucas. (In typical disjointed Addams fashion, brother Pugsley doesn't appear to have aged alongside his sis.) 

The two intend to get married, a plan Wednesday shares with daddy Gomez, under the condition that he not breathe a word to Morticia. Having never kept a secret from the woman who makes his blood run cold with passion, Gomez is tortured by this omission of truth (and not tortured in a good way, even by Addams standards). 

To add to the stress, Lucas' family, the Beinekes, are coming to dinner. Wednesday, who appears to have become markedly less morbid over the years, begs her family to "act normal" for just one night, in hopes that the two families will find enough common ground to make her engagement announcement agreeable to all parties. 

Douglas Sills played the lovably goofy and macabre Gomez Addams, milking the exaggerated Spanish accent that is the character's signature. "They're from O-chio?" he asked of his daughter's proposed future in-laws, putting an adorable guttural emphasis on the misplaced "ch."

Among our other favorite Gomez moments were his contagious bouts of snorting laughter, his references to Charlie Sheen and flaming Jehovah's witnesses, and his impassioned, yet awkward tango (involving lots of near crotch-kicks) with his death-obsessed spouse. The actor's performance -- and his singing -- became more vibrant (more gruesome?) as the show went on.

Sara Gettelfinger, who plays Morticia, sported a dress that bared about 7/8 of her pallid breasts. She capably channeled her character's mix of gal and ghoul, lamenting the loss of her daughter when not delighting in dreams of death and destruction. 

Wednesday, played by Cortney Wolfson, had a stand-out pop-ready voice which she used to melodiously beg and lament her parents in classic teenage style. 

But the real fun of the show was in the details. The weird blocking, which had all the characters standing stiff as boards onstage as they delivered their lines or stared at another character delivering his line, gave the stage that necessary kooky Addams feel. 

Comedic coordination of light, sound, and stage punctuated the humor. For example, Wednesday pulled the chains suspending her sickly-looking chubby little brother (Patrick D. Kennedy) to a torture device, synchronizing his screams perfectly with her song. And Fester's (Blake Hammond) big number about obscure lunar love brought together the elements of enchanting song, artificial limbs, and handy stage trickery.

And who could forget Grandma (Pippa Pearthree), her cotton-candy hair floating toward the ceiling, her costume looking like it was harvested from the mid-section of a garbage pile? Her Family Guy-style awkward, whimpering nuzzle against straight-laced Mrs. Beineke had us snorting with laughter as well.

The play, essentially a three-way love story, wound up to a quick, neat ending (much like this review is now!). A darkly nerdy comedy, probably suitable for the whole family (the sparse sex jokes would go over any 8-year-old's head), The Addams Family musical would make a good way to usher in Halloween with a laugh. 

The musical runs every day until October 30 at Arsht Center's Ziff Ballet Opera House (1300 Biscayne Blvd. Miami). Tickets cost $27 to $84. Visit arshtcenter.org or call 305-949-6742.

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