On Theater: A spooky reunion with this 'Family'

How often have you attended a show for the first time and instantly recognized all the major characters the moment they appeared?

Chances are you'll do so when you visit "The Addams Family" at the Segerstrom Center for the Arts. Even before the curtain rises, you'll probably be snapping your fingers along with the overture.

The original Addams family existed only from 1964 to 1966 as a television sitcom but, like "Star Trek," soon took on an afterlife of their own. A pair of movies followed, and now the current Broadway touring show. New Yorker cartoonist Charles Addams would be proud of his creations.

There's Gomez Addams (Douglas Sills), the head of the creepy, kooky household, and his wife, the sultry Morticia (Sara Gettelfinger), clad in a sexy outfit that Carolyn Jones never would have been permitted to wear on TV. They make a craftily comic couple, zinging one-liners off each other and slipping in occasional political references of current vintage.

Their teenage daughter Wednesday (Cortney Wolfson) seeks to marry a young man from the "outside world," while younger son Pugsley (Patrick D. Kennedy) does his bratty best to thwart the union. Meanwhile, Uncle Fester (Blake Hammond) is having a love affair with the moon, giving him a chance to throw the old Jackie Gleason line, "To the moon, Alice," to his guest when asked where he's bound for.

Along for the creepy ride are Grandmama (Pippa Pearthree), who's been around so long that neither Gomez nor Morticia can remember whose mother she is, and the zombie-like butler Lurch (Tom Corbeil), who never manages to get in his signature "You rang?" line.

As for the plot (by Marshall Brickman and Rick Elice), it's straight out of the old Kaufman-Hart comedy "You Can't Take It With You." The young man (Curtis Holbrook) and his parents (Martin Vidnovic and Gaelen Gilliland) visit the Addams mansion and get involved in a "game" that's really a game-changer.

The writers have created some wildly eccentric characters, and their lines are extremely funny, but the obligatory parting and reuniting of both parents and teens come off as rather swift contrivances.

Sills and Gettelfinger work magically together, Sills' "Trapped" solo is a comic highlight, as is Gettelfinger's "(Death Is) Just Around the Corner." Hammond sells his number "The Moon and Me" skillfully, while Wolfson exhibits the finest voice of the company in her two featured musical segments, and Gilliland's featured number at the dinner party is hilarious.

Julian Crouch and Phelim McDermott (who designed both the set and costumes and directed the original production, now helmed by Jerry Zaks) have done a terrific job setting the atmosphere. Sergio Trujillo's choreography is appropriately off-center, backed by a collection of white-clad spirits from the Great Beyond.

"The Addams Family" arrives with a built-in audience of all ages waiting to experience the show's off-the-wall, darkly hued antics. It's late for Halloween but just in time for a Christmas treat at the Segerstrom Center for the Arts.

TOM TITUS reviews local theater for the Daily Pilot.

If You Go

What: "The Addams Family"

Where: Segerstrom Center for the Arts, 600 Town Center Drive, Costa Mesa

When: 7:30 p.m. Tuesdays through Fridays, 2 and 7:30 p.m. Saturdays, 1 and 6:30 p.m. Sundays, with a special matinee at 2 p.m. Dec. 28, closing Dec. 30

Cost: $20 to $92.50

Information: (714) 556-2787 or http://www.scfta.org

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