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July 16, 2014

The Muny review: Welcome to the neighborhood, 'Addams Family'

A certifiable laugh-riot, "The Addams Family" brandished a spry ensemble of merry misfits who deftly tickled funnybones at the Muny on Monday.

Bolstered by the show's delightful mix of mayhem and mirth, the First Family of Darkness prompted screams, all right, but gleefully of laughter, in this bewitching regional theater debut.

With clever lyrics, witty lines, and hilarious sight gags enhanced by the crisp comic timing of its all-in cast, this modern musical comedy easily engaged an enthusiastic audience.

Beginning with a zesty "When You're An Addams," everyone experienced a great deal of light-hearted fun, and the performers fed off the crowd's enjoyment. Charming Rob McClure, as Gomez, and glib Steve Rosen, as Uncle Fester, dexterously broke the fourth wall with amusing quips.

The eccentric characters are based on Charles Addams' daffy macabre drawings, which were developed into a popular 1960s TV sitcom and adapted into two entertaining movie comedies in the '90s.

For the 2010 Broadway show, Andrew Lippa ("The Wild Party") created tuneful music and smart nimble lyrics, while Oscar-winning screenwriter Marshall Brickman and Rick Elise, who previously collaborated on "Jersey Boys," wrote the uproarious book.

They made the peculiar lovebirds Gomez and Morticia, and their odd children Wednesday and Pugsley, even quirkier, but also emphasized their devotion as a family, along with zombie butler Lurch, high-strung Uncle Fester and hippy-dippy Grandma.

In a campy Halloween-like setting, the plot borrows elements from "The Birdcage" and "You Can't Take It With You" to pit the freaks vs. the geeks.

Conflicts arise when Wednesday wants to marry a normal boy from Ohio, and his straight-laced parents arrive at the foreboding house of horrors. But how satisfying to see true love triumph.

Humor aside, the cast ultimately connected because of this delectable gooey center, despite a slender story stuffed with a wide range of musical numbers.

McClure, a dynamo who earned a Tony nomination for his first Broadway starring role in "Chaplin," quickly became a Muny favorite last summer, wowing us as Lord Farquaad in "Shrek" and beloved Bert in "Mary Poppins."

Oozing Latin lover gallantry in a Beetlejuice suit, his Gomez commandeered the crazy train opening night with the flamboyance of old-school smoothie Fernando Lamas and the jocularity of the SNL exaggeration by Billy Crystal.

He was surprisingly tender in "What If" and "Happy Sad," and strong in "Not Today."

Playful with Jenny Powers as Morticia, his "Mary Poppins" co-star, their "Tango de Amore" was divine. Her lush, creamy voice was evident in "Just Around the Corner" and "Secrets," plus the couple's eloquent duet "Live Before We Die."

One to keep an eye on, Sara Kapner shined as temperamental teen Wednesday grappling with love, her vocals strong in "Pulled," "One Normal Night" and "Crazier Than You."

Michael Harp of Swansea was both funny and poignant as Pugsley, especially in his solo "What If."

Steve Rosen was impressive as the amiable goofball Uncle Fester. His "The Moon and Me" frolic in the graveyard was a highlight.

Jennifer Cody and William Ryall were a hoot and a holler as Grandma and Lurch, with John Scherer and Hollis Resnick marvelous as the uptight couple, and Dan DeLuca likable as their son.

Choreographer Vince Pesce created lively monster mashes for a comical chorus of dead relatives and skeletons.

Director Marcia Milgrom Dodge zippily moved scenes between scenic designer Michael Schweikardt's gothic mansion exteriors and interiors.

Ready for a different funhouse adventure? You should be amused by all the things that go bump in the night. The bewitching show's unexpected sweetness is also an asset.

Snap, snap.

At a glance

What: "The Addams Family"

Where: The Muny in St. Louis' Forest Park

When: 8:15 p.m. nightly through Sunday

Tickets: 314-361-1900

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