Thursday, September 26, 2019

Review: “The Addams Family”

Alec Clayton
Published in The News Tribune, Sept. 27, 2019
From left: Linda Palacios as Morticia, Rafe Wadleigh as Gomez, Savana Masako Smith as Wednesday, Shelleigh-Mairi Ferguson as Grandma, Jonathan Bill as Lurch and John Kelleher as Uncle Fest, photo by Kat Dollarhide.
Revising their production of the national award-winning “The Addams Family” from three years ago was a surefire move on the part of Tacoma Musical Playhouse. What could possibly go wrong? Absolutely nothing. Their opening night performance before a sold-out crowd was flawless.
The musical, with book by Marshall Brickman and Rick Elice and music and lyrics by Andrew Lippa, was based not on the popular 1964-1966 television series but on the cartoon series by Charles Addams. Yet the principal characters – Rafe Wadleigh as Gomez, Linda Palacios as Morticia, John Kelleher as Uncle Fester, Jonathan Bill as Lurch, and Savana Masako Smith as Wednesday – look a heck of a lot like the familiar actors from the TV show. It’s quite a feat and a tribute to the amazing pool of acting talent in the area when a local community theater can typecast to some extent based on appearance and still fill the stage with the most accomplished of actors. I am glad they managed to bring back so many of the cast members from their fine 2016 production.
As directed and choreographed by Jon Douglas Rake, “The Addams Family” is a quirky, silly, lighthearted entertainment with good music and dancing and absolutely spot-on acting by entertainers who are clearly having the time of their life. There is gallows humor galore, and many topical jokes are tossed into the crypt – for example: Ohio, where Wednesday’s boyfriend comes from, is dismissed as a swing state, and Uncle Fester tells Alice (Michele Bettinger) that he’s going to the moon (think Ralph and Alice on “The Honeymooners”).
Wadleigh, who has been outstanding in many TMP shows, is at his absolute best as the sneering, rubber-faced lampoon of a Spanish mobster. His adagio/flamenco/tango with Palacios and the ensemble is as good a comic dance performance as you’ll ever see.
Kelleher as Fester is sweet and weird and wonderful. His performance with puppet legs on “The Moon and Me” is delightful beyond measure.
Bill is the quintessential Lurch. Ted Cassidy from the TV series could have learned his chops from Bill. When he unexpectedly bursts into a deep-throated “Move Toward the Darkness” in the finale, audience members like me who had not previously heard him sing are stunned into awe.
Palacio’s singing is outstanding. Smith as Wednesday goes through a million facial expressions with comical subtlety and also sings beautifully. Jake Atwood as Wednesday’s boyfriend, Lucas, and Howy Howard as little brother Pugsley are both terrific singers and performers. Howard is a delight to watch and has quite the grand voice for a small boy. Atwood and Howard are the only principle characters who were not in the 2016 production.
Bruce Haasl’s set is wonderful, especially the backdrop painting on the cemetery scene, and Julles Milles’s costumes are great. Kudos to Milles on the inspired costumes for the undead ancestors’ ensemble.
TMP’s “The Addams Family” captured awards in eight or the 13 categories at the national competition including outstanding production and outstanding acting awards for Wadleigh, Bill and Smith.

WHEN: 8 p.m. Friday-Saturday, 2 p.m. Saturday-Sunday, through Oct. 6
WHERE: Tacoma Musical Playhouse at The Narrows Theatre, 7116 Sixth Ave., Tacoma
TICKETS: $31 adult, $29 senior, military, students, $22 children 12 and younger

INFORMATION: 253-565-6867,

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