Addams Family sorely lacking

Based on the ghoulishly sophisticated New Yorker cartoons by Charles Addams, the musical comedy met a chilly reception when it opened on Broadway in 2010 yet survived the vagaries of good taste to run for 20 months. For this national tour, songs have been re-arranged and a giant squid puppet has been deleted, but the warped sensibilities of Morticia, Gomez and their circle remain dreadfully intact.

I didn't see the Broadway version of this nearly plotless romantic comedy, which imagines what happens when Wednesday (Cortney Wolfson) falls for a boy from Ohio (Brian Justin Crum) and his parents come call on the creepy clan. But I can't imagine a show anymore torturous than the one whipped up here by Andrew Lippa (music and lyrics) and Marshall Brickman and Rick Elice (who also wrote the book for "Jersey Boys").

It was probably a bad omen that the sumptuous red curtain with the animated gold tassel opened a good 20 minutes late Tuesday night, thanks to a glitch in the sound system and a nail-bitingly slow computer reboot.

To be fair, this soporific affair does deliver mostly solid performances and showcases the panache of designers Julian Crouch and Phelim McDermott (sets and costumes), Natasha Katz (lighting) and Basil Twist (puppets). The chorus of ghostly Addams ancestors can feel pointless, but their white-on-white costumes and chalky makeup are an elegant touch.

Though the deliciously morbid spirit of Addams is sorely lacking, the moment when Pugsley (Patrick D. Kennedy) imagines what it will be like when Wednesday is no longer there to torture him suggests glimmers of it. The sequence in which Uncle Fester (Blake Hammond) elucidates his love for the moon in an airborne romp that reduces him to a blubbering infant in striped pajamas is comedy gold.

The towering Tom Corbeil makes for a wonderful Lurch; his mutterings may be incomprehensible but he sings like an angel. While Douglas Sills is a suave Gomez, Sara Gettelfinger fails to milk the glamorous potential of Morticia, who speaks in an accent that sounds almost country. (The Addams mansion for no apparent reason is located in Central Park.)

Though Wolfson is straitjacketed somewhat by the stiffness of her character, when her Wednesday sings, it feels like Friday. As Mal and Alice Beineke, parents of suitor Lucas, Martin Vidnovic and Gaelen Gilliland are seasoned troupers, but Crum's performance was bland and joyless. Pippa Pearthree's Grandma was predictably over the top.

Theater review

"The Addams Family"

Grade: D minus

8 p.m. Tuesday-Saturday. 2 p.m. Saturday. 1:30 and 7 p.m. Sunday. Through Sunday. $25-$65. Theater of the Stars, Fox Theatre, 660 Peachtree St. N.E., Atlanta. 855-285-8499; foxatltix.com

Bottomline: Ghastly. And not in a good way.

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