'Addams Family' a disaster despite great cast

"  'The Addams Family' is a popcorn musical," someone commented to me. Yeah, stale popcorn.

But it should be noted that this touring version of the much-altered 2010 Broadway show features a competent cast. I enjoyed being in their company for 2½ years (sorry, hours). But what a disaster of a script. With all the shows Vegas has yet to see, what did we do to get stuck with this?

The Marshall Brickman-Rick Elice adaptation takes Charles Addams' New Yorker cartoons and tries to turn them into a plot-driven comedy.

Mama Morticia (Sara Gettelfinger) and Papa Gomez (Douglas Sills) live in a household that embraces the macabre. Morticia sings that when she's depressed, she reminds herself that death is right around the corner. Son Pugsley (Patrick D. Kennedy) gets his kicks by having sister Wednesday (Cortney Wofson) stretch him out on a torture rack.

The story hinges on the parents' attempts to cope with Wednesday's desire to marry a normal young man (Curtis Holbrook).

Problem is, the show feels like an excuse to string together lame, generic jokes. You never get to know what makes these people tick, or why this musical exists (apart from commerce).

The Andrew Lippa score is plagued with spoofy numbers (mostly lifted from the 1920s, in the style of "The Boyfriend" and "No, No, Nanette"). They make you wonder: Is this production supposed to be merely making fun of musical periods, or is it supposed to inhabit a world of its own?

I couldn't follow the characters' logic. One minute they were the opposite of normal (the wife being happy because she's so unhappy) and sometimes their ordinariness didn't make sense (the wife wanting to leave her husband because he's lied to her. Wouldn't lying be something this family would admire?).

But, but, but.

The performers are so charming and skilled that it's easy to be almost seduced - or, at least, wishing that the material had allowed them the chance to seduce. Sills (a Raul Julia sound-alike) is a romantic but eccentric patriarch. He and wife Morticia share some hot chemistry that goes deeper than the limp one-liners they've been given. Blake Hammond as the convivial, absurd Uncle Fester convinces us he's the kind of man who's capable of flying to the moon on his own. Martin Vidnovic as Wednesday's future father-in-law does a perfect Eugene Levy imitation. Tom Corbeil, as the mostly silent, threatening-looking, towering, gentle, awkward Lurch, gets a surprising and well-deserved 11th-hour showstopping number.

Technical elements are first-rate, particularly the cartoonlike set. And some of the numbers are pleasant, even though almost none of them feels as if it belongs in this show. (But then again, I'm not sure what this show is.)

The one magical moment that felt appropriate and creative: a brief romantic dance at the top of the second act between Cousin Itt (who's nothing but a small, glob of hair) and a tiny curtain tassel. Now there's a unique world I would like to explore.

Anthony Del Valle can be reached at vegastheaterchat@aol.com. You can write him c/o Las Vegas Review-Journal, P.O. Box 70, Las Vegas, NV 89125.