If you are looking for light-hearted yet high-quality entertainment this weekend, make your way downtown to the Lexington Opera House and visit the macabre silliness of The Addams Family. This 2010 musical adaptation by Andrew Lippa, Marshall Brickman and Rick Elice, which continues through Sunday, brings a lot of Broadway razzle-dazzle to the familiar TV characters with clever, tuneful songs and a hilarious script.
More important, this touring production from Phoenix Entertainment is excellently rendered, thoroughly professional in every way. The sets and costumes are beautifully theatrical, and the band plays with verve, although the balance between instruments and singers was skewed in favor of the pit on Friday night's opening performance. But the cast members — every last one of them top-notch Broadway-style singers and engaging comic actors — really sell this show.
Jesse Sharp and Lexie Dorsett (substituting for Keleen Snowgren, who is recovering from a knee injury) shine in the leading roles of Gomez and Morticia Addams, originally written for Nathan Lane and Bebe Neuwirth, engaging as easily with the audience as with each other. They deliver zinger after zinger of dark humor with skillful variety and timing, and their musical numbers are delightful, with polished vocalism and charismatic flair. They do just what the leading players in a company should do: They lead.
Jennifer Fogarty, as their daughter, Wednesday, brings manic intensity to her role and is a powerhouse singer with an amazingly resonant belting voice. I wished she had even more songs in the show. As her masochistic little brother, Pugsley, Sam Primack holds his own as a performer, possessing a great voice and stage instincts himself.
Shaun Rice almost steals the show with his sweet impersonation of Uncle Fester. His song The Moon and Me in the second act is a highlight, partially because of the inspired, daffy staging of the number, but mainly because of his infectious personality. Dan Olson makes a memorable Lurch, getting many of show's biggest laughs, and like Rice evincing much more charm than monstrosity. Amanda Bruton also has some fun moments as Grandma.
As the much more normal Beineke family, Mark Poppleton, Blair Anderson and Bryan Welnicki provide a comic foil to the over-the-top Addams characters. They each seize their big moments with gusto, and it says a lot that they never bring the energy of the show down with their comparative normalcy, especially Anderson, whose story arc provides the humorous finale to Act I.
The ensemble of singing/dancing Ancestors are just as stellar as the named members of the cast. They have a lot to do throughout the show, and they perform in their gorgeous ghostly period costumes with the same panache as the leads.
This is really what I mean when I comment on the professionalism of this production: There are no weak links. It is uniformly well-done. To be sure, The Addams Family is no profound masterpiece, but I have not laughed as hard at a play in years as I did at the campy dark humor of this one. The entire company sold the show from the first joke to the last song as if their sole mission were to make sure they entertained us as completely as possible. Mission accomplished.
If you go
'The Addams Family'
What: Musical based on the cartoons by Charles Addams, presented by Broadway Live at the Opera House.
When: 2 and 7 p.m. March 17
Where: Lexington Opera House, 401 W. Short St.
Tickets: $37.15-$143.15. Available at Lexington Center ticket office, (859) 233-3535; at Lexingtonoperahouse.com; or through Ticketmaster, 1-800-745-3000 or Ticketmaster.com.
Tedrin Blair Lindsay is a musician, theater artist and lecturer at the University of Kentucky.