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Theater review: Hale Centre Theatre’s ‘The Addams Family’ delivers morbid humor for the whole family

The cast of Hale Centre Theatre’s new production of “The Addams Family.”
Hale Centre Theatre

“THE ADDAMS FAMILY,” through Nov. 6, Hale Centre Theatre, 9900 S. Monroe St., Sandy (801-984-9000 or hct.org)

What do you get when the Addams family tries to be normal for a single night, in order to impress the family of Wednesday’s secret fiancé’? “Delicious anarchy,” as Uncle Fester calls it.

Gomez, Morticia, Wednesday, Pugsley, Uncle Fester, Grandmama, Lurch and, of course, Thing — or “The Addams Family” — first appeared as cartoons in The New Yorker in 1938 before the hit TV show, movies and multiple adaptations made them one of the most iconic families in pop culture. But it wasn’t until 2010 that “The Addams Family” was brought to the stage via a Broadway musical. That musical has now made its way to Hale Centre Theatre in Sandy.

It’s a silly show with an even sillier plot: As an 18-year-old Wednesday Addams prepares her family to meet her “normal” boyfriend’s “normal” family, she reveals to her father, Gomez, that she’s actually engaged, but no one can know until after the two families meet. Meanwhile, Uncle Fester has enlisted the help of a singing and dancing ghost army of the Addams’ ancestors to help Wednesday. Add in Fester taking the moon — yes, the moon — out for a romantic canoe ride, a mishap with a powerful potion and a disembodied hand creeping across the stage, and you’ve got a show that can only be described as weird.

Hale Centre Theatre’s production is directed and choreographed by Dave Tinney. Under his direction, the show takes the weirdness and runs wild with it. From the costumes to the dance numbers and the constant stream of jokes, the show strikes a perfect blend of morbidity and humor, always erring on the side of lightheartedness. There was never a scene that failed to get a laugh from the audience, usually through its surreal absurdity — like the parade of ancestor ghosts being cheered on by the Addams family like a sports event, pompoms and all — or through the nonsensical ramblings and the quick humor of Gomez Addams. The impressive set design by Jennifer Stapley Taylor, on the other hand, turned the Jewel Box Stage into a quirky Victorian murder house with its ornate staircases, a rollable torture rack used to stretch Pugsley’s legs and my personal favorite, a twin bed/guillotine hybrid.

Nothing sums up the show’s unique blend of the macabre and the humorous as well as the first number of Act 2, “Just Around the Corner,” an oddly cheerful song by Morticia (Amelia Rose Moore) about how death is imminent and inevitable, complete with a kickline and a dancing Grim Reaper.

Behind all the dark humor, however, is a surprisingly sweet story about a parent struggling to accept that his oldest daughter is growing up and moving on. In the song “Happy Sad,” Gomez Addams tells Wednesday (Rebecca Kremin) that he is happy that she is in love, but sad to see her grow up, a sentiment that many parents in the audience could relate to.

Back to Uncle Fester’s “delicious anarchy” comment. It may be the perfect description of this production. It’s weird and unpredictable. It’s absurd at times and always keeps the audience on its toes as it moves quickly from one silly antic to the next, but its always funny and also strangely sweet at times. “The Addams Family” proves that the macabre, medieval torture and a preoccupation with death can be a fun time for the whole family.

Content advisory: This production of “The Addams Family” contains a few swear words, some sexual innuendo and potty humor.