A review of the touring production of "The Addams Family," making a stop at Seattle's 5th Avenue Theatre through Nov. 11, 2012.

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Theater review |

Calling a show cartoonish isn’t usually a compliment. But in the case of the shamelessly silly Broadway musical “The Addams Family,” it is no slur.

“The Addams Family,” the 2010 Broadway musical making its Seattle debut at the 5th Avenue Theatre just in time for Halloween, is of course based on the classic New Yorker cartoons of the late Charles Addams. There have been many takes on the gleefully grim, mordantly happy clan who reside (with dangerous pets and torture toys) in a gothic Central Park manse.

Several movie and TV spinoffs later, the devilishly clever duo of Marshall Brickman and Rick Elice (Tony winners for their script for “Jersey Boys”), scare fresh laughs from the Addams brood. And Andrew Lippa’s nimble, Latin-flavored musical score is mostly in the same tongue-in-cheek vein.

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Does this catapult “The Addams Family” into the top tier of memorable musicals? Does it make you clamor for more tuners based on cartoon characters?

No. But for those so inclined, it makes for an entertainingly goofy, at times inspired, evening of sweetness and darkness, with a cryptload of sly punch lines and some irresistible performances and panache.

Don’t even try to resist the comedic magnetism of Douglas Sills, who heads the touring cast as Gomez Addams, and has a blast milking the Latin-lover clichés of that sexy beast and devoted family man.

Prancing, mugging, lusting after wife Morticia (Sara Gettelfinger), cavorting in a brocade smoking jacket, he’s like Raul Julia (who played Gomez on-screen) on steroids. More of a hunk than the squat, balding cartoon Gomez, Sills issues his own brand of leering, quipping Addams charm, in a mucho-cheesy Spanish accent. And he negotiates the show’s occasional dips into sentimentality with aplomb.

Blake Hammond, a giggly and roly-poly Uncle Fester, is a lovably impish guide to a wacky clan, who loves the sick pranks one usually outgrows at age 10. In the show’s ingenious and winning number, “The Moon and Me,” Hammond chirps a love song to the moon and ascends for an aerial dance duet with the balloonlike orb.

That cool scenic effect and others were crafted by the imaginative director-designers Phelim McDermott and Julian Crouch, but this revamped tour (“supervised” by director Jerry Zaks) sheds other offbeat touches and some of the Basil Twist-designed puppets. (I particularly miss the squid.)

The book has also been tidied up. Now, when his funereal teenage daughter Wednesday (excellent Cortney Wolfson) confesses her love for a “normal” guy, Lucas (Curtis Holbrook), Gomez reluctantly agrees to keep their betrothal secret from his macabre but motherly wife.

Basically, this is a plot as old as the hills: the culture clash between the square parents of a hopeful groom — mother Alice (Gaelen Gilliland, a gas in the part) and father Mal (Martin Vidnovic) — and the flagrantly kinky parents of the bride-to-be.

A little marital crisis arises when Morticia (played with daunting cleavage by Gettelfinger in a black sheath “cut to Venezuela,” and with a rather incongruous Southern drawl) senses Gomez is hiding something, upsetting a household that also includes a basso profundo servant, Lurch (Tom Corbeil), outrageous granny (Pippa Pearthree) and sadomasochistic tyke Pugsley (Patrick D. Kennedy).

The show is best when it takes itself least seriously. When it kicks up its heels (in the spirited ghoulish choreography by Sergio Trujillo). And piles on the puns, innuendos and topical jokes (“You’re from Ohio? That’s a swing state!”). And invites you to get up close and personal with cartoon characters who, despite their pallor and gloom, still have zest for life.

Misha Berson: mberson@seattletimes.com

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