HUDSON — It all started in 1938, when cartoonist Charles Addams was paid the lofty sum of $85 for what was supposed to be a one-time panel in the New Yorker magazine.
It showed a clean-cut vacuum cleaner salesman touting his wares to a creepy-looking couple — she radiantly gorgeous, but unnaturally thin, in a close-fitting black dress with long black hair in a tight bun; he a hulk with fright wig hair — the salesman oblivious to the draping spider webs, broken stairs, flying bats, shredded wallpaper and a scary creature peering over the crumbling balcony rail above.
The vacuum cleaner salesman was soon forgotten. But the spooky couple lived on as patriarch and matriarch of the Addams family in a series that would grow into 58 magazine cartoons, two television series, two animated Saturday morning cartoon series (with stars like Jodie Foster and Carol Channing doing voices), several movies and TV specials, video games and even a dance fad named the Lurch in honor of one of the panel's characters.
The 2009 Broadway musical version, The Addams Family, will run Saturday until April 3 at the Show Palace Dinner Theatre, its first incarnation at a North Suncoast venue.
It's not a re-creation of either the TV or movie versions, but harkens back to the original New Yorker panels, with their dark humor, upsidedown family values and diabolically off-center characters. It even has its original haunted house setting, which had been ditched for the TV series and movies because a show called The Munsters had been rushed into production by a rival network, which usurped such a setting before The Addams Family could get theirs built.
Instead, the Addams house was sort of Victorian, filled with macabre decorator touches like a hanging noose to summon Lurch, the butler, a mounted swordfish with a leg protruding from its mouth and a bear rug that growled when stepped on.
But all the characters are here, from the openly affectionate parents, Gomez (Jared E. Walker) and Morticia (Sabra Michelle), and their two sinister offspring, daughter Wednesday (Noelle Pedersen), as in "Wednesday's child is full of woe," and son Pugsley (Lorenzo Guarino, Royal Child in The King and I and Coroner in The Wizard of Oz), to Uncle Fester (Jay R. Goldberg, Mingo in Crazy for You), Grandma (Jill Godfrey, Wicked Witch in Wizard) and Lurch (Clay Smith, King in The King and I).
Wednesday is all grown up — and has a boyfriend, the perfectly normal, respectable Midwesterner Lucas Beineke (Matty Colonna, Paul in A Chorus Line). Wednesday has invited Lucas and his parents, Mal (Ralph Prentice Daniel, Lt. Schrank in West Side Story) and sexually frustrated Alice (Lindsay Nantz, Penny in Hairspray), to the Addams house for dinner. Everyone wants everyone else to "act normal," which for the Addams bunch means anything but normal. Pugsley accidentally serves Alice a magic potion, which causes chaos and the threatened departure of the entire Beineke family.
Then there are the Addams ancestors, a collection of zany characters, including an Indian Maiden (Bianca Chico), a Conquistador (Ellis Endsley), a Caveman (Aaron Atkinson) and a few others who show up in the graveyard every year to dance the night away with the Addams family. This year, though, Uncle Fester begs them to stick around to help thwart the budding romance between Wednesday and Lucas.
The show is packed with comedy lines, sight gags, special effects, big production numbers and Godfrey's choreography, all directed by Michael LaFleur.