The Addams Family
New Victoria Theatre, Woking (UK Tour)
26 September 2017
UK Tour Details – Tour returns in 2021
In 1938 cartoonist Charles Addams introduced a macabre family to the New Yorker Magazine, at that stage the family and indeed the characters themselves had no names, but as the carton panels became enormously popular Hollywood came calling and the ghoulishly morbid family became The Addams Family and all of the characters we know and love were named and physicalised. In 64 episodes The Addams Family achieved cult status thanks to its wonderful cast and incredibly catchy theme tune.
It is that theme tune which opens proceedings in Marshall Brickman, Rick Elice and Andrew Lippa’s musicalisation of The Addams Family. These three crafty collaborators have perfectly managed to distil the essence of Addams original intentions and the characters developed for television and created two of the most entertaining hours of musical theatre on stage in the UK at the moment.
Central to the success of the show is that it has real heart, the kookiness of the family is intact but by adding a touch of Tevye, Gomez becomes a father that most can identify with and the problems of this family become universal.
Brickman and Elice’s book is concise, packed with laughter and even the odd tear-jerking moment. Andrew Lippa’s score melds perfectly, the tunes are extraordinarily catchy and at times I found myself trying to remember whether the original series had been musical. So naturally, do these characters sing that you assume they always had.
Of course, it helps that this production is blessed with a top-notch cast headed by Samantha Womack as Morticia and Cameron Blakely as Gomez. Sublimely indifferent at times but incredibly passionate this incredible double act cannot be faulted. Morticia’s deadpan delivery and Gomez’s exuberant physicality is staged with deadly effect.
As Wednesday, Carrie Hope Fletcher belts it into the rafters with her showstopper Pulled. Wonderfully knowing but thoroughly out of her comfort zone, her relationship with Grant McIntyre’s Pugsley, perfectly inverts the normal family dynamic with that annoying sibling that many of us have. McIntyre’s lurking intensity as his world or just his sister turn normal is too much to bear.
At this performance, Scott Paige was standing in for an indisposed Les Dennis as Uncle Fester. Taking the role as the show’s interactive link with its audience this Fester is typically screwball but with a Vaudeville twist. It’s an engaging performance and it doesn’t take long for the audience to warm to Paige’s Fester and his beautifully timed delivery.
Grandma (or is she?) is played by Valda Aviks. Incontinent, weird and magical it’s a performance that melds with this wonderful ensemble. As the inevitable interlopers from ‘normality’ the Beineke Family played by Charlotte Page, Dale Rapley and Oliver Ormson undergo perhaps the greatest transformation finding inner truths lost over time. You need the contrast to really make the peculiarities of the Addams’s work, and these three shine in this wonderfully brewed concoction.
The Addams Family is not just about the family themselves, the traditional chorus is taken up by a collection of ghostly ancestors. Kathryn Barnes, Jessica Buckby, Perola Congo, Christopher D Hunt, Gavin Eden, Jacob Fisher, Kirsty Ingram, Rhona McGregor and Jak Skelly effortlessly and stylishly glide around throughout the show. Ever present, effortlessly executed and an integral part of this production, these tireless souls deserve high praise.
Dickon Gough as overly tall groaning Lurch plays the character for every moment ultimately getting the last laugh though. I look forward to hearing more of him in future shows.
Designer Diego Pitarch has created a wondrous playground for this company to inhabit. Full of exquisite detail and wonderfully costumed, Pitarch has shown how touring production design should be done. Director Matthew White and Choreographer Alastair David make full use of this design. It all just flows so beautifully, focus is never pulled but you are always aware of the plethora of goodies that give background flavour to most of the scenes.
Richard Beadle’s orchestrations give this show a rich, gothic-like underscoring and his fabulous musicians keep it flowing. Even in the opening of Act Two where there is an absence of dialogue whilst some of Lippa’s gorgeous songs develop these characters, musically you just couldn’t ask for more.
Aria Entertainment, Music and Lyrics and the Festival Theatre Edinburgh are to be congratulated for producing one of the best touring musicals out there. If compromises were made it certainly doesn’t show. Such was the audience reaction to the show that I would suggest a cast album and a West End run are entirely warranted.
It’s not often that a cult hit movie adaptation goes for something other than the lowest common denominator, but the writers, creatives and cast of The Addams Family have created something that I could easily re-visit several times and be sure of finding more on each visit.