I’ve a bit of an odd relationship with my local theatre in that pretty often, the shows we end up having here will either have me visiting quite regularly, or I can go months without a visit as nothing really appeals to me. Sometimes though, Bristol will play host to shows that make me incredibly excited, even better if they’re new to me, as this one was, hence why I snapped up a ticket to the opening night of The Addams Family on Tuesday!
Now a staple of popular culture with numerous film and tv adaptations, video games, academic books, everyone’s favourite kooky clan were created by American cartoonist Charles Addams, first published in The New Yorker in 1938, until Addams’s death in 1988. The musical originally opened on Broadway in April 2010, and a US tour production won numerous awards. There have already been various international productions: Brazil, Sweden, Finland and Argentina to name a few! 2017 saw its UK debut in Edinburgh before embarking on a tour of the UK and Ireland. The musical features music and lyrics by Andrew Lippa, and a book by Marshall Brickman & Rick Elice.
We all know the Addams are deliciously dark and eccentric, with a love of all things macabre, but what happens when the eldest daughter Wednesday, all grown up, falls in love? The object of her affection is Lucas Beineke, a handsome and distinctly normal young man, who first saw Wednesday welding a crossbow somewhere in Central Park, becoming instantly smitten with her. The two become secretly engaged, and Wednesday believes the time is right for their respective families to meet and arranges for Lucas’s parents: straight laced Mal & happy go lucky Alice to come to dinner. All Wednesday wants is one normal night and for everyone to get along, but as ever where The Addams Family are concerned, things turn out to be far far away from normal…
Diego Pitarch’s design set a smile on my lips the minute I parked my wheelchair up and got my first glimpse of the stage: we’re greeted by a set of gates, emblazoned with the letter A, and inside the Family home we have moving staircases, moving pictures and the whole effect when coupled with Ben Cracknell’s Lighting and Richard Brooker’s Sound Design, is wonderfully eerie and atmospheric. The costumes are also among the most inventive and brilliant I’ve seen in a touring production, so it’s a real spectacle for the eyes as well as the ears. Underpinning the entire production is a wonderful sense of humour and playfulness, the jokes come thick and fast, and while even Uncle Fester’s subplot involving the moon is perhaps a little too ridiculous, I didn’t mind it in the slightest because I was too busy enjoying myself, as were the rest of the audience judging by the volume and intensity of the laughter! The score and songs are catchy and incorporate a whole range of musical styles, and one of my favourite choreographers Alastair David has come back into my life with his joyful energy and dynamics that I love so much about his work. The Addams Ancestors, otherwise known as the ensemble, are all incredibly strong dancers and full of such vivid personalities that further made my attention hone in on how intricate and Alistair’s choregraphy is, and I was always drawn to watching them whenever they were onstage!
Cameron Blakely first came into my life in 2011, as my original Thénardier in Les Misérables. I loved his take on the role so much that I longed to see more of him, falling more and more in love with his gift for comedy with each subsequent visit, I think he was my Thénardier.. 7 or 8 times overall? When he left the barricades, my next chance to see him came last year when he played The Narrator/Mysterious Man in Into the Woods in Manchester, a total departure from the previous role I’d seen him do; yet it showed me just how wonderfully versatile Cameron is as an actor. I can’t imagine anyone else playing the head of the family more perfectly than Cameron does. He gets to show off his razor sharp comic timing, sometimes with little more than a look or small gesture, but Gomez also has some lovely tender moments with Wednesday and Morticia that he plays with endearing warmth and sincerity, and his solo numbers stole the show for me . The result is a portrayal that is incredibly dynamic, well rounded and nothing short of pure, unbridled joy from start to finish… it meant a lot to me to see him again and boy can he tango!
Cameron’s Gomez is complimented wonderfully by Samantha Womack’s sophisticated, gloriously deadpan amore, Morticia. I last saw her onstage as Adelaide in Guys and Dolls alongside Patrick Swayze, so I was intrigued to see her take on another role. Their chemistry is amazing and they play off each other effortlessly, and Samantha’s solo number Just Around the Corner showcased her voice and humour, much to my delight. Valda Avkis plays Grandma, a joy to see again after Once so long ago. She steals many of her scenes, particularly with Pugsley, cleverly combining humour and wisdom.
Carrie Hope Fletcher shines as Wednesday, in the second stage role I have seen her in. Like with so many of this cast, that previous role was something completely different than she’s playing here, and that showed me how versatile she is. In her hands, Wednesday is a wonderfully rich and complex character; I would argue more developed than her film namesake, but still featuring the hallmarks we know and love. Her rendition of Pulled brought the house down and her chemistry with Oliver Ormson’s Lucas captured all the charm and angst of young love.
As well as Oliver, there are a few others in the kooky clan I’ll be watching out for an opportunity to see again, in particular Grant McIntyre as Pugsley and Dickon Gough as Lurch. As with Wednesday, I thought the musical afforded him a lot more scope for development and his portrayal was this wonderfully interesting mix of humour and vulnerability. Dickon Gough brought life to Lurch in way I didn’t think was possible with just trademark grunts and painfully slow walk, but he was wonderfully funny and his voice (when we finally get to hear it proper!) is utterly phenomenal!
Dale Rapley and Charlotte Page star as Lucas’s parents, they’re a wonderfully funny pair and I loved their character arc throughout the show.
Coming on as an understudy when people are expecting to see a ‘star name’ is, I think the toughest job any performer can do. On this night, Les Dennis was indisposed so Scott Paige was on as Uncle Fester. I was appalled to hear the reactions of the audience to this announcement, and I will never tire of when a performer comes on and smashes the preconceptions of a disappointed audience, just like Scott did. Fester acts as the narrator/ring leader of the chaos that ensues, and Scott is wickedly funny and charming, with a wonderfully powerful voice to match. As I mentioned earlier, the subplot with the moon is a touch ridiculous, but Scott is so likeable I quickly forgot those misgivings and just enjoyed the ride. Having had some of my favourite experiences with understudies, I was smirking to myself as I knew the audience would come round, and sure enough Scott ended the night with one of the biggest rounds of applause!
I’ve not enjoyed a touring production as much as this one for a long while, and hope the living, the dead, and those undecided find themselves a home in London following the tour….
For tour dates and tickets, head to: https://www.theaddamsfamily.co.uk/