(l-r) Valda Aviks, Carrie Hope Fletcher, Cameron Blakely, Dickon Gough, Samantha Womack, Les Dennis, Grant McIntyre. Photo: Matt Martin
Rather unusually, amateur groups based in the UK have been licensing The Addams Family musical long before their professional counterparts ever got in on the act. In fact, it’s taken the UK’s professional musical theatre industry seven years to produce Andrew Lippa’s ghoulish musical after it first opened on Broadway back in April 2010 (where it ran for a modestly respectable twenty months). This week, the show plays New Wimbledon Theatre (its only London dates) where, not surprisingly, press night was speckled with a rather generous smattering of 'celebs'... from Bobby Davro to Clare Balding to Bonny Langford!
This inaugural touring production, which premiered at Edinburgh Festival Theatre last month, is a great example of how big-budget professional production values can really lift a show. It’s big, it’s morbidly spectacular, it’s loud (very loud)... and it boasts a star-studded line-up. But in truth it probably needs all these assets because when all is said and done it’s actually quite an average musical, heavily relying on the popularity of the TV and cartoon characters and especially 1991’s hit movie.
Wednesday Addams is at ‘that age’ and has fallen in love with a ‘regular’ guy. At her request the peculiar family, who are more at home with the un-dead, decide to have ‘Lucas’ and his parent’s over for dinner in an attempt to ‘bond’. However, with Uncle Fester, Grandma, Pugsley and Lurch in attendance – not to mention a dozen ghostly ancestors trapped in the house – as you might imagine things don’t quite go according to plan.
Once we get past the show’s obvious attempt to give us a veiled lesson in the morals of love, loyalty and casting judgement, the big problem for me is that we’ve got what is a potentially very funny show continuously interrupted by a myriad of not-so-funny musical numbers. With half a dozen extra songs than originally featured on Broadway, it all feels a bit squeezed resulting in funny scenes of dialogue being short-lived as another tune strikes up. The best tune by far being the brilliantly presented company number Full Disclosure just before the interval.
That said, Cameron Blakely’s natural versatility provides some much-needed and perfectly timed comedy – if only we could have seen more. Samantha Womack, fresh from the misery of Albert Square, appears perfectly cast as Morticia Addams; her slinky and silky Gothic femininity impresses as does her vocal especially with numbers such as act two’s Just Around the Corner.
Carrie Hope Fletcher who, not long ago, trod the very same boards as Truly Scrumptious in Chitty Chitty Bang Bang, brings an equally feisty Wednesday Addams to demonstrate why she is one of musical theatre’s brightest young stars. Not to be outdone, Charlotte Page’s standout supporting role as Wednesday’s potential future and frustrated mother-in-law, Alice Beineke, is also a real highlight. The virtually unrecognisable Les Dennis in a cameo as Uncle Fester is delivered with unending and rasping energy although the sub-plot of the bald madman being obsessed with the moon doesn’t really do much to push the proceedings along.
The eclectic ensemble of misfits and historical corpses is also visually stunning, from costumes to make-up to Alistair David’s deathly choreography. In fact, it would be beneficial to feature this body of bodies in even more big-number set-pieces; and I did love the line-dancing sequence. Last plaudits ought to go to Dickon Gough’s Lurch who, at the eleventh hour, swapped his monotone deep grunting for a surprise and impressive baritone solo, prompting the audience’s jaws to drop as one.
The Addams Family plays at New Wimbledon Theatre until Saturday, 20th before continuing on tour. More at www.theaddamsfamily.co.uk