Gomez and Morticia might be hoping for an unhappily ever after, but the UK tour of The Addams Family, now stopping off at the New Wimbledon Theatre, offers only unabashedly cheery, good-natured fun.
This 2010 Broadway musical adaptation, which features Andrew Lippa’s lively, Spanish-tinged score filled with quick-witted lyrics, along with Marshall Brickman and Rick Elice’s silly but sharp book, doesn’t try for too much. It’s comfortable in its skin as a spirited extension of the much-beloved Addams Family cartoon, film, and television franchise (if you haven’t seen Charles Addams’ original ghastly cartoons, Google them this minute!). Matthew White’s creative, energetic production ticks all the right boxes in bringing the morbid household to life.
In this latest Addams installment, Wednesday Addams (Carrie Hope Fletcher) has fallen in love with normal American teenager Lucas Beineke (Oliver Ormson), shedding some of her gloom-and-doom disposition in the process. A visit from Lucas’ staid and stuck-up parents (Dale Rapley and Charlotte Page) sends the Addams family into tumult: Gomez (Cameron Blakely) and Morticia (Samantha Womack) don’t like the idea of Wednesday marrying into this humdrum gene pool, and little brother Pugsley (Grant McIntyre) can’t bear the thought that his sister might leave home and cease to (literally) torture him.
The talented cast wastes no time in animating these familiar figures. Blakeley and Fletcher are particularly delightful as the darkness-devoted father and daughter (Gomez’s prized possession is a torture chair and Wednesday shoots a rabbit at the petting zoo for dinner) who share a moving scene in the second act. Blakely leaps winningly between Don Quijote-like wildness and moments of introspection that seem to parody Fiddler on the Roof’s Tevye. Fletcher gets to show off her strong belt and winking comedic timing. Womack and McIntyre similarly cavort with gusto and wicked grins, with the adult McIntyre impressively singing a role penned for a pre-adolescent boy actor in the original range as written.
Other standouts include Page as Lucas’ mother Alice, who amusingly transforms from prim and proper to rash and raunchy, and, as the lumbering, undead butler Lurch, a very funny Dickon Gough. (And don’t worry if you haven’t yet seen your favourite character mentioned: Valda Aviks as Grandma and Les Dennis as Uncle Fester turn in appealing performances as well.) The ensemble, dressed as the ghostly ancestors of centuries and cultures past (Diego Pitarch’s clever costumes range from Elizabethan to Amazonian), gets plenty to do, mostly involving Alistair David’s superbly snappy choreography.
Regrettably, the New Wimbledon Theatre’s sound system continues to muffle the musicals that pass through, and it’s a pity that Andrew Hilton’s robust musical direction often gets lost amidst balance issues that obscure many lyrics.
The show’s pace also crawls a bit when the already-thin plot pauses for extended riffs on slightly moldy jokes, and there’s one too many numbers about the importance of not keeping secrets, but White keeps his foot on the gas pedal most of the time.
This Addams Family even has a few moments that do more than let fans relish in the creepy and kooky festivities: in ‘One Normal Night’, as Wednesday begs her parents to act like a regular family for the big dinner, Lucas turns to his all-too-sane mother and father and does the same. It’s a clever humanizing setup, one that reminds us, monsters under the bed aside, that crazy clans come in all shapes and sizes.
The Addams Family played at the New Wimbledon Theatre until 20 May. For more information and tickets of the tour, see atgtickets.com.