Manchester Theatre Awards

> Independent informed reviews by the region’s most experienced critics

The Addams Family

Book by Marshall Brickman and Rick Elice; Music and Lyrics by Andrew Lippa
Aria Entertainment and Music & Lyrics, in association with Festival Theatre Edinburgh
Lyric Theatre, The Lowry
29 August 2017 to 09 September 2017

The Gomez, Morticia, Uncle Fester, Wednesday, Pugsley, Grandma and Lurch we see in this musical comedy adaptation of Charles Addams’ celebrated New Yorker cartoons, via the Sixties TV series and the Nineties films, are not so much creepy, mysterious or spooky as “differently decent” upholders of Addams Family values. They may wear a lot of black and get their fun in dungeons and graveyards but, hey look, they’re just normal folk really and, sheesh, teenage love is a pain and family relationships are a mess for us all, aren’t they?

That’s not a message that over-impressed the many young children at the show’s press night, whose talking, seat-kicking and wandering about when they were denied much in the way of whizz-bang antics on stage or sing-alongs was actually pretty scary for nearby non-consenting adults.

Obviously, there’s a bit of confusion here about who exactly the target audience might be and that means that no-one emerges entirely satisfied from an enjoyable-enough show that nonetheless feels strangely lifeless and less than the sum of its parts.

To the horror of all the clan (bulked out not by the likes of Cousin It, disappointingly, but by a ghostly crew of Addams ancestors – who knew there was a ballerina, a Viking and a matador in their forebears?), the now-teenage Wednesday Addams (an impressive Carrie Hope Fletcher) has fallen in love with all-American boy Lucas Beineke (Oliver Ormson). Moreover, she has invited Lewis and his straight-arrow parents to dinner at the Addams house, and petulantly demands ‘one normal night’ from them. “What’s normal for the spider is a calamity for the fly,” muses her father Gomez (Cameron Blakely), so what could possibly go wrong with this not-unfamiliar culture clash scenario?

Gomez, moreover, is forced to balance the conflicting demands of his beloved daughter and his wife Morticia (a spot-on message Samantha Womack), who everyone rightly assumes will be appalled by the wedding plans.

In common with the films, the plot is wafer thin but there are enough zingy one-liners to hold your attention. Les Dennis is almost unrecognisable as Uncle Fester, allocated here an MC role as well as the show’s one moment of genuine weirdness as he sings about his love for the Moon, and, whilst you know that there’s going to be a comic payoff for Dickon Gough as looming, almost-silent butler Lurch, it’s actually pretty good when it finally comes.

Despite its many fine qualities and all the stylishly spooky trappings, the glaring problem with this show is the sense that we’ve seen it all before.

Reviewer: Kevin Bourke

Comments

Comment by Paul Genty

What always drew me to the iconic TV series was the characters - Gomez, Morticia, Fester and Lurch; the kids were always a minor element and the plots likewise (pretty much as here - while Wednesday is the main driver of the story, Carrie Hope Fletcher doesn't get to do much more than pout and sing, and her normal boyfriend is nothing more than a way to show the abnormal normality of the Addams and his parents are a dull side-issue that goes nowhere).

So like Kevin I enjoyed much of the dialogue and the energy of Cameron Blakely as Gomez, and the deadpan wonder of Samantha Womack as Morticia, while not much enjoying the show they were in, which started well then went on a long, slow dive into the final curtain.

Comment by David Cunningham

Yes, this does seem to be aimed at adults who have fond memories of the original cartoons and TV show rather than trying to attract younger audience members who might not have such awareness .  ‘The Addams Family’ is an affectionate tribute to the cartoons and TV show. Innovations are few –mainly acknowledging the Spanish origins of Gomez; the father of the clan.   Gomez now has a noticeable Spanish accent and there is a flamenco edge to the carnival style score. There is a lack of tension in the first Act – any sense of menace is played for laughs with ominous announcements echoing around the stage. But the overall aim seems to cater to fans who can relax and enjoy a high-quality show that tweaks ,but does not re-write, the format with which they are already familiar. 

Comment by Diana Stenson

I have never been an Addams fan but then I rarely ever witnessed their weirdo life - maybe it clashed with teatime.  However, somehow we are all acquainted with the their ghoulish tastes and bizarre family preferences.  So was I captivated?  Not by the opening.  The score lacks melody but no shortage of rhythm.  The early set resembles a dreary gothic entrance hall but plenty of steps for scarey Lurch to lurch (a towering occasionally growling Dickon Gough).  Thankfully up pops blessed Uncle Fester, the most nutty but most lovable of all.  Cameron Blackely as the constantly busy Gormez Addams gamely holds his impossible family together, singer, liar, charmer and slick exponent of the tango.  Perhaps a shortening of fifteen minutes in the second half would lend the "action" that bit more zip.