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The Addams Family at Milton Keynes Theatre

Published by: Louise Winter on 27th Oct 2017 | View all blogs by Louise Winter

Reviewed by Louise Winter

24 October 2017

Tour poster Addams

The Addams Family was the creation of illustrator Charles Addams. His characters first appeared in The New Yorker magazine in 1938 as a cartoon strip which was developed many years later in 1964 into an ABC TV series where the clan was fleshed-out, so to speak. Although unconventional and positively odd in many ways, they were portrayed as happy, loving and functional. The show was a huge success even with the highly popular and similarly unconventional Munsters on rival CBS. The cast was excellent, the scripts were funny and imaginative and the catchy four-note theme tune, along with the finger clicking, found its way into popular culture. After over 60 episodes the show was cancelled and it took a lull of a few years for the family to find a new home; this time on the big screen in 1991. This was a massive hit with an incredible cast: Raul Julia as Gomez, Angelica Huston as Morticia, Christina Ricci as Wednesday and Christopher Lloyd as Uncle Fester. It led to a sequel, an animated series, video games and a range of merchandise and introduced the family to a whole new and young audience; it is the definitive portrayal of the family for many fansAfter all these incarnations the only place left was the stage and this musical, first performed in 2010, is the result of a collaboration between Marshall Brickman and Rick Elice along with songwriter Andrew Lippa. 

Addams Blakely Matt Martin 

image by Matt Martin

Whilst understandable that producers and directors will want to put their own stamp on a production it is puzzling why there would be such a move away from the elements that are integral to the Addams family and the basis of their popularity. Andrew Lippa (music and Lyrics) states that the story is inter-generational’. Indeed, it always has been and this is a fundamental aspect of thAdamms family; that it has an appeal for quite young children through to adults. So, this begs the question why the children Wednesday and Pugsley have been moved into their teenage years and why the only storyline is that of the tedious and overdone theme of two teenagers from different types of families falling in love against family wishes. The result is that the younger members of the audience (of which there were many on tuesday) have nothing to relate to and the positioning of much of the humour as purely adult-appropriate further narrows the scope and alienates even those young teenagers in the audience. This is baffling; The Addams Family has always had an all-age appeal and had something for everyone but this is not so here and this show is definitely poorer for it. It’s not a family show.  

Designer Diego Pitarch states that the production has ‘been faithful to the original’. This is true generally of the visual aesthetics where nearly all is fixed and enclosed within the house The Addams’ residence is in the middle of Central Park providing the opportunity to exploit a wealth of visual elements and create some interest on stage but we are instead given the obvious haunted house set.

Addams Fester Matt Martin

image by Matt Martin

The show starts dynamically enough with the full company onstage for the catchy ‘When you’re an Addams’ and over the next couple of scenes the main players are introduced. Cameron Blakely as Gomez is outstanding and has the audience eating out of the palm of his hand. He is hilarious and the source of most of the humour – not necessarily from the script. While well matched on stage by the rest of this cast he is far and away the strongest player. Scott Paige (standing in for an ill Les Dennis) as Fester was brilliant as gentle uncle Fester, Samantha Womack plays Morticia as elegant and cool but rather too still throughout. Wednesday (Carrie Hope Fletcher) is a fairly generic American teenager here if you remove her specific Addams traits, but Fletcher does a good job. Pugsley (Grant McIntyre) is funny but underused as his sister’s attention is elsewhere rather than tormenting him. 

Addams Matt Martin

image by Matt Martin

The story, such as it is, introduces Wednesday’s love interest Lucas Beineke (Oliver Ormson) as another generic American teenager. Ormson has a very specific voice which becomes thinner and whinier the more he talks and sings unfortunatelyThe two families meet for dinner with the Beineke’s coming to the Addams’ mansion. Here the engagement is due to be announced with, according to the blurb, ‘hilarious consequences’, overselling this momentarily vaguely amusing scene! If anything it is mostly odd, introducing a game called Full Disclosure, and sending Mrs Beineke (Charlotte Page) into some sort of realisation that her marriage isn’t as it could be setting up the second act for the realisations that all relationships have problems and all families are ‘normal’ in their own way. So what’s new? 

This is a very long show as a result of the number of musical pieces that are packed in to make up for the lack of a storyline. The music and lyrics are original, very catchy and excellently performed by the cast who mostly have very powerful voices and are accompanied by an orchestra led by Andrew Corcoran; this makes all the difference in this show. However, the original Addams family theme tune and finger clicking is missing until a few seconds at the end. This was a disappointing for the audience near me who were expecting this to hear this and enjoy some participation. Perhaps there is a copyright issue here otherwise it is unclear why this iconic music would not be used throughout this show. While the music and lyrics along with Blakely are the strongest part of the show they cannot make up for the almost non-existent plotline.

Plays MK theatre until Saturday 28 October 2017

book tickets at http://www.atgtickets.com

Box office 0844 871 7652

Groups Hotline 01908 547609

Access Booking 0844 872 767

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