Venue: Wolverhampton Grand Theatre

Production Run: Tue 17 - Sat 21 October 2017

Performance Reviewed: Tue 17 October (Press Night)

PLEASE NOTE: The following is an updated version of a review we previously published for ‘The Addams Family’ earlier in the production’s tour. It has been amended and updated to reflect changes made on the tour, and casting differences such as the presence of Scott Paige performing the role of Uncle Fester.

The Addams Family: The Musical Comedy is an abomination.

It is a blight on the landscape of musical theatre. When Pugsley (Grant McIntyre) bemoans to grandma (Valda Aviks) towards the end of the first act that ‘life’s too long’, we feel his pain. By the time Samantha Womack as Morticia begins crooning that ‘Death is Just Just Around the Corner’ some way into the second, we can only wish that turns out to be the case.

It is just awful; a festering pustule of rottenness, a bellowing chasm of horror and theatrical torture in its purest and most agonising sense.

Which, under the filter of all things ‘Addams’, naturally means it’s wonderful.

Dropping that spot of characterful irony before anyone gets confused, The Addams Family is quite simply a joyous, wickedly fun treat of a new arrival on the UK theatre landscape. 

And it just keeps getting better.

Most will be familiar to some extent with the ‘Addams’ brand, but perhaps surprisingly this is their debut foray onto the professional stage here in Blighty (the amateur rights having previously been available for a few years, curiously). After a moderately successful run on Broadway, headed up by theatre heavyweights Nathan Lane and Bebe Neuwirth, and a number of US tours, Aria Entertainment and the Festival Theatre Edinburgh have brought the ‘creepy and kooky’ clan to UK shores.

Admirably though, this is no derivative repeat of the 2009 New York production, which itself underwent numerous revisions and alterations during the course of its run and subsequent touring legs. Instead, Tony-nominated Andrew Lippa, who penned the show’s instantly catchy and flavoursome numbers and was involved in this production from the off, director Matthew White and co. set out to create an all-new ‘Addams’ production from top to bottom, and their efforts have led to one of the freshest, funnest and most confident new musical productions to tour the UK in recent memory.

Telling the story of a now-18 year old Wednesday (Carrie Hope Fletcher… many will remember Christina Ricci’s star-making turn in the role in the 90’s films) who has grown up and fallen in love with the decidedly non Addams-esque Lucas (Oliver Ormson), and must prepare for the mother of all ‘meet the parents’ family dinners. Addams matriarch Morticia (Eastenders’ Samantha Womack) is suspicious, but wouldn’t dream that passionate - see: Latin - husband Gomez (Cameron Blakely) may be keeping Wednesday’s biggest secret from her.

Spoilers - it involves a ring.

Marshall Brickman and Rice Elice’s book captures the quirky, witty and darkly comic nature of the family perfectly, including, naturally, their penchant for the macabre, but it also makes for an affecting and occasionally moving rumination on love, marriage and parenthood. The stark differences between the Addams and Beinekes (Lucas’ family) are painted out broadly but bounce off of one another well in a fable of self-discovery that works perfectly with the source material; you could easily imagine this having been the story for an imaginary third instalment in the Anjelica Huston/Raúl Juliá movies. It’s all helped tremendously by an incredibly game - and superbly well cast - team of players, some instantly memorable and catchy songs, and Matthew White’s energetic direction that manages to make even some of the more stop-start of numbers entertaining and pacy to watch.

To apply a label that would appall their characters, the cast are a delight. Charlotte Page has a lot of fun pulling her rhyming, nervously optimistic Alice in a new direction, whilst Dickon Gough does a surprising amount of scene stealing as the imposing man of few words and laboured footsteps, Lurch. Fester understudy Scott Paige stepped forward in the performance reviewed and brilliantly elevated the character in terms of both characterisation and vocals; a remarkably confident, charismatic and genuinely funny turn. Given that Dennis was likeable but somewhat unremarkable in the role, Paige’s fantastic interpretation here should not be undervalued - he is a major contributing factor in that shiny fifth star this time round.

Speaking of stars, Womack, Blakely and Fletcher are so well cast and give such distinctive takes on their characters that, for many, they will become the definitive Morticia, Gomez and Wednesday respectively. Carrie Hope Fletcher continues her ascension into the musical theatre stratosphere, so much so that one continues to struggle to find new praise to give. Her instincts on the stage are second to none, and her voice an equal force of nature. Hear her belt out ‘Pulled’, ‘One Normal Night’ or ‘Crazier Than You’ then try to think of a more talented and promising young talent in musical theatre.

Samantha Womack, meanwhile, is hilariously deadpan and deliciously poised as Morticia, gliding onto the stage and commanding a glare with the sharpness and precision of a viper.  She carries a tune mightily fine, too. In fact, were it not for the characters’ long heritage, you’d be forgiven for thinking the role written especially for Womack. 

Cameron Blakely as Gomez will be perhaps the biggest surprise for many, though - although not as big a ‘name’ as some of his co-stars, the veteran actor’s stage experience is writ large in a hilarious, brilliantly idiosyncratic turn that carries the entire show on his animated shoulders. Playing Gomez almost akin to a hyperactive Groucho Marx with an hispanic tang, it’s an attention-commanding treat of a performance that is as funny as it is charismatic. 

Having now seen the show for a third time over the course of its run, it’s quite fantastic - and rare - to see a company so actively rejuvenating and revelling in their performances, too. See Womack’s Morticia in the ‘twist’ portion of opening number ‘When You’re An Addams’ - in Wimbledon, she was exchanging flirtatious glances with Gomez, in Birmingham, she had moved over to proudly shimmy beside son Pugsley (McIntyre), and now in Wolverhampton, she had moved across to assist the implacable Lurch (Gough) with his pelvic shakes. It’s a small observation, but one beautifully reflective of a rare sense of vitality in touring productions - practically every cast member consciously keeping the show and their efforts invigorated by taking lines, beats and moments to fresh, new places. 

Unsurprisingly, Blakely is the king of this, and the sheer invention and tireless madcap energy he brings to his plethora of Gomez-isms, big and small, new and old, is staggering.

The Addams Family doesn’t reinvent the wheel (they would rather torture you on it). As mentioned, some of the numbers register as stop gaps or momentary contemplations as opposed to pushing the narrative forward, and the central story being told doesn’t really contain much in the way of surprises; in fact, you can mostly see where it’s all headed pretty much from the off. But it looks great - enormous credit to designer Diego Pitarch for capturing the Addams aesthetic perfectly, creating a set and costumes that drip with character and charm (see the unique, individual designs for each Addams ‘ancestor’). It also sounds fantastic, boasts a frighteningly fun cast and as a whole offers so much perfect pre-Halloween fun that we’re hopefully looking at a new addition to theatredom, and indeed the long-standing Addams history, that will be around for many years to come.

And, as an example of a new production going from strength to strength, buoyed by a fantastic (if temporary) Fester completing the main character lineup perfectly (sorry, Les!), and a freshness and approach to performance scarcely seen in the industry, the Addams clan have really raised the bar on how to keep a touring production feeling fresh, funny and, of course, plenty creepy and kooky.

Full Dislosure: This is Addams, better than ever.

RATING - ★★★★★

Tickets: 01902 429 212​​  / Official Website: click