Venue: Birmingham Hippodrome

Production Run: Tue 6 - Sat 10 June 2017

Performance Reviewed: Tue 6 June (Press Night)

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. 

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’s 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. Les Dennis is well suited to lovable, eccentric Uncle Fester, who harbours an endearing and heartwarming romance of his own, with Dennis steering confidently away from any Jackie Coogan or Christopher Lloyd imitation with his own enthused, almost childlike take on the role. Charlotte Page has a lot of fun pulling her rhyming, nervously optimistic Alice in a new direction, and Dickon Gough does a surprising amount of scene stealing as the imposing, grunting, walks-at-his-own-pace Lurch.

The real stars of the show, though, are Womack, Blakely and Fletcher, who 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 begins 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.

The Addams Family doesn’t reinvent the wheel (it’d 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. Still, 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 creepy, kooky 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.

Let’s face it, any show which features a character singing ‘Was the garbage right for the garbage dump? Were the Oscars right for Forrest Gump’ is on to something.

Two (clicking) thumbs way up.

RATING - ★★★★

Tickets: 0844 338 5000​  / Official Website: click