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Thursday, 5 October 2017

The Addams Family (UK Tour), Grand Opera House | Review


The Addams Family (UK Tour)
The Grand Opera House, Belfast
Reviewed on Tuesday October 3rd by Damien Murray

This Irish and UK premiere tour production of the musical comedy, The Addams Family was an entertaining and fast-paced production of Andrew Lippa’s funny musical about a less than conventional family and its ancestors.

Right from the off, it was obvious that this was not going to be ‘One Normal Night’, as – during the overture – a finger-clicking hand appeared through the letter box; the hand of an unknown person (in this case, probably a ‘stage hand’!!).

Mainly played out on the superbly old and run-down eerie mansion befitting to such a weird and spooky family, the functional set designs, with moveable staircases and great use of the two side balconies, helped greatly with the good pace of this production.

Despite the family’s appearance, values and lifestyle, this atmospheric piece is not so much scary as it is a funny musical with great one-liners that, thankfully, are never just throw away lines for the experienced cast.

We were then introduced to a mixed bag of weird ancestors who looked almost normal when compared to the central family of the piece.


They made up a well-used ensemble, which, despite its relative lack of numbers, produced some excellent harmonies during choral pieces (e.g. 'One Normal Night' and 'Move Toward The Darkness') and provided solid support throughout in vocals, dance, movement, visuals and as a distraction during scene changes.

While the Act 1 finale, 'Full Disclosure' (Part 2) was a great production number, the orchestra and cast rose to the challenge here with the varied and difficult score, which - apart from the variety of tempo changes from one song to the next - had to cope with a degree of musical fragmentation caused by lots of start/stops throughout many songs and challenging underscoring.

While the great musicality of the tango rhythms made numbers like 'Trapped', 'Secrets' and 'Not Today' stand out here, it was the orchestra’s sheer accuracy of performance and the visual impact of the dancers in the production number, 'Tango De Amour', that combined to make this an irresistible musical highlight.

'Pulled' was another highlight because of Wednesday’s strong vocal performance, while the flamenco flavoured music of 'Let’s Live Before We Die' impressed and 'But Love' provided a little vaudeville-style distraction between scenes.

There were some soft ballads in the varied score, including the gentle, 'The Moon And Me', while 'Move Toward The Darkness' was unusual in that it is rare that a ballad is used as a finale number, but it did allow for some great choral work.It was good to see the reprise of the up-tempo, 'When You’re An Addams', being used to send all home happy after the ballad finale.

Choreography was a strong element in this production and the concepts were well-executed right from the opening production number, 'When You’re An Addams', when we knew that there was going to be no problems with dance, as this song’s varied choreography included lots of arm movements and samples of line dancing, the bunny hop and the twist. The moon ballet was well-staged ('The Moon And Me'), while it was a nice touch to use a ‘young’ Wednesday to highlight the emotions of the song during Happy Sad.


The nightmarish family in this macabre musical was effortlessly brought to life by the talented principals, including Cameron Blakely as the Latino-looking and hen-pecked husband, Gomez, who supplied some touching moments in the song, 'Happy Sad', yet also managed to deliver the song’s humorous lines on cue, while always maintaining the right comic timing to get the laughs when needed. 

Samantha Womack as the very much in-charge and matriarchal Morticia was both tall and elegant and looked the part in her long black ankle-length dress and long black hair like Crystal Gale. Boasting dead-pan looks that could kill, this was a very confident performance from a total all-rounder with a great voice and good stage presence who perfectly captured her character’s dry wit. She also proved to be a most impressive dancer, especially in the song and dance number, 'Just Around The Corner', which allowed her to show her macabre emotions of joy.

However, for me, the star of the show was Carrie Hope Fletcher’s manipulative daughter, Wednesday. This amazingly talented girl is a strong performer with a great voice and real stage presence and this was highlighted in her performance throughout, but especially during the ‘coming of age’ song, 'Pulled'.

In the absence of Les Dennis, due to illness, his understudy, Scott Paige, was more than deserving of this role and impressed greatly both in his acting, comic timing and vocal ability, especially as he was acting so much ‘out of age’ in this part. Despite playing the loveably crazy uncle, Fester, he provided lovely vocals during his gentle ballad, 'The Moon And Me' and as the show’s narrator character.

Dickon Gough had a dream role as the ever-growling zombie-like butler, Lurch, and played one of musical theatre’s great non-speaking parts exceptionally well, while Grant McIntyre, as Pugsley, played the younger brother with a grown-up attitude well.

There was good support from Charlotte Page’s fully-disclosed Alice, Dale Rapley’s typical American parent, Mal, and his college student son, Lucas, played by Oliver Ormson, while Valda Aviks’ eccentric Grandma was good, but I would like to have seen more of her character’s outspoken and irreverent attitude. 

Perfectly-timed sound effects and special visual effects like the thunder and lightening, the monster in the box and the use of individual ancestors in the portrait painting all added to the success of this slick production.

Thanks to the brilliant lighting, costumes, props, make-up and hair, this was a visually stunning show from its strong opening to its unusual ballad ending … absolutely ‘finger-clicking good’ throughout!

The Addams Family runs at the Grad Opera House, Belfast until October 7th.


Photo credit: Matt Martin 

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