_REVIEW.   it’s about _THEATRE.   words _KYLE PEDLEY.
at _THE ALEXANDRA.   tickets _OFFICIAL SITE.   booking until _22nd JAN.

January 19, 2022
images © Pamela Raith 2022.

It’s January 2022. The UK, its theatre industry and heck, the world as a whole, soberly tiptoe into the third year of a global pandemic. Cost of living is soaring, festivities have made way for frustration, and we’re mere hours past the height of new year misery that is ‘Blue Monday’.

“Death is just around the corner.”

It would surely seem glib then, to suggest that a show containing such lyrics, and in whimsical fashion no less – centred as it is around a family who revel in the grim, the gruesome and the gut-wrenching – is one of the most uplifting and feel-good trips to the theatre you could wish for at this, or indeed any, time of the year.

Yet here we are.

And no, it isn’t some nihilistic wish fulfilment, either; despite the absurd and perennially depressing misery of these COVID times – a blanket of death, doom and decay that Addams’ central family unit would probably relish – this is a musical with a lightness of touch, a corker of a score, and an evening full of belly laughs that you certainly won’t feel guilty for enjoying.

Much like its rapier-wielding leading man and head of the ‘Addams’ clan, this is a production that boasts form. Nigh-identical in aesthetic (and much of the creative team) to its previous UK tour of 2017 and ’18, Matthew White’s taut, frequently hilarious comedy musical romp bounces along to Andrew Lippa’s lively, toe-tapping and finger-clicking score (that only gets better with repeat viewings) and blitzes through Marshall Brickman and Rick Elice’s book, set several years after the conventional setup and timeline seen in Addams films, tv shows and other incarnations.

Young – but not quite as young as you’d remember her – Wednesday Addams (Kingsley Morton, stepping in to Carrie Hope Fletcher’s clunky gothic boots with flying colours… particularly yellow), is in love. She’s fallen for wholesome, ‘normal’ young Lucas Beineke (Ahmed Hamad), and has decided it’s time for the ghoulish granddaddy of all meet-the-in-laws.

For father, Gomez (returnee Cameron Blakely), it’s a problem, not least of all because he’s been sworn to secrecy about revealing any surprise nuptial news to decidedly secret-averse wife, Morticia (Strictly’s Joanne Clifton).

If not the most terribly original of high concepts on paper (thing La Cage through the prism of Tim Burton), it’s a fun, well-established premise, and one that pops with catchy, spirited tunes, a coffin full of laughs, and, once again, a spookily gifted cast.

Addams looks and sounds great, with Diego Pitarch’s work in realising the family’s gothic home harmonising beautifully with some glorious costume work and Ben Cracknell’s lighting. And, as mentioned, the writing here is tight, witty and full of zingers, crucially treading that distinct yet deceptively tricky Addams balance of being grim without being cynical, dark yet also delightful.

But it really is the incredible company here who help elevate the whole thing to truly wicked levels of sinfulness.

First, acknowledgement and credit to an ensemble and swing who form the crucial cadre of Addams ‘ancestors’ – from wine-swigging, toga-clad Emperors to undead matadors and vertebrally-challenged aristocrats – they’re crucial both narratively and aesthetically throughout, and it’s a talented troupe indeed who keep them on stage and carrying much of the show’s ambience and transitions.

But in truth every part is cast, played and executed to perfection. The ‘supporting’ members of the clan, such as Valda Aviks’ eccentric Grandma, Dickon Gough’s implacable, mute Lurch and Grant McIntyre’s gleefully anarchistic take on Pugsley, all shine, and similarly there’s no weak link amongst the Beinekes either. Sean Kingsley takes what could easily be a fairly dry, conventional unfeeling father trope and injects him with a nervy, exasperated cartooniness that just feels perfect for the tone of the show, bounces off of Blakely’s fellow patriarch particularly well, and trickles down into Hamad’s similarly quirky take on Lucas, too.

To say too much of Kara Lane‘s brilliance as Beineke mom ‘Alice’ would spoil one of the show’s best about turns.

“In truth, every part is cast, played and executed to perfection.”

As the show’s de facto narrator, and returning to the iconic part of Uncle Fester, Scott Paige reclaims a role he once only temporarily stepped in to by dint of covering original ‘Fester’, Les Dennis, during a period of ill health. In 2017, it turned out to be a switcheroo that enriched the whole piece, and now, five years later, having the luxury of taking the role entirely upon his own shoulders, and all of the rehearsal time and exploration that facilitates, Paige (who recently delighted on Channel 4’s The Circle) is terrific – effortlessly switching between silly and sincere, completely making this ‘Fester’ his own, and just supremely watchable throughout. He commands attention even when silent and in the sidelines or backgrounds of scenes, with Paige’s comedic timing and stage sensibilities sharpened to guillotine standards of doubtless Addams approval.

Speaking of making a role their own, Joanne Clifton has a lot of fun layering out Morticia, finding some fun new wrinkles for the character and injecting her with a lot more passion, sardonic energy and even occasional spots of clownery, by comparison to the drier, more aloof versions that have come before. Unsurprisingly, she also dances up an absolute storm, bringing an altogether more dimensional and – dare it be said for a woman who takes pleasure in decapitating flowers, whipping animals and putting her children to sleep in coffins – relatable Morticia that isn’t quite the ice queen we’ve seen here before.

Doing equally great work is our other leading lady, recent graduate Kingsley Morton, who could not have delivered a more pitch-perfect mission statement to the world of theatre than in this, her professional debut turn. As lovelorn Wednesday, struggling with the duality of her grislier heritage and the desire to chase down exactly what ‘normal’ could be for an Addams, Morton is off-the-charts, blasting out early fan favourite ‘Pulled’ with gobsmacking bravura and clout, she hits the ground blazing, and a new theatre star is undoubtedly born.

Which leaves us with Cameron Blakely and his Gomez.

In a way, it can be difficult to revisit a performance that one held in such high regard and has already heaped so much praise upon. It has certainly happened in the past that a performer has returned to an iconic or beloved role, only to see the sobering law of diminishing returns do its dirty, regrettable work.

Full disclosure: there’s no such misfortune here.

“Blakely’s Gomez is a chaotic, unrelenting and truly tireless whirlwind of Groucho-esque devilry and genius…”

Blakely, a real veteran of the stage and screen, brings his barnstorming, effortlessly scene-stealing Gomez back to us, and it really does feel like being reunited with stagey family. A chaotic, unrelenting and truly tireless whirlwind of Groucho-esque devilry and genius, he has the audience in the palm of his hand (or anywhere else on his elastic, contorting body) from the off. He’s in fine voice, and the broader, brilliantly comedic strokes of funny have had new injections of invention and surprise throughout, but there’s shade and shape, too, with Blakely charting the quieter, more nuanced beats of ‘Happy Sad’ and the character’s lower ebbs with real poignancy and restraint.

A turn for the ages (…likely the dark ages, too, if Gomez had any say on the matter).

As before, The Addams Family doesn’t reinvent the wheel by any stretch of the imagination (or body on the rack). It’s just exceptionally good at being an entertaining, superbly performed and completely engaging watch. And, for all of its ghoulish puns and injections of dark comedy, its an experience bursting with joy, light and heart.

‘When you’re an Addams’ croons Gomez during the opening bars, ‘you have to see the world in shades of grey…’

Ironic, perhaps, for a show so vibrant, colourful and uplifting.

‘You have to put some poison in your day,’ he soon follows up.

Consider my poison firmly picked, then; The Addams Family click-clicks all the right boxes, and is a perfect concoction of tireless hilarity, memorable show tunes and a showcase of devilishly delicious performances across the board.

It is, mercifully, the only poison you need reach for this New Year.

“When you’re an Addams, you need to have a sense of humour.”

Ancestors be proud, it’s mission accomplished for Blakely, Clifton and their creepy, kooky company of showstopping spooks and ghoulish good timers.

They’re creepy and their kooky, sure, we all knew that. But they’re utterly hilarious, too, gleefully realised and part of one of the most irrepressible and entertaining musicals out there. *Click, Click* ought to be the sound of you booking tickets.


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