Festival Theatre, Edinburgh
The Addams Family have had a long and varied gestation to get to this point. Originally created by cartoonist and namesake, Charles Addams, they first saw the light of day in 1938 as a series of single frame cartoons in The New Yorker, though in those days none of the characters had names and the term ‘Addams Family’ hadn’t even been coined. That happened in 1964, when the family became the subject of a long running TV series. In the 70s, they joined Scooby Doo in an animation and then were given their own cartoon series. In 1991, they got the big screen live action treatment, a huge hit which was followed by another successful movie – and then one straight-to-video instalment that nobody seems to want to talk about. And finally, in 2010, this musical by Marshall Brickman, Rick Elice and Andrew Lippa debuted on Broadway, where it ran for 722 performances. Which brings us to the Festival Theatre, the show’s first stop on a major tour of the UK.
This is evidently a franchise with enduring appeal and it’s clear from tonight’s packed auditorium that the audience isn’t just comprised of old timers out to relive a childhood favourite. The majority of the crowd is made up of people in their 20s, proof it ever it were needed that some concepts will always find a new audience. The overriding appeal of this fictional family is, of course that, weird and unconventional as they are, they actually exemplify good old-fashioned values. Gomez (Cameron Blakely) is an excellent father, Morticia (Samantha Womack) is the consummate mother and the two of them really do have the interests of their extended family close to their hearts. Actually, it’s sobering to note that as time time goes by, their weirdness seems to diminish when set against what’s happening in the real world.
In this version of the tale, Wednesday Addams (Carrie Hope Fletcher) is at that dangerous age and has fallen in love with a (whisper it) ordinary guy called Lucas (Oliver Ormson). She’s even talking about marrying him. Gomez’s instinct is to hide the news from his wife, who he knows will not be pleased at the idea, but how can he do that when Wednesday has invited Lucas and his straight-laced parents round for dinner? What will they make of Wednesday’s odd little brother, Pugsley (Grant McIntyre), who worries that he will miss out on those sibling torture sessions he enjoys so much? What will they think of the potion-dispensing Grandma (Valda Aviks) or Gomez’s weird brother, Fester (a barely recognisable Les Dennis) who spends most of his time trying to work out how he can get to his own true love… the moon? And Lurch… what about Lurch?
It’s a promising concept and, of course, it’s brilliantly conceived and presented, with faultless performances, note-perfect singing, brilliantly choreographed dancing and a host of eye-catching costumes. If I have a criticism, it’s simply that having set up such a delicious idea, the writers somehow fail to develop it any further and what we get is a series of beautifully realised set pieces that fail to progress the story any further. But, having said that, there’s still plenty here to enjoy, not least the performance of Charlotte Page as Lucas’s uptight Mom, Alice, who conceals an entirely different persona behind that meek and mild front.
And there’s certainly no doubting the enthusiasm of the standing ovation the cast receive as they take their final bows. It’s clear that, despite being in existence for something like seventy years, there’s life in this franchise yet. What next, I wonder? The Addams Family on Mars? Don’t laugh, it could happen.