The Addams Family | Review
By Conor O’Neill
HISTORY tells us the first programme to be aired on Channel 4 was Countdown. Not to my young eyes; as a youngster staring at the big ole black-and-white tele, which stood proudly as the focal point in our living-room, someone playing with jumbles of letters and numbers meant nothing to me. The real birth of the new-kid-on-the-block was the collection of misfits called the Addams Family.
Scroll forward too many years’ worth counting and we’re reunited; without a shadow of a doubt, tonight was as exhilarating as my first encounter. They’re all still unalive and kicking. I’m unsure who plays The Hand, but it must be the easiest job in showbiz; either that or the scriptwriter for Lurch. Thankfully things have moved on since black-and-white, shaky scenery and trite American jokes. With a full pit of musicians below them, NATO, Forrest Gump and the despicable Trump getting a mention, this is a musical comedy an adult audience and equally immature kids will enjoy in equal measure.
Wednesday, played by Carrie Hope Fletcher, is growing up, “Soon she’ll be Thursday!” quips matriarch Morticia and the gags follow from start to thrilling ending, which I guarantee will leave you all with a mackerel round the kisser. Aforementioned Morticia is played by Samantha Womack; Eastenders fans out there will automatically recognise her as Ronnie Mitchell, a role she held for almost a decade. Her transformation from straight-talking soap character to diva and darling to over a thousand in the Grand Opera House is outstanding. Unbeknown to me, she had sunk her teeth into theatre many moons ago; her CV is something any actor would be proud of.
But who would Morticia be without the flamboyance of hubby and lovable rogue that is Gomez? Dressed in his pinstripe three-piece and looking every bit the cad in his spats; Cameron Blakely looks decidedly devilish as he purrs and sings with a Venezuelan accent that befits his demeanour, as he attempts to keep the peace in a house that is literally full of the happily insane. Of course, we have Lurch, who was supposed to be played by Les Dennis. No reason is given, but understudy Scott Page takes the mantle and delights. Indeed it is his voice from behind the curtain we hear first as he informs us, “The Addams Family is a proud family and all trapdoors are working perfectly. I advise you to turn off your mobile phones during the performance or you may just find out.”
The man mountain that is Lurch (Dickon Gough) is a man of few words, but his physicality and comic timing gets as many laughs as the one-liners. Pugsley (Grant McIntyre) sleeps in a coffin in the crypt and loves nothing more than a stretch on the rack. His truly devious act has the essence of the entire plot thanks in part to Grandma’s knowledge of weird and wonderful alchemy, including the dreaded ‘Acronymian’. Grandma’s heritage is unknown, both parents claiming she’s the others’ mother. Whatever way you look upon it Valda Aviks’ appearances’ always brings laughter. With the shingles, arthritis and, “When I break wind I could start all the windmills in Dutch paintings,” you just know every utterance is worth the trip out in Belfast’s current cold snap.
The plot? Well as for Wednesday, she has found love. Enter Lucas, a frat boy in skinny jeans, red converse and one of those silly jackets even Americans can’t get away with. With a love that dares not show its face, Lucas (Oliver Ormson) having fallen for the dark heart of the eldest sibling; bringing mother Alice (Charlotte Page) and steadfast and dull as battleship-grey father Mal Beineke (Dale Rapley) round to the Addams’ family pile for dinner. When crushing dullness and delicious deviousness meet – you know there’s going to be fun.
Dinner is agreed, as long as it involves The Game. Mouth whetted, what does The Game entail?
Did I forget to mention this is a musical comedy? Musical director and lyricist Andrew Lippa’s lupine ears know their way around a stomping good musical. From The Graveyard, an annual wake-up call to all celebrated Addams’ through the century to Fester’s moment of joyous rapture ‘The Moon And Me’, “A quarter of a million miles, that’s the proper distance for romance!” according to the pasty-faced one, to Gomez’ and Morticia’s Tango De Amor, there’s not a note fretted or blown incorrectly, you can almost smell the wax on the bows of the string section. Adding to the gothic feel, when Richard Beadle’s orchestra isn’t either breathing down the hairs of our collective necks, or having our feet bounce four-to-the-floor, the pitter-patter of rain is omnipresent. Director, Matthew White, choreographer, Alistair David, along with the main cast plus the enhancing and truly mesmeric ensemble of ancestors and a pro crew in backstage make for a great night out.
Will Morticia ever walk the sewers of Paris? Will Mal’s Grateful Dead T-shirt ever be worn again? Does Fester have anything on NASA? Will an apple and a crossbow prove true love? Best get down to the Grand Opera House to find out. And you better be quick, tickets are flying.
To finish on a quote from Morticia: “What is normal to the spider, is a calamity to the fly.”
The Addams Family runs until Saturday, 07 October. For booking info visit www.goh.co.uk or phone the box office on 02890 241919.