Charles Addams’ deliciously dark comedy creation, The Addams Family, has appeared on TV in many incarnations, on the cinema screen with two feature length films and two animated versions.
It originally began as a series of single panel cartoons, half of which were eventually published in the New York Times.
The musical opened on Broadway 12 years ago with the perfect casting of Nathan Lane as smooth husband Gomez and Bebe Neuwirth as his wife, marvellous Morticia.
The plot follows daughter Wednesday, as she navigates love and brings boyfriend Lucas home for dinner. His straight-laced family accompany him and comedy ensues, as we watch them all navigate the dark and sardonic world of the Addams Family.
For the show, which is two hours and forty minutes long, there are a few subplots thrown in to keep you entertained, including Uncles Fester’s new found love interest, comic skits on Grandma’s identity and Pugsley’s fears that his sister will be too distracted by love to torture him anymore.
Add Morticia’s fear that Gomez has many secrets and lies which puts their marriage in peril, and you have all of the ingredients for a good musical.
The problem is that the plot feels too insubstantial to hold your attention as fully as you would like. Marshall Brickman and Rick Elice’s book needs something other than barbed comments to keep it fizzing along.
As it is, it has moments whereby you smile and laugh along, but it lacks the full on emotion of many other musicals and the songs feel tacked onto the thinnest of plots.
The performances are very strong and you can see just how much this cast enjoy and relish the dialogue.
Joanna Clifton has all the moves and slinks across the stage, nailing Morticia’s style and she utters her lines like a gothic Mae West and it works wonderfully well. Her Morticia does suffer from feeling underwritten, as she spends most of the time reacting to other family members, as opposed to having a story arc for herself.
When Morticia and Gomez perform an Argentine Tango in Act two, the effect is mesmerising and Clifton looks completely at home and in control.
Cameron Blakely has great comic timing and as Gomez he has more to bite into, and he does so with aplomb, delivering every line with a killer blow and a drum roll pause.
Scott Paige provides so much dark joy as Uncle Fester, he is a mighty performer and whenever he is on stage, the show feels like it has been given 1000 bolts of electricity. He’s alive.
Kingsley Morton has the vocal chops and delivers each song like a speeding arrow and she hits the target every time, bringing emotional intensity, comedy and highlights Wednesday’s vulnerability beneath the dark façade.
Grant McIntye’s Pugsley is delightful, as is Carol Ball’s Grandma, both of them imbue their characters with the right amount of light and shade.
Ryan Bennett’s Lurch almost steals the piece but Kara Lane’s squeaky clean Alice who comes for dinner and gets more than she bargained for, gives a show stopping performance which takes your breath away.
Sean Kingsley does well as Alice’s staid husband who has been jogging on the spot for many years, and Matthew Ives is a great Lucas, as he has stage presence and great vocals to match.
The ensemble are constantly on stage as Greek chorus style back-ups, and they bring sight gags and they also provide a strong backbone for the show.
Alastair David’s choreography is incredibly strong in parts, and when it adds fire to a scene, you realise how the show would benefit from more movement, especially from the leads.
If you are a fan of this kooky and spooky family, you will get the black comedy you know well and the odd good song, but many of these lack the hooks to leave you humming them on the way home. The plot has many shortcomings, as it seems to go round in circles.
But the cast are what you remember, as each performer embodies what the Addams Family is all about.
You may not die laughing at every single punchline, but you will enjoy spending time with them.
The Addams Family is at the Opera House until 23rd April. Click below to buy tickets.