Entering the final week on its UK tour, comedy musical The Addams Family opened – on Halloween, appropriately enough – to a sell-out Dartford crowd eager for the latest instalment from the kookiest, spookiest family around. And though the plot could use a bit more energy, a great cast, upbeat score and slick production ensure that audiences are guaranteed a devilishly fun evening.
In this new story, Wednesday Addams is all grown up and has fallen hard – and slightly implausibly – for jock Lucas Beineke. She confesses to her father Gomez, but begs him to keep the secret from wife Morticia until after a planned dinner that night with Lucas and his parents. She also asks for “one normal night” – so you can guess what happens next. Meanwhile, Uncle Fester has summoned lots of dead relatives and is refusing to let them leave until they help true love win the day, while in a bizarre but oddly endearing subplot, he’s caught up in a complicated love story of his own.
Cameron Blakely is brilliant as Gomez, the irresistible life and soul of the Addams family party, desperately trying to keep everyone happy as he’s pulled back and forth between the women in his life. Alongside him, Samantha Womack’s Morticia captures perfectly her character’s effortless elegance and dark wit, but also shows her vulnerable side. Their part of the story is a bit thin (man is persuaded to keep secret from wife for a couple of hours to keep daughter happy; wife totally overreacts) but it does set the scene for some enjoyable verbal sparring and several good jokes about Paris sewers.
The always impressive Carrie Hope Fletcher carries the main plot – and some of the biggest musical numbers – as Wednesday, who’s discovering her softer side and isn’t totally happy about it. Scott Paige stepped in seamlessly last night for Les Dennis as the odd but loveable Fester, and Dickon Gough has a hilarious surprise or two up his sleeve as the family butler, Lurch.
The chorus of dead ancestors – who include a matador, a geisha and a ballerina – in the end play absolutely no part in helping true love win (though of course it does – spoiler alert). But they’re good fun and a credit to both the wardrobe department and choreographer Alistair David; the energetic Thriller-esque opening number is particularly entertaining. In fact the whole show is a visual treat – designer Diego Pitarch has stayed completely faithful to the characters, and you don’t need to be an expert on the original to know exactly who you’re looking at.
Andrew Lippa’s music on the other hand is all new for the stage (with one distinctive and familiar exception) and, in contrast to its often darkly humorous lyrics, the score is consistently cheery and more than a little catchy; I’ve been humming Death is Just Around the Corner all day…
It’s no surprise that the script’s full of the dark humour you’d expect from the Addams clan. But the show is also a great reminder that being “normal” (whatever that is) doesn’t necessarily equate to happiness; ultimately, it’s a lot more satisfying to be true to yourself. Gomez, Morticia and co may be a bit kooky, but they can still teach the Beinekes – and the audience – a thing or two about family. That said, the story does leave a bit to be desired; after going into the interval on a surprise twist, the second act falls rather flat, and is basically just a series of different couples arguing and then making up.
That small disappointment aside, the show is a fun and suitably spooky night out for Halloween week, whether you’re meeting the Addams Family for the first time or you’re old friends. Following a successful UK tour, the show comes to an end on Saturday, so grab a ticket while you can. After all, death is just around the corner…
The Addams Family is at the Orchard Theatre until 4th November.