With a burst of passionate tango and an iconic “click click”, everyone’s favourite kooky family has taken up residence at the Birmingham Hippodrome this week, for the UK premiere of The Addams Family musical. A cult fan favourite, thanks to the wildly popular nineties movies, The Addams Family step into the footlights for the first time.
Several years after we last saw the family, a few things have changed. The famously monosyllabic, slightly sadistic, Wednesday Addams has fallen in love with a seemingly normal boy – Lucas. She persuades the rest of the family to have ‘One Normal Night’ when Lucas and his family come over for dinner, hoping that the two families will become friends and, crucially, give their blessing for Lucas and Wednesday’s marriage. However, an after dinner game, a dangerous potion and an unruly host of undead ancestors make Wednesday’s dinner party anything but normal. The family’s creepy and mysterious facade begins to crumble, and the strong bonds of love that keep them together are sorely tested.
For a musical which is largely aimed at cult fans seeking a nostalgia trip, The Addams Family takes some unexpected risks with the portrayal of these famous characters. Wednesday in particular seems at odds with previous iterations of the character. Her darkness and sociopathic traits have been watered down, and she is seen crying and pleading with her father to get her own way (rather than taking matters into her own hands).
In the second act, a series of romantic songs further change the tone of the musical, which boasts an unexpectedly Disney-esque ending full of neat happily-ever-afters. For a family which revel in doom, gloom and death, it feels incongruous to end with all couples hand in hand, full of hope and love, without a trademark subversive twist to set The Addams Family apart from a more traditional musical.
However, The Addams Family still largely captures the deliciously dark atmosphere of the spooky Central Park mansion. Big musical numbers, including ‘When You’re An Addams’, feature clipped melodies and off-beat lyrics. Alistair David’s choreography oozes a cool, confident attitude with super sharp gestures and quirky disco steps. Diego Pitarch’s playful set design brings the family home to life, from a living portrait to the disembodied hand (The Thing) popping out through letterboxes and around curtains.
The ensemble perform with style and charisma, relishing the opportunity to portray such eccentric, interesting characters. Cameron Blakely is sensational as Gomez, bringing a maniacal energy to the stage as he switches from doting father, to passionate Latin lover, and crazy sword fighting enthusiast. Carrie Hope Fletcher shines as Wednesday; her clear, beautiful vocals are noticeable in every single number, swelling with power in a stunning performance of ‘Pulled’. Samantha Womack’s Morticia occasionally loses her ramrod posture, yet regains her elegance with flowing, elaborate arm gestures in every musical number. Womack proves herself a true comedienne, earning the lion’s share of laughs with her ice cold delivery and impeccable timing.
The Addams Family is a spookily fun night out; a nostalgic celebration for old fans and an excellent introduction for newcomers. The performances are stellar and the choreography is particularly outstanding. However, the plot is predictable and many of the songs formulaic. These most kooky and complex of characters surely deserve a more extraordinary, daring production, in order to ensure that The Addams Family musical can successfully stand the test of time.
The Addams Family is at Birmingham Hippodrome until Saturday 10 June and tickets are available here.