The Addams Family, Theatre Royal Bath and touring

MY knowledge of The Addams Family is based mainly on the TV series which I enjoyed in the 1970s, some ten years after it was made. I have not seen any of the recent films, or the newspaper cartoon by Charles Addams that the TV series was based on, so I come to this musical aware of the characters, and setting, but little else.

The Addams Family musical was a big hit on Broadway in 2010, this is the first UK production, and Bath audiences are amongst the first to see Gomez, Morticia, Uncle Fester and the rest of the family, with a cast that includes some famous names. Fortunately the three names in this production have all proved themselves in musical theatre, most recently Uncle Fester, Les Dennis, in the Menier’s She Loves Me, and Wednesday Addams, Carrie Hope Fletcher in Chitty Chitty Bang Bang, after a long stint as Eponine in Les Miserables, and topped with Samantha Womack as Morticia Addams, this was a cast I was looking forward to.

Composer Andrew Lippa has gained a reputation for catchy melodies and memorable songs, in cabaret and in musical versions of Big Fish and The Life of Harvey Milk, and there are many songs in this show that could become part of any performer’s repertoire.

The three names are all good in their roles, with Womack casting off her blonde Eastenders past to great effect in her long black locks, leaning slightly to one side, reminiscent of the TV Morticia, and with excellent comic timing, Dennis every inch the accomplished comic actor, much more than just a stand-up, and Fletcher showing just what a top-class star of musical theatre she has already become. Cameron Blakely is also impressive in the role of Gomez Addams, played originally on Broadway by the great Nathan Lane, but very much making the part his own here, with some lovely characterisation, good audience interaction and sensitive playing.

Wednesday’s love interest and his parents play the “normal” card very convincingly, Lurch, Grandma and Pugsley make up the other living members of the family, played with integrity. The rest of the cast are ancient ancestors, summoned from the past to help the plot, called to sing, dance and act their way through the kooky and creepy world of their Family, on the magnificent set by Diego Pitrach, and are moved well by director Matthew White and choreographer Alistair David.

This Broadway-sized production seemed to fit well into the relatively small auditorium of the Theatre Royal, but taking stock of the show on my way home, I felt a little short-changed by the plot and narrative. The show is big, brash, even spectacular at times, and the individual performances are good, at or very near the top of their game, but there is not quite enough on the human level to connect and leave memories, with a plot even simpler than many of the old half-hour TV shows.

I will enjoy hearing some of the songs in future, and hope that some of our talented local amateur groups can make something of the show when it becomes available. It was still a great night out, perhaps more of a themed variety evening than a structured piece of theatre, but I can understand why no producer has yet taken the gamble of a big West End production.  The Addams family continues its spooky, kooky tour around the country until the end of the year, including local stops at Southampton in July, Cardiff in August and Bristol in September.


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