The latest blockbuster musical to hit our stage, The Addams Family, opened at Sydney’s Capitol Theatre this week, and from the moment the orchestra started up with that familiar theme, they held the audience in the palm of their dismembered hand.
For anyone growing up in the late 60’s – 70’s, The Addams Family was a TV staple, featuring a kooky extended family with a macabre, alternative outlook on life. Based on the cartoons of Charles Addams, the Addams family embraced those things that us ‘normal’ people shun.
Somewhat surprisingly, given the impact it had, the original television series only ran for two seasons, although it appeared in re-runs for decades. The 1991 film starring Raul Julia and Angelica Huston was a reasonable success at the box office, despite its lukewarm response from critics. This new musical version premiered in 2010, starring music theatre heavyweights, Nathan Lane and Bebe Neuwirth in the key roles of Gomez and Morticia, an indication perhaps of the high hopes held for it. The show ran for a respectable 18 months on Broadway, with a US tour currently under way.
In truth, the plot is pretty basic, indeed it could probably be covered quite comfortably in a 30-minute television episode. Daughter Wednesday is all but grown up, and has fallen in love with a boy from a ‘normal’ family – Lucas Beineke. Fearful of what her mother (Morticia) will say, she enlists her father’s (Gomez) help to bring the two families together over dinner, and swears him to secrecy. But the Addams’ have a policy of tell all and Gomez struggles between the promise he makes to his daughter to keep shtum and his commitment to his wife to tell her everything.
The Beineke family arrives – a repressed Mid-west couple with their understandably nervous son – and its clear from the outset they have problems of their own. The Addams’ do their best impersonation of a ‘normal’ family but Morticia suspects her husband is keeping something from her and instigates a game of ‘full disclosure’ – where each member must tell a secret. Gomez is evasive, only adding to Morticia’s suspicion, while Alice Beineke (accidentally under the influence of an inhibition potion) confesses more than she should – and both families suddenly find themselves facing an existential crisis.
The pace in the second act slows a little, while each character works through their own particular issues, but of course this is a romantic comedy (of sorts), and you just know it will all work out in the end.
If the plot is a little thin, the characters are a delight to spend time with and the musical numbers, mixing contemporary music theatre with some Spanish style, are enjoyable, if forgettable. But what makes this Australian production really shine is the near-perfect casting – John Waters is superb as Gomez, bringing genuine warmth and heart to his character, even if his Spanish accent is a little shaky at times. Russell Dykstra as Uncle Fester plays a sweet matchmaker and all but steals the show with his serenade to the moon, aided by some very daggy but clever puppetry and lighting.
The character of Morticia is perhaps unfairly cast as a bit of a stick-in-the-mud in this particular retelling, but Chloe Dallimore gives a fine performance and again shows off her outstanding dance skills. Other terrific performances include Teagan Wouters as Wednesday and Katrina Retallick as Alice Beineke.
Director Jerry Zaks has elicited strong performances from the entire cast, and while the show isn’t exactly breaking new ground, what it does, it does exceptionally well. This is a thoroughly entertaining production, definitely one for the whole family. Highly recommended.
The Addams Family
Book by Marshall Brickman & Rick Elice | Music and Lyrics by Andrew Lippa
Director Jerry Zaks
Venue: Capitol Theatre | 13 Campbell Street, Haymarket NSW
Dates: Opening night March 23, 2013. Currently on sale until May 5, 2013
Tickets: $49 – $149