New Wimbledon Theatre, London – until 20 May
These are the skeletons you want in your closet. In Addams Family Musical, Samantha Womack brings unexpected warmth to Morticia – is that a good thing? – and Cameron Blakeley’s Gomez, Carrie Hope Fletcher’s sensational Wednesday and Les Dennis’s baleful romantic Uncle Fester are all prime turns.
Twitter was quite sceptical about the casting of Dennis, but they needn’t have feared: although a
bankable star he’s best known as a comedian rather than a vocalist but his performance is strong and comedic, and Fester’s unexpected devotion to the moon is tender and touching.
Like a classical goddess, ghoulish Wednesday Addams has fallen in love with a mortal. From Ohio. She doesn’t want to tell her mother Morticia, her boyfriend’s family are cardboard cut-out provincial dullards, her masochistic kid brother Pugsley wants to subvert it because he’s afraid she won’t torture him any more. The conflict is slight, and the plot obvious even though it’s buoyed by some good songs, some also tortured.
I saw this on Broadway where producers had thrown $10 million dollars at it, and still it emerged unintentionally drab. Nathan Lane was on tremendous form as Gomez but ill-matched with Bebe Neuwirth (Lilith from Frasier) who looked the part but couldn’t bring Morticia to life. Or death. So it was Kevin Chamberlin‘s colossally clever and funny Uncle Fester who stole the show.
In Matthew White‘s resourceful version – a coming-of-age triumph for young producer Katy Lipson‘s Aria Entertainment because it looks and feels like a big show and the equal of many ATG and Kenwright national tours – much has been achieved on a fraction of the budget.
The cast also feels more balanced, with a natural centre in the passionate intensity between Gomez and Morticia, and a properly three-dimensional Pugsley from Grant McIntyre. The outstanding performance is Carrie Hope Fletcher‘s powerfully-sung and perfectly-timed Wednesday – she’s completely on the money whether fronting up to her mother, admonishing her timid boyfriend, or toting a crossbow to skewer dinner.
But what really caught my attention is the committed ensemble of ten newcomers. Firstly, how cleverly they’ve been matched by casting director James Orange as understudies to each of the leads but then beyond that how they collectively deliver Alastair David’s top class graveyard limb-jerking choreography with such precision and perfection. This is a long tour and as the headliners take holidays each of them should get their turn in the spotlight. When they do, look out for Scott Paige as the Roman ancestor covering Fester, and Kirsty Ingram as the Geisha ancestor covering Wednesday.