The Addams Family (book by Marshall Brickman and Rick Elice, music and lyrics by Andrew Lippa, based on the characters created by Charles Addams) is the 2010 musical adaptation of the TV show of the same name. Running basically as an extended episode of the show, the musical transplants the family into the present day, where an older Wednesday Addams (Shani Clarke) wants to marry Lucas (Jye Cannon) but first they need the consent of their families. Lucas’ rather conservative parents Mal and Alice (Simon Thorne and Samantha (Bam) Heskett) are invited to dinner at the Addams’ house, and with a plot not too dissimilar to Jerry Hermans’ La Cage Aux Folles, hilarity ensues and differences are celebrated.
This is a fairly slick production of a problematic show. The first act speeds along confidently and entertainingly, but the less successful second act does not seem as well structured.
Production values for this show are high. The set (Mike Fletcher, David Greenwood, Keith Greenwood, Brett Wallis & Michael Hawthorn) utilises a mixture of physical set pieces with projection quite effectively. Set dressing is meticulous but not over crowded, effectively setting atmosphere without over filling the stage. The video projections of ancestors on picture frames over the action was a missed opportunity however – there didn’t seem to be much point in projecting live video of static characters. Some small movement, or running gags could have effectively added to the omnipresence of these ensemble members.
Impeccable costuming by Maxine Urquhart captured the essence of these well-known characters, but of particular note was her design and execution of the costumes for the ensemble. Using a basic palette of greys, off whites and silver she thoroughly and effectively captured the ghostly quality of the Addams Family ancestors from many eras of history.
Lighting was generally effective, but there did seem to be some unlit areas downstage on the edges of the stage, perhaps a mix of plotting problems and actors not hitting their mark on the stage. Sound was balanced but loud, some mic cues on entrance missed for actors.
Opening night had some significant difficulties with scene changes and transitions that had not been total ironed out in the tech runs. The over use of the red curtain between scenes was unnecessary – some quick crossover scenes could have gone up much faster without the curtain dropping and then being raised again. Momentum of the action was hampered by these technical issues.
Overall this is a very strong cast. Chris Hughes’ portrayal of Gomez Addams showed great comic flair and timing, and Narelle Bonnici was generally effective as Morticia, although at times her dialogue was difficult to hear, especially over musical cues. Shani Clarke gave a vocally confident performance as Wednesday. Also of note was Sue Rawkins’ delightfully wacky Grandma, and Samantha (Bam) Heskett was consistently strong and hilarious in her performance as Alice, the conservative mother with a penchant for poetry. The ensemble was consistently excellent, of particular note was their work in the opening number of the show “When You’re an Addams”
Direction by Christian Cavallo was generally sound, although somewhat static, and I would have liked to see him work with the ensemble more than using them as living set dressing. Mixing up the ways the ancestors interacted with the ‘living’ characters or may have added interest, and certainly at times making them more discreet in the more intimate character scenes may have been prudent.
Choreography by Ashley Boyd was overall of an excellent standard, particularly in Act 1, but as we moved more into Act 2, there seemed to be less polish – particularly in Uncle Fester’s Moon number and the Tango number toward the end of the act.
Brad Treloar delivered a generally slick sound from his band, but he might need to work with them on the scene transitions to ensure a lack of dead space if changeover is slow again this week. Vocal work by the entire cast was excellent overall.
There is no doubt that The Addams Family is an entertaining night of theatre. Our long association and familiarity with these characters ease us into an enjoyable romp. Centerstage have delivered overall a well-polished and good looking production of this show. Once the small technical issues have been sorted out, the rest of the season should be a successful one for the company.