The Addams Family was undoubtedly the musical to see this August — to remind the audience of the slow slink into autumn, as if Halloween were just around the corner. I was lucky enough to see the show on a Wednesday, arguably the most thematic day. Having not been to the Bord Gais Energy Theatre since its refurbishment, I was taken aback by the impressive renovations.
The curtains eventually pulled back to a very familiar theme song. The audience gleefully clicked along as the orchestra drew us into the first song, “When You’re An Addams.” The musical opens with the ghoulish Addams clan visiting a graveyard for an annual gathering of all family members — whether they be alive, dead, undead or just undecided. Before the end of the scene Uncle Fester (Les Dennis) stops the Ancestors’ return to their graves to enlist their help. He explains that the usually morose Wednesday (Carrie Hope Fletcher) is in love and has invited her “normal” boyfriend, Lucas Beineke (Oliver Ormson), and his parents, Mal (Dale Rapley) and Alice (Charlotte Page), to dinner. Fester refuses to let them return until love prevails, leading to some inevitable tension and often hilarious consequences.
A highlight of this touring production is an outstanding cast and ensemble. On the night in question, Samantha Womack (best known as Ronnie Mitchell in Eastenders) was replaced by her understudy Jessica Buckby, who took on the responsibility of playing the iconic Morticia Addams. Buckby was a great Morticia and she played the role with ease and clarity. Particularly convincing was the chemistry between her Morticia and Cameron Blakely’s Gomez Addams. Gomez, with his flowery language, boundless energy, quick wit and clever timing, was a crowd pleaser and personal favourite. He had us in the palm of his hand, winning the audience over as a well-executed Gomez should. He deservedly earned the most laughs by far.
Blakely’s Gomez also carried most of the musical’s familial relationships, from the Addams’ tempestuous and loving marriage, to the father-daughter relationship with Wednesday. Blakely and Fletcher have stage history, having played father and daughter in the London production of Les Misérables (though Wednesday and Gomez’s relationship is much happier than that of Thenardier and Eponine). Fletcher was testament to the show’s casting, bringing the house down with her solo performance of one of the musical’s stand-out songs, “Pulled.”
The musical’s plot may at first glance seem like your average ‘daughter rebels against her parents to be with the boy she loves’ trope, but the musical managed to slip in questions of what it means to be normal without weighing the audience down with philosophical notions. As the musical progresses, we see Wednesday go from wishing her family was “normal” like the Beinekes to accepting and celebrating the Addams’ quirkiness. We also get to see how the Beineke family develop as characters under the Addams’ influence, transforming from a cookie-cutter traditional American family unit into individual and likeable characters.
The props and set were not as high quality as you’d expect from a major musical, which tarnished its immersiveness, particularly on a relatively small stage, but the characters were larger than life. The musical concludes with a show stopping reprisal of “When You’re an Addams” that left me wanting more and received a standing ovation from the audience. A two-hour show that felt like mere minutes, I would gladly have watched another act of outrageous, tongue-in-cheek shenanigans. Even if you’re not a fan of the Addams family, I would highly recommend this musical adaptation. You’ll leave the theatre with a grin, humming the songs under your breath.