The Addams Family – a new Musical Comedy.
Book by Marshall Brickman and Rick Elice. Music and lyrics by Andrew Lippa. Directed by Stephen Pike. Choreography by Annette Sharp[e. Musical Direction by Matthew Webster. Set Design. Brian Sudding. Lighting Design. Hamisch McConchie. Costumes by Christine Pawlicki. Produced by The Queanbeyan Performing Arts Centre. The Q Theatre. March 3 – 17. 2017
Reviewed by Peter Wilkins
In the Sixties we would sit in front of our Black and White television set to watch American domestic sit coms, featuring middle class families, living their American Dream. Shows such as Leave It To Beaver and My Three Sons upheld the moral virtues of the American way. And then came The Addams Family, a collection of weird and wacky, very crazy family members, who lived in a Gothic mansion on North cemetery Ridge in Central Park. Morticia was the curvaceous clad-in-black wife , played in the current Q Theatre production by the entrancing Lainie Hart. Gomez, her husband, played with Spanish flair by Gordon Nicholson, was her adoring and passionate husband. Their children, Wednesday and Pugsley ( Rachel Thornton and Callum Doherty) were their young children with a penchant for ghoulish delights. Uncle Fester (Tim Stiles) , Grandma (Barbara Denham) and Lurch, the grunting butler (Nathan Rutups) made up this bizarre family.
In Marshall Brickman and Rick Elice’s new musical, with music and lyrics by Andrew Lippa, Charles Addams’s eccentric family have been brought to life in a vibrant, funny and stylishly staged production by Queanbeyan Performing Arts Centre at The Q Theatre under the skilful and meticulous direction of Stephen Pike. The musical introduces certain differences. Wednesday is now a young woman with a more highly developed sadistic streak and who is only too happy to oblige by torturing her much younger, insistently masochistic brother Pugsley . Into this bizarre household stumble the normal Beineke family. Son, Lucas (Liam Downing), has fallen in love with Wednesday after a meeting in central Park. Father, Mal (Joseph McGrail Bate-up), and mother Alice (Deanna Gibbs) have lost the spark that still ignites the passion for Morticia and Gomez and the young people’s intention to marry throws a veritable spanner into the works for both families.
Throw in the chorus of the Dear Departed and you have a recipe for ghoulish antics and surprising twists of fate and character, which all amounts to an hilarious, entertaining evening of harmless frightful fun at the theatre . Brian Sudding’s design sets the right atmosphere, although perhaps a little more Art Nouveau than Gothic. Still this is a musical with a touch of spoof and a message of love and happy craziness. Annette Sharpe’s choreography is slick and sensuous and the company relish the chance to trip out a touch of Tango to the fulsome sound of Matthew Webster’s finely conducted orchestra. Hamish McConchie has scored a triumph with his lighting design for Eclipse Sound and Lighting. Pike’s production looks great, sounds great and there are first class performances from principals and chorus alike. There are stand-out performances from Stiles, Hart, the ebullient Nicholson, and Rutups. Brickman and Elice’s book is less satisfying, made more markworthy by clever performances and inventive direction, musical direction and choreography. Lippa’s music, while catchy and eminently singable is a compilation of snippets of familiar numbers from popular music. This is a score that lacks sophistication, but then it doesn’t pretend to be more than it is, a collection of catchy tunes to tap your feet to.
Charles Addams’ cartoons in the New Yorker ushered in fresh commentary on the American way of life. It’s OK to be different, as long as you live a life of love, honesty and caring and “Live Before Ypou Die.” The Beinekes learn that crazy is OK and everyone accepts that it’s OK for Uncle Fester to be in love with the Moon. At least they can all be true to themselves and each other.
Pike and his company have given the musical a touch of sophisticated morality, while retaining the sheer joy of bright and bouncy entertainment that is sure tickle a skeleton’s funny bone.