Content Warnings for The Addams Family:
Mentions of death, torture and dismemberment
References to sex
Weapons, poison, torture devices
Last night I went to see LAMMP’s x Backstage’s performance of The Addams Family musical. I went in with what I knew about the family from Netlflix’s Wednesday, and the two versions of the film I’d seen. I’d heard buzzing rumours about the show’s excellent performance, and it didn’t disappoint.
When we entered the Riley Smith Theatre, we were greeted by Cousin It, flipping through an NYC map. We took our seats, the lights went down, and they followed the map to the Addams house where the chaos began.
All photo credits go to Abby Swain.
The band introduced us into the world, with the first few familiar notes of the Addams Family theme tune, with an unnerving, detached hand clicking through the curtain, the crowd started to join in. We heard the ensemble first before the curtain revealed the whole family stood in a strong still image. Kate Gerrard’s costume design is impeccable; it’s everything you want it to be: from Gomez Addams’ (played by Henry Marshall) oversized striped suit, to Grandma Addams’ (played by Cara Staniforth) multiple layers of scratchy knitted costume and crazy white wig, flicked up like the two horns of a triceratops.
The performers fall into the first song, “When you’re an Addams,” with an effortless charm, demonstrating all the nuanced mannerisms of the ghoulish family. The opening number gives us a parade of the ghosts; the Addams Ancestors all dressed in white with intense ghostly makeup. We are welcomed into their celebration when Fester stops them from returning to their graves. We learn that Wednesday (played by Mirra Kirthivasan), has fallen in love with a "normal" boy, and Uncle Fester (played by Zak Muggleton), wants to help them, stealing the ghosts to assist him. The ensemble of ghosts are very well played. They come together smoothly for all dance routines, any demonstrations of love, a few sneaky moments to eavesdrop and the occasional background gags.
A dinner is announced between the Addams and the Beinekes – the family of Wednesday’s "friend". As Wednesday confesses her secret love for Lucas Beineke (played by Cameron Mullin), to her father, she tells him to not tell his wife Morticia (played by Maria McCarthy). We see the first of a series of motifs of Gomez’ confusion. Marshall’s accent is striking and strong, not faltering one bit throughout the performance. He addresses the audience in a gorgeous, white spotlight, backlit with two strips of pink LEDs, and sings his confusion – should he lie to his wife, or his daughter? This beautifully timed comedic moment, repeats in a series of motifs throughout the musical, growing in intensity and drama.
When the families meet, the striking juxtaposition of their costumes and demeaners is amazing. As the cast sing “One Normal Night,” we learn about the Beineke’s own weird and wonderful quirks with Alice (played by Anna Duffell), bursting with poetry in her bright yellow dress, to Mal (played by Elliot King), and his criticism of everything not ‘"normal", as he stands out in a beige suit among the monochrome of the rest of the cast. Tension rises through haze and lighting and we can’t wait to see the fallout.
The acting from all sides is particularly exceptional, every single performer had so much energy, hitting the comedic timings perfectly, and working together with ease. Ruth Rusnak’s direction with assistance from Kate Gerrard, allowed the ghosts to gain their own character development through background interactions that added to the whacky nature of the musical. The direction and performance of Alice’s breakdown in the song “Waiting” is a showstopper, its energy and execution matched by Mirra Kirthivasan’s performance of “Pulled.” Maria McCarthy’s portrayal of Morticia Addams is stunning, the power she holds over the entire cast, Gomez especially, is palpable; meanwhile, Marshall and McCarthy’s chemistry is clear and strong in their performance together.
The technical design by Backstage Society fits the bill to a T. There were a few tiny mic issues – but what musical isn’t complete without a mic stopping mid song. The lighting by Megan Murphy and Beth Warriner, beautifully enhanced the set, created by Shelley Smith and Charlotte Aldred. I greatly enjoyed the use of gobbos throughout, and the decision to use dark blue floor lighting and window frames instead of blackouts for scene changes. I really appreciated the way they brought the set to us, creating the entrance to the graveyard by the DSR stage door. The use of the ghosts to make the forest and other set pieces was well chosen. The A-shaped set covered in spiderwebs and black cloth, with hanging dirty mirrors, perfectly hit the mark of the Addams house whilst allowing space for the forest/garden and other outside scenes. A moment I won’t forget is the image of Morticia and Gomez at the taxi rank. The entire scene was exquisite; from the lit-up haze that gushed out from behind the scaffold set, to Adele Kirby's choreography of the Addams’ dance.
The band, conducted by Alex Boulton, were in perfect sync with each other for the whole performance. Every song hit the mark and elevated the piece. I was initially sad to not have seen them on stage or in front but understood the creative choice for space and show reasons. There were beautiful moments where the lighting design and the band coordinated, shifting intensity in sync.
Every element of this show increases in energy levels and hilarity as we move into the second act, but I won’t spoil anymore. I can’t fit all the amazing talent that’s gone into the production into this review, you’ll have to come see it for yourselves!