Review: The Addams Family Musical. Theatre Royal Nottingham. (touring 2021-22)

Doo doo doo doo. Click click…It’s instantly recognisable and as soon as the audience hears this iconic tune, you can practically feel the grins of nostalgia. The orchestra absolutely fills the auditorium before Gomez (Cameron Blakely) steps onto the stage to welcome the audience with the opening number “When You’re an Addams”. The chemistry between Blakely and Joanne Clifton, who plays Morticia, is immediate and the actors play off each seamlessly as their polar opposite characterisations clash and combine.

As a reviewer, there is often something, a little something, that you feel could be tweaked in a performance but this reviewer, on this occasion, has nothing but praise for this darkly comic, highly entertaining and expertly produced theatrical spectacular. From the outset, the energy is high, the performers are committed and animated, and never, not once, does this falter.  What more could an audience ask for?

First of all, the script by Marshall Brickman and Rick Elise is extremely clever. The jokes come thick and fast – at times, you barely have time to stop laughing before the next joke. And yet there is a subtlety and a beauty in the way that love and family and change are explored with some extremely touching moments, highlighted by the lighting design (Ben Cracknell) and beautiful complementary orchestration (Alistair David).

The attention to detail from Director Matthew White and choreographer, Alistair David, is second to none. Every movement, every placement is precise and intentioned. For this reviewer, scene transitions, if not executed well, can impact the flow of a stage show; this production shows how to do transitions efficiently, with minimal impact on flow and while still entertaining the audience.

And entertainment is the name of the game in this musical where it’s “family first and family last”. The premise of the story is that Wednesday Addams has fallen in love with a “normal” boy but how can she get her family to understand what she really wants? Well, first of all, she speaks to dear old dad. Blakely is phenomenal in the part of Gomez and immediately strikes up a relationship with the audience. Fathers in the audience will have no choice but to sympathise with his character as he tries to please both wife and daughter who are at odds. This causes much humour (as do Blakely’s amazing eyebrows which seem to move independently of the rest of his face), but also moments of pure sentimentality. Gomez is the glue that holds it all together, and Blakely has his character down to a tee.

As his counterpart, Clifton’s Morticia is coldly humorous and her seeming lack of emotion and minute, graceful movements contrast well with Blakely’s sometimes exaggerated emotional state. As a former dancer on Strictly Come Dancing, the highly anticipated tango between her and Blakely does not disappoint – it is difficult to resist standing up with a paddle with TEN emblazoned on it. It is passionate and full of desire – just what the audience expect to see from Gomez and Morticia.

Just like Gomez and Morticia, Fester is cast incredibly well and his boyish anxiety and willingness to please are disarming. Scott Paige bounces around the stage like a puppy as he puts his family first and tries to find love. Paige has a wonderful voice, a strong presence and unexpectedly good dance moves. Blakely and Paige are a fabulous comic duo.

The final standout performance for this reviewer is Lurch (Dickon Gough). It’s amazing how much can be conveyed from a slow walk, a grunt, and an expressionless face. It’s a tough role to play when the expectation is pretty much be a walking corpse, but Gough brings so much fun to the stage, and what a shock when he sings towards the end. The audience gawps in amazement at his smooth deep voice.

The rest of the ensemble cast are all wonderful, but this review would be pages long if I were to write in depth about them all. However, Wednesday Addams (Kingsley Morton) is fierce and really shows her vocal range, especially in “Pulled” which is particularly memorable with excellently controlled vibrato. Alice Beineke (Kara Lane) goes on the biggest journey of self-discovery and plays the prim and proper role with just as much flair as she does vixen. Pugsley Addams (Grant Macintyre), while a little older than expected, maintains a boyish charm throughout and is the source of much laughter.

For this reviewer, the chorus really steal the show. When the chorus are on the stage, it is difficult to take your eyes of them. Much of this is down to the choreography, which is exciting and varied and well matched to the music, lyrics and storyline, but also to the amazing costumes and stunning make up. The ensemble do an absolutely tremendous job of filling the stage and portraying emotion – they are fully committed. It is very clear that all the performers love their roles and love this production – this shines through. Bravo to all!

The Addams Family is deliciously dark, and superbly funny. It’s a light hearted, fun, easy watch with a toe-tapping soundtrack but it’s only on for a few more days Nottingham’s Theatre Royal, as the run ends on Saturday 13 November. If you can, I suggest you grab a ticket – I really doo doo doo doo…

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