Monday, 29 April 2013

GUEST POST: Elizabeth Little gets creepy & kooky with The Addams Family

The Addams Family Musical
Capitol Theatre: from March, 2013

They're creepy and they're kooky, mysterious and spooky
They're all together ooky, the Addams Family…

The lights darken at the Capitol Theatre. The orchestra starts playing that familiar theme song, and the audience is captivated, clicking their fingers without any prompting. Thing pulls back the red velvet curtain to reveal everyone’s favourite gothic family on stage, and the fun begins.

Gomez, Morticia, Wednesday, Pugsley, Uncle Fester, Grandma Addams and Lurch started life as cartoons drawn by Charles Addams in the 1930s. In the 1960s they hit the small screen in a tv series starring Carolyn Jones and John Astin. More recently they have been portrayed in films by Anjelica Huston and Raul Julia. Now there’s a musical.  With music and lyrics by Andrew Lippa and a book by Marshall Brickman and Rick Elice, the Broadway 2010 production ran for more than 700 performances.

In this incarnation Wednesday Addams (Tegan Wouters) is all grown-up and in love. She’s bringing home a very respectable boy, Lucas (Tim Maddren), and enlists the help of her father to ensure everything goes smoothly when Lucas and his parents come for dinner. Lucas is a boy whom most parents would love, but whose very upper middle class normality causes problems for the Addams. All Wednesday wants is one normal night, but Morticia can’t help but be horrified when Wednesday forsakes her standard black dress for one of a brighter hue. Lucas too is imploring his parents to be on their best behaviour. His mother (Katrina Retallick) speaks in rhyming couplets worthy of a Hallmark card, and his father (Tony Harvey) is emotionally distant. In many ways it’s the same story line that propels the plot of La Cage Aux Folles, young lovers with differing backgrounds meeting each other’s families. But then love stories and star crossed lovers have been the stuff of theatre since man began acting out and telling stories. In this instance the story is further complicated by Gomez having to keep the news of the depth of Wednesday’s relationship from Morticia. 

John Waters is a delight as the charming Gomez Addams, who finds himself torn between his wife and daughter, trying to please both. Chloe Dallimore has Morticia’s regal glide, and her second act tango with Waters is truly captivating. But it’s Russell Dykstra’s Uncle Fester who both steals the show, and facilitates the young lovers to their happy ending. Fester declares his love for the moon in a scene that is both comical and endearingly tender.

The music is catchy and different characters have different musical motifs. Gomez and Morticia are all Spanish / Latin rhythms while Uncle Fester has a more 1920s music hall style. Wednesday and Lucas sing modern rock pop songs to declare their love, and relative craziness. The use of puppets adds that element of ‘weird’ that everyone loves about the Addams without detracting from the main action. The script is witty and plays on the ‘darkness’ of the Addams; Pugsley frets that Wednesday wont want to torture him anymore because she’s happy; he can’t sleep because the monster is missing from the cupboard in his bedroom, Wednesday and Lucas argue over who is the craziest; Morticia wont believe that Gomez has kept a secret from her. All my favourite ‘classic’ elements of the tv series were included without feeling  tokenistic: Morticia still beheads her roses, Gomez kisses Morticia’s arms, Lurch moans, Pugsley blows things up, Fester has a lightglobe that he pops in his mouth, and Gomez fences with an unmoving Lurch.  

It’s a great show, with genuinely funny moments and some real heart as the Addams and the Beinekes deal with their issues of love and trust. But by the end everything, in true musical style, ends happily. Or in typical Addams fashion, as Gomez asks Morticia at the end of the show:  “unhappy darling?” and the answer: “oh yes – yes completely.”

Elizabeth Little has a B. Art Theory (Hons)and M Art Admin, COFA UNSW. She lives and works in Sydney.

All images supplied by the writer.

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