“Funny to the point of tears…”
I hate The Addams Family theme song. It’s not that I think it’s bad, I think it’s too good. It’s every bit as iconic as it is catchy. No matter who you are or what you do, as soon as you hear that da da dadum *click click*, you’ll be reduced to a finger-snapping, grinning mess. Driving a car? Doesn’t matter. Operating heavy machinery? Tough luck nerd. You’re on a one way bus trip to Addams-town and there’s only one song playing on the radio.
And just as epochal is the tune’s creepy, kooky subject matter. The cemetery-dirt stained shoes of the Addams family are impossibly large ones to fill, and although EUSOG’s ambitious production fell an inch or two short of six feet under, it’s a performance so bouncy and entertaining that you’d hardly even notice.
It’s crisis in the Addams household: Wednesday (Ashleigh More) is growing up fast, and even worse, she’s fallen in love with a guy so normal he makes white bread look like a Harley Davidson. Now, his parents are coming to town, and the family needs to be on their best behaviour. It goes just about as well as it sounds like it might. It’s hardly a daring new direction in terms of plot cliché, but there are fine seeds growing in this well-trod ground.
From the outset, it’s very clear that this is a talented cast. Scott Meenan’s Gomez is an utter joy to watch, and an even greater one to listen to. His comic timing and twitchy crispness of movement enhanced an already impressively funny repertoire of gags. But even more impressive was his emotional range: it’s easy to tickle a funnybone, but less so to pull a heartstring.
And whilst Melani Carrie’s Morticia often lacked the steely, sultry smugness which forms the character’s backbone, it’s hard not to be blown away by her voice – not to mention her knack for latin footwork. She was very much the smoky family matriarch, but when next to Meenan, she seemed oddly muted. However, this never affected the performance to the point of becoming a significant problem, and all feelings of flatness were limited to the spoken portions of the show. When Carrie opens her mouth, it’s like being hit by a verbal sledgehammer.
Though perhaps more nuanced than the footwork was More’s Wednesday Addams. Although usually presented as a monotone proto-goth, I was pleasantly surprised by More’s characterization. She perfectly embodies the sense of being pulled in two directions, and manages to do so in such an entertaining and genuine way that it never falls into the usual trap of feeling hackneyed or trope-ish. This was an excellent performance in every sense – especially the oddly sweet chemistry between her and masochistic brother Pugsley (Holly Marsden).
Championing the side of “normalcy” is the impressive Nitai Levi; having traded his moody rocker persona a-la Rent for wonderfully dorky fianceé Lucas, he provided a great foil for More’s Wednesday, delicately dancing the line between nerdily sincere and annoying. And it seems like the talent runs in the family: Mother Alice (Esmee Cook) and Father Mal (Patrick Wilmott) inject ever more laughter into what is already a show bursting at the seams.
But if stealing a show was a jailable offence, Campbell Keith would be going away for a very long time. Acting as the show’s narrator, Keith’s Uncle Fester dominated the stage every time his weirdly pale head popped out of the wings. It’s hard to make a man who looks like Humpty Dumpty’s goth cousin charismatic, but I’ll be damned if he didn’t succeed.
But all the talent in the world, unfortunately, can’t control a tech setup. Whilst the swell of voices (especially thanks to the ghostly chorus of Ancestors) managed to rise above the band, the microphones were simply too quiet. I lost most of the lyrics in the first half, and the problem still persisted through some numbers in the second act. And the lights, whilst vibrant and interesting, sometimes felt oddly out of sync with the action on stage. In isolation, either of these issues may not matter. But eventually, grains of sand do become a heap.
And although the chorus should be applauded for their brilliance in terms of both movement and vocal work, the choreography sometimes felt cluttered. There were times I was genuinely afraid an overenthusiastic kick might KO the cellist. Having fewer objects and people on stage may have helped this production breathe easy.
However, I’m loathe to admit the above for a number of reasons. The first being that it would be a crying shame to lose any of the strong chorus, and the masterful musical section – the former never faltering even in the show’s faster and more energetic sections. And secondly, changing the stage would mean altering the breathtakingly Burton-esque set dreamed up by Lu Kocaurek. I’d feel more comfortable pushing over a henge.
Although blighted by a few blips, this was a show more than worthy of its pedigree. Funny to the point of tears and touching to very much the same end, EUSOG’s Addams Family is just as creepy and kooky as that damned theme song promises. Check this one out while you can: Kate Pasola and Rebecca Simmonds have conjured up a brilliant show indeed.
Reviewer: Jacob Close (Seen 17 November).
Go to EUSOG for The Addams Family & cast list.
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