The Addams Family

Apr 10 2024 | By More

★★★★☆     Finger clicking good

Church Hill Theatre: Tue 9 – Sat 13 April 2024
Review by Thom Dibdin

Edinburgh Music Theatre have a beautifully concise production of The Addams Family at the Church Hill Theatre to Saturday. It hits its mark bang on, from the very first finger click of that iconic introduction right up its full blown love-in finale.

Director Niall King has played something of a blinder, with plenty of kooky ideas and subtle updates. He wields his large – 40 strong – cast with authority; while choreographer Ashleigh Le Cras clearly knows that cast and its abilities well, consistently playing to the whole company’s strengths.

Meet the Family Sean Quinn, Dom Sugrue, Kayleigh MacDonald, Sheona Dorrian, Chanel Turner-Ross, Ian McKenna, Lindsay MacLaren. Pic: Alan Potter Photography.

By now, most people will know what they are getting with The Addams Family. Its first UK professional tour opened at the Festival Theatre and it has become something of an amateur favourite.

EMT do well, then, to keep it fresh. It starts from the bottom with a solid design by production manager Charlie Johnson Walker, repurposing an old set from Falkirk Youth Theatre. It’s a basic up and over, but the living portraits on the back cloth and the dark but groovy wallpaper are very nice touches.

It looks good but, most importantly, it provides enough space – just – for those 40 performers to be on stage at once. It is telling that just how spacious it appears to be, every time a performer is left alone on stage after one of the big chorus numbers.

fastidiously scathing

Marshall Brickman and Rick Elice’s book, based on the sit-com characters created by Charles Addams, gets straight into the action. The fastidiously scathing, recalcitrant teenager Wednesday Addams has fallen in love with Lucas Beineke, a boy from a “normal” family.

The pair are not just in love – but are secretly engaged. Wednesday enlists her father Gomez’s help to ensure everything runs smoothly when the Beineke’s are invited round for an evening meal, before Wednesday reveals her secret to her mother, Morticia.

Kieran Robson Renner (wearing tie) with Rosie Sugrue, Ian McKenna, Laura McAnna, Mhairi Summers and Fiona Hendry. Pic: Alan Potter Photography.

If the plot is driven by Lindsay MacLaren, who has a ball playing Wednesday, it revolves around Sean Quinn as Gomez, who is caught between the two loves of his life – his daughter and his wife. He can’t keep his promise to one, without keeping a secret from the other.

Quinn brings everything to the role: a great singing voice, an aloof poise and a strong sense of Gomez’s bombast. But most of all he brings clarity. Andrew Lippa’s lyrics are a clever and punning delight, with a nicely finessed political edge, and Quinn has just the strongly articulated voice that is needed to do them justice.

Moreover, Quinn’s performance clearly conveys Gomez’s feeling of being trapped between his loves, even if the comic asides in the script didn’t inform us of such.

hip-swinging agility

MacLaren’s Wednesday is an equally complex character – and those complexities are all the harder to convey given Wednesday’s notorious poker-face. Her relationship with Gomez is clear – he’s wound round her little finger – as is her relationship with Kieran Robson Renner’s well-balanced Lucas. She and Kayleigh MacDonald as younger brother Pugsley neatly set up the running gag of his love of being tortured by her.

Chanel Turner-Ross brings a strong turn as Morticia. She has the whip-cracking, sneering facade, combined with a real hip-swinging agility to her dance numbers, particularly those with the six, spot-on “Dancestors”, where her all-black outfit is made to pop even more by the dancers being all in white, creating some of the show’s visual highlights.

It’s Torture being an Addams – Lindsay MacLaren and Kayleigh Macdonald. Pic: Alan Potter Photography.

Turner-Ross and Quinn also seem to have the majority of the duets, all of which have a commendable balance. There is generally good balance all round. That between the stage and the band under MD Rob Stewardson in the pit is mostly okay, although some of Wednesday’s solo efforts do get swamped and her words become indistinct.

For the rest of the family, Ian McKenna is convincingly bizarre as Uncle Fester who takes a narrator role and orchestrates the dead ancestors to stay amidst the living, to aid Wednesday in her pursuit of love. His big The Moon and Me number with the female Ancestors is another treat. Although you can’t help wondering what technical issue stopped lighting designer Jacob Henney from front-lighting the splendid full moon.

cackling maniacally

Dom Sugrue is as wooden as he should be as Lurch, the taciturn butler – delivering his moments in the limelight with panache. By contrast, Sheona Dorrian is a well OTT Granny Addams, cackling maniacally, smoking weed in the attic and leading young Pugsley astray.

Sarah-Louise Donnelly and Russel Coid portray the normies, Lucas’s parents Alice and Mal, with ease. There is much fun in Coid and Quinn’s interactions when Mal Beineke is being shown round the Addams family mansion.

Sarah Louise Donnelly (in yellow) with the Dancestors and assorted Featured Ancestors. Pic: Alan Potter Photography.

But it is Donnelly who really gets to go out on a limb with the insipidly rhyming Alice. Her big revelation at the end of the first act, after dinner when Morticia insists that they all play The Game, is a real treat. Indeed, the whole dinner is tremendously well-staged.

A huge amount of thought and characterisation has gone into the chorus of Ancestors. The ten featured ancestors all have very clear personalities, which adds greatly to the success of the show, while the 14-strong ensemble ancestors linger menacingly in the shadows.

The wardrobe department, coordinated by Lauren McAnna, has sourced some often amusing outfits for the chorus and ensemble, which helps greatly in their differentiation whether it is Dead Elvis or the macabre twins from The Shining.

And that is one of the great joys of the production. Much as Pugsley might prefer it, the whole thing isn’t put in a straight jacket, but allowed to breath. Gomez and Morticia get to add a particularly cracking ad-lib to the script and there are surely more updates to both script and lyrics than Granny’s reference to Tik Tok.

A big, mostly strong and always clever production, EMT’s The Addams Family is worth a bite.

Running time: Two hours and 25 minutes (including one interval)
Church Hill Theatre, 33 Morningside Road, EH10 4DR.
Tue 9 – Sat 13 April 2024.
Evenings: 7.30pm.
Tickets and details: Book here.

Ian McKenna (Fester, centre) with the Ancestors. Pic: Alan Potter Photography.

Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

Comments are closed.