Who said musical theatre is all sunshine and hum-along melodies? The Addams Family, at the Congress Theatre till Saturday, might just change your view, writes Kevin Anderson.
This is Rattonians, but not as we know them.
In an outstanding season of Congress musicals, this show genuinely stands alongside the best of them.
Don’t even think of labelling it an amateur production: from preparation and planning through to performance, this company shines with professionalism.
The casting is uncannily perfect, and long-established cast members simply revel in their roles. When the performers are so obviously enjoying a show to the hilt, it’s impossible not to join them.
Nothing in the musical theatre spectrum quite compares with The Addams Family. It is not Rocky Horror anarchy. It occasionally feels like the darker moments of Sondheim, but without the introversion.
Wickedly brilliant lyrics and bold music actually create a kind of parody of musical theatre, as if you’re looking down a hall of distorting mirrors. And it seduces you into seeing the abnormal as normal.
A blood-red and midnight-black set glowers at you from start, with a ghostly-white chorus slowly emerging from somewhere on the Other Side.
It’s all fabulously ghoulish and, of course, one great big send-up, with nothing actually horrific. James Hookway’s brilliant Uncle Fester is positively cuddly and Damon Weller’s Lurch the Butler is a comic masterpiece.
The humour is only slightly tasteless and achingly funny.
The excellent James Bell bustles and blusters as Gomez, while his wife Morticia (Heather Bilton) assuredly maintains a fiendish control of the family dynamics. Melanie Adams is a riot as the Grandma with some gruesome habits. Ben Williamson is the perfect – well, imperfect – adolescent son, and cousin Megan Clarke tags along under an absurd furry costume.
Stealing the show as daughter Wednesday, Laura Sivers absolutely sizzles: a characterisation as sharp as a knife and an awesome voice with both power and control.
But the unearthly Addams Family and the real world are about to collide. Wednesday wants to marry out, with her young beau Lucas Beineke – a lyrical, assured performance from ingénue Laurence Dengate. And his family are nicely normal: Steve Clarke the hapless Dad and Jane James the Mum who lives her twee little life in rhyming couplets.
The Act One finale is as good as any piece of theatre you will see this year – anywhere – as characters one by one sip from the truth-drug chalice, and make their bizarre and hilarious “Full Disclosures”.
In the process, Mrs Beineke throws off every inhibition and delivers a show-stopping aria to hedonism: Jane James at her very best in gloriously fine voice.
The ensemble is truly an ensemble - tight, disciplined energy and forceful expressive singing that makes the most of some delicious lyrics.
Jan Lynton’s brilliant choreography takes the big numbers into a new dimension: not just your standard song-and-dance routines, but a whole underworld moving in ghostly rhythm. Carl Greenwood briskly directs a quite boisterous orchestral score.
If the show has a weakness, the first half slightly outshines the second, and the writing does dip slightly just after half-time.
It needs another big ensemble number, but for that we have to wait for the absolutely stunning finale. Rattonians, you chose boldly – and you triumphed!