It’s a rare privilege and thrill to be present at the world premiere of what’s clearly set to be a smash-hit production of a wildly popular musical; but that’s what happened to the lucky audience at the Festival Theatre on Tuesday night, as Aria Entertainment and Music & Lyrics officially rang up the curtain on The Addams Family–The Musical Comedy, a brilliantly revised and re-energised version of Andrew Lippa’s 2010 Broadway hit, with book by Marshall Brickman and Rick Elice.
Festival Theatre, Edinburgh *****
Based on the original cartoons by Charles Addams –later immortalised on television and in a series of teenage cult-hit films – Lippa’s musical achieves a brilliant combination of faithfulness to the original Addams Family image, and pure, witty invention, particularly in a playlist of 20 fine songs, all woven around meaty minor-key Latin rhythms and suitably chilly harmonies.
All the well-known characters are there, from the fabulous Morticia and her debonair husband Gomez, to their teenage-goth daughter Wednesday, chubby Uncle Fester and the butler, Lurch.
And the show boasts both an excellent story – a kind of Rocky Horror riff in which Wednesday falls in love with an apparently straight-up American guy called Lucas Beineke –and some superb casting.
The elegant and witty Samantha Womack plays Morticia to the manner born, Cameron Blakely makes the finest Gomez any Addams fan could wish to see, Les Dennis strikes exactly the right note of helplessly macabre good nature as Uncle Fester, and Carrie Hope Fletcher almost literally raises the roof with her stunning performance as Wednesday Addams, not least in her fabulous anthem of teenage goth confusion, Pulled.
The result is a truly witty and exhilarating show, full of satirical energy, hilarious one-liners, and superb musical numbers, all driven along by Andrew Hilton’s impressive live eight-piece band. There’s never been a better moment, after all, to challenge conventional apple-pie ideas about “the real America” with something a shade more sassy, violent and evil.
And with Diego Pitarch’s brilliant set and costumes setting exactly the right mood, this Addams Family emerges from the gloom of 2017 to administer a cheerfully ghoulish shock to the system; and to remind us, in the words of the first act finale, that when Full Disclosure finally takes place, it’s not only the proudly macabre Addams Family that will turn out to have a few skeletons in the cupboard, instruments of torture in the basement and a chorus of rotting ancestors, writhing picturesquely on the stairs.
Festival Theatre, Edinburgh, final performances today; and at the King’s Theatre, Glasgow, 10-14 October