Theatre review: The Addams Family   

By The Spade

Theatre review: The Addams Family   

The Addams Family

Theatre review: The Addams Family at An Grianan Theatre

Rarely seen on a Donegal stage, the Letterkenny Musical Society (LMS) serve up The Addams Family which dazzles in production value but owns a book that slightly deadens the spectacle. 

Originally staged in New York in 2010, The Addams family is a brave choice for any amateur group and one that poses many challenges - there is a reason the show lasted just over one year on Broadway - most of which the LMS rise to and overcome with aplomb.  

The book (by Marshall Brickman and Rick Elice), slight on story line, centres around the clandestine engagement of two young lovers, Lucas (Eoin Callaghan) and Wednesday (Mia Bradley) and how their families will react to the news once they meet. One ghoulish (you guessed it, the Addams) and the other quite grey (the Beinekes). The story line crescendos as the secret engagement is announced amidst dinner and a game of truth.

It is a game, however, which has consequences for the guests – especially the dutiful Mrs Alice Beineke (tenderly portrayed by Catriona Doherty) when she accidentally drinks a ‘darkness’ potion, that was intended for Wednesday. The result of a botched plan that had been concocted by her brother Pugsley, to try to keep her on the dark side and thus remain by his - torturing him.

The story to reignite love between the Beineke’s is the most touching thread of the evening, where we see Alice splay out her current despair and her desire for a more fulfilling relationship with her husband. This story line is poignant and welcome amidst the show’s cartoonish nature.

The performances are widespread good. Sarah Terry-Sweeney serves up a delicious Morticia – every word, gesture and movement flowing from her. Her choices are all committed and at ease with one another. She and Gomez (Giles Murray) peak during their brilliantly executed “Tango de Amor” in Act 2 and their dynamic energy throughout is well judged. Murray’s strengths clearly lay in his excellent vocal ability, whilst his acting, at times, needed to be more finely tuned. 

Mia Bradley is a memorable Wednesday, filled with an abundance of latent teenage angst that threatens to explode - and often does! Her performance allows for an occasional sweetness to bubble to the surface, which wonderfully balances her waspish portrayal and gives it a much-needed extra dimension. She is technically strong, intelligent in her choices and I look forward to seeing her again in other future diverse roles. 

There are other assured performances from a measured Donal Kavanagh as a reticent Lurch and Sean Bonner slides effortlessly into the role of Fester, squirming and wincing in his own quest for love. Nicola Shields as a sprite and mischievous Grandma deserves much praise. 

The singing from individuals and the ensemble is generally excellent. Mark Bradley (Musical Director) conducts a tight orchestral team and the music and vocals are, generally, fantastically woven throughout.

It is the middle third where this show really takes flight. Songs like the binding “I’m Crazier than You” and the ensembles “Full Disclosure” are catchy and very well performed, whilst Fester’s rendition of “The Moon and Me” is both poignant and witty. It is this section that gave this show a much-needed injection when life started to drain from it.

The set is excellent and warrants high praise. The attention to detail is fantastic. The lighting design brilliantly creates and captures the show's shadowy atmosphere that holds throughout and heightens the effects of the wonderful costumes (ghostly white figures of Indian Chiefs, Navy Admirals pop out). The tableau dinner scene was stark, epic and a joy to behold. The sight of which was as good as any viewed from the auditorium in the theatre’s 20-year-old history. The production values were of the highest standard and surely raise the bar for other amateur societies in the north-west and much applause for this must be given to producer Noel O’Donnell.

Ultimately, what lets this show down the most is its weak book and slow musical start. This, it should be stated, was not helped by stilted choreography which should have been executed with more rigour and less rigor mortis. The standards and conviction given to “Tango de Amor” are much needed throughout.

At times firmer and more inventive direction would have really helped. The representation of Central Park was weak, some set changes clunky and cast members occasionally loitered. Air could also have been sucked from the opening acted scenes between Gomez and other family members to help with pace, whilst clarity dropped and volume fell frequently enough to distract.

When all has been said and done, there is no doubt that this was a bold choice from the LMS, who next serve up KINKY BOOTS in 2021. The society is bursting with potential and much applause should be given for the hours and sweat that went into creating this largely impressive show. It is one that held many high points (oh, what a Moon!) and hopefully they can improve on some of the issues that detracted from this show’s excellent production values and memorable performances.

3/5

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