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Review: The Addams Family Musical In Concert (London Palladium)

Review by Daz Gale


⭐️⭐️⭐️

One of the most iconic and terrifyingly ghoulish families in pop culture are heading to the West End. No, not the Kardashians. I’m of course referring to the Addams Family click click. They have taken the world of TV and film by storm, but have never made it to the West End… until now that is as The Addams Family makes its long awaited and far belated West End debut with a special “concert” (I use that term loosely) at the London Palladium. Would this production be spooktacular or a bit of a horror show?

 

The Addams Family have been around since 1938 (and don’t they look good for their age?) in various forms but it took until 2009 for the stage musical to make its debut. Broadway followed the next year and it has enjoyed 2 UK tours in 2017 and 2021 but this concert marks its first time in the West End. The plot of the musical sees relationships tested and secrets kept when Wednesday, the princess of darkness, fall in love with a sweet man from a respectable family. The action takes place over one evening when an unconventional and eventful dinner party bringing the two very different families together threatens to change everything.



Whenever you get a one night only (well, three performances here) production of a musical billed as a concert, it is always worth taking that with a pinch of salt. A concert production can be the cast standing still and performing or semi-staged with a handful of props and choreography thrown in. And then there’s The Addams Family  - not a concert in any shape or form but pretty much fully staged. Think full choreography, as much staging as is feasible (and beyond) for a production like this and a top production value and you get the idea. If their mission was to challenge the perceptions of what a concert production can be and what it is capable of, consider this a job well done,

 

In regards to the production value, every element on offer impressed – with Alistair David’s choreography bringing to life (well… death) some of the bigger ensemble numbers, Ben Cracknell’s lighting ensuring the whole thing looked beautiful while still retaining its trademark darkness and fantastic direction from Matthew White giving a playful and fun approach to the storytelling. It certainly was ambitious, especially for a concert production and, as such, not everything worked as meticulously as it should, Several moments fell flat due to issues with timing and prolonged pauses lessoning an impact while the night was dogged by sound problems with missed cues meaning we were unable to hear some cast members at times. This can be a common problem with concerts, particularly on the first night – and far more went right than went wrong on the night.



Marshall Brickman and Rick Elice’s book takes the characters we know and love and puts them in uncharted territory. Having the very much in love Gomez and Morticia at the verge of a breakup and the princess of darkness Wednesday Addams much lighter than usual were bold choices, and led to a very different show than might have been unexpected. The Addams Family is anything but safe in its attempts, with a rather bizarre sub-plot seeing Fester falling in love with the moon as surreal as you would expect. Some funny moments, fantastic one-liners and great character exposition fill the show though the book does feel a bit inconsistent at times and too thin at others.

 

One of the more successful aspects of The Addams Family is Andrew Lippa’s music and lyrics. Though not every number lands, some of the standouts are as stunning as they come with Wednesday’s early solo ‘Pulled’ one of the more memorable numbers. The very much on-the-nose ‘Just Around The Corner’ brings every classic musical theatre moment together for one show-stopping number, while ‘Tango De Amor’ brings Gomez and Morticia’s love for dance together in one sensational sequence.



The main draw for this concert of The Addams Family is in its star casting. Ramin Karimloo is an inspired choice to play Gomez Addams, displaying no shortage of style and charisma on the stage as he charms everyone he interacts with… and every member of the audience. A truly phenomenal talent, he is on fine form as he brings all the humour and heart to the character. Of course, Ramin is known for his out-of-this-world singing voice and he gets some big moments to showcase his singing chops here, particularly in the latter part of the musical with ‘Happy Sad’ and ‘Not Today’ a perfect display for his remarkable talents.

 

The iconic character of Morticia Addams is played by another icon, the diva that is Michelle Visage. There is no doubt she looks utterly fabulous in the part and has the ability to charm anyone with the slightest of movement, not to mention a good singing voice which delights whenever she gets the opportunity. However, her talents elsewhere were not matched on this occasion by her acting which was noticeably lacking, leaving an unconvincing and wooden delivery of her lines. The easiest way to describe it is if this was an acting challenge on RuPaul’s Drag Race, I’m sorry to say she may find herself lip-syncing for her life. Despite the uneven nature of her own performance, I still loved her performance for the most part, but moments of her Morticia lacked the necessary oomph to really make the words transcend the stage. I found that a real shame as someone who is a big fan of Michelle personally.



Telly favourite Lesley Joseph is delightfully batty though criminally underused in a scene-stealing turn as Grandma while Sam Buttery gives a deliciously overblown performance as Uncle Fester, holding together some semblance of narrative by regularly breaking the fourth wall. Nicholas McLean gives a sweet, naive and downright strange portrayal of the youngest Addams, Pugsley, while Dickon Gough proves less can always be more with a note-perfect (even if it just the same note repeatedly) characterisation of Lurch.

 

In a show full of impressive performances, one performer really stood out above all else and that would be Chumisa Dornford-May. Tackling the role of Wednesday Addams is no easy task but not only did she manage to bring the Wednesday everybody instantly recognises and loves to the stage, she also well and truly made it her own. An enormous talent, her inflictions, mannerisms and stage presence were phenomenal to behold and managed to stand out among a cast of heavyweight performers and household names. Chumisa is definitely one name to remember and a performer to keep an eye on.



It’s not just about the Addams’ here, with the Beineke family also getting a look in. Newsies favourite Ryan Kopel lights up the stage with his loveable character of Lucas. Sean Kingsley gives a winning turn as Mal but it is down to the Benineke mother, Alice, for the most memorable performance. As Alice, Kara Lane is a revelation with her transformation showing a versatility in her acting and impeccable choices delivered flawlessly every single time. A total joy to watch – give us the Alice Beineke spinoff musical immediately.

 

The Addams Family is a fun way to spend a couple of hours. While the content in itself can be a bit inconsistent, this fantastic production manages to gloss over some of the more uneven elements to varying degrees of success. Some stunning performances and a great production value meant this ambitious concert was far more impressive than expected. However, several inconsistencies and a leading performance that didn’t quite match her fellow performers did let it down somewhat in a production which, while still highly enjoyable and nowhere near a horror show, didn’t always click.

 

The Addams Family played the London Palladium on 12th & 13th February 2024. Keep an eye on The Addams Family - The Musical Comedy for any future life

Rehearsal photos by Pamela Raith, setup photos by Craig Sugden, Curtain call photo by Mark Sykes

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