The “der da der dum. Click. Click.” of The Addams Family theme tune resonated around the Theatre at Headington on Friday night. With echoes from its original incarnation for the 1960s TV series of Charles Addams' earlier cartoons, through its many subsequent forms to its 2010 incarnation as a Broadway musical currently being performed by the graduating class of Stagecoach Theatre Arts.
The staging of this performance was minimal with a balcony and backdrop suggestive of the Addams family mansion with the placing of iron railings and other props by the ensemble cast, as necessitated by the plot. This uncluttered setting also allowed for the seemingly vast number of fabulously dressed and bewigged Addams family ancestors in the production to appear on stage at once. Fortunately, as a unit, they were well rehearsed and co-ordinated and the play consequently ran efficiently and effectively. In addition, the large number of chorus members meant they were able to deliver resounding renditions of the shows stand out numbers from the opening “When you’re an Addams” to the closing “Move Toward the Darkness”.
The basic plot of the musical is sort of The Addams Family meets the Rocky Horror Show on the Day of the Dead. Wednesday Addams has fallen in love with a “normal” boy and he and his parents are coming to visit on this day of all days – the Addams Family Day of the Dead. As is the way with all things Addams family, this fairly routine teenage angst is underpinned, undermined and overstated by the strange and dark Addams’ family values. Unlike other incarnations of the vampire/evil dead genre, these desires and conflicts are wrapped in humour and ultimately edify the normality of the family in-spite of their strange preoccupation with death.
The cast as a whole grasped the iconic status of the Addams’s family and seemingly unintimidated by famous past performances in the central character’s roles gave a rousing performance. Of course we would have liked to see more of Lurch, under- played with flawless timing by Brendon Thearle. A number of individual performances also embodied the joyous spirit of this performance such as Alex Weenikn as Pugsley who, to much laughter, was so desperate for his sister to pay him attention and torture him and, most notably, Harry Pudwell as Fester with his hilarious romantic attachment to the moon and confident and lovesick rendition of “The Moon and Me” – addressed to a balloon! Tats Nyazika as Gomez was slick, witty and urbane and Michela Farrugia gave a strong performance as Morticia particularly during the “Tango de Amor” which no Addams family performance is complete without.
The Addams Family Musical is a delightful “evilution” of the family tradition and the entire cast of Stagecoach’s graduating students gave a committed and enthusiastic interpretation which there is one last chance to see as this cast perform together on Friday 7th August. Go on, let's “Live Before we Die”.
Amateur dramatics is unlike anything else in the world of the arts. It's unpredictable, often unintentionally humorous and generally smacks of the vicious bitterness of failed actors trying to prove to themselves that they could have made it if only they'd been "spotted".
Finally then, we have before us an amateur dramatics show that is... dare I say it ...good. In fact this was more than good. From the first bar of the classic theme tune to the last bow the audience were skilfully played and entertained by the one of the most talented bunches of children I have ever seen perform.
Tats Nyazika in the lead role of Gomez Addams was confident and slick. His acting was truly stunning as he effortlessly commanded the stage with the skill one would expect in an actor twice his age and experience level. Not to be outdone, Michela Farrugia presented us with a suave and deeply humorous Morticia Addams. Her monotone delivery and stunning vocals combined beautifully to create a character impossible to fault. 'Just Around the Corner' was a particular highlight as was her infectiously odd laugh. It is hardly surprising that these two combined create such brilliant children as Wednesday (Ella Thomas) and Pugsley (Alex Weenikn) who blended darkness and comedy to such perfection it was hard to keep oneself from screaming for an encore. Thomas' incredible voice and acting ability, alongside Weenikn's fantastic timing made 'Pulled' a true highlight.
The other family members were chosen well also. Melissa Fry gave a truly stand-out performance as Grandma. Her very real aggression and total command of every scene she appeared in led to a character whom I couldn't help but want to see more of. Her speech in 'Full Disclosure' especially sticks in the mind as having such a perfect level of energy and finesse that it was nothing short of comedy perfection. Her tap dancing ability was also showcased to great comic effect in 'Just Around the Corner'. But this was not only a cheap gag- her very real talent shone through and her natural dance ability - even in the body of a 102-year-old woman - was showcased very well. What a stunning performer. Uncle Fester was played by Harry Pudwell to a great audience response. His fantastic and confident effervescence onstage gave him the air of a sort of bald, musical theatre version of Charlie Chaplin with the facial dexterity of Nathan Lane.
But of course the Addams Family is not just about the Addams Family. We also meet the "normal" family of Wednesday's "normal" boyfriend. Led by strict right-wing father Mal (played by Benjamin Ashton), the family were a beautiful contrast to the deliciously dark Addams. The highlight was undoubtedly Beatrice Norris whose beautiful belting voice was used to seduce the audience during 'Waiting'. Her comedy came from her physicality and her instincts were all perfect. She oozed with sexual frustration and her poetry had the audience in stitches. Especially at one point when it stopped rhyming.
Benjamin Ashton used his face to great effect in the character of Mal - possibly trying too hard for laughs occasionally. His singing voice was not as strong as the rest of the principal cast but his contribution to the after-show speech showed his brilliant comic instincts. The other principals Lucas and Lurch (Gianluca Mifsud and Brendon Thearle) were both very well performed. They are hard characters to make memorable but both succeeded in their clever and subtle performances.
This was by no means a faultless performance. Some of the choreography was messy and the notorious two-handed click in the opening number was absent - replaced with a flaccid one-handed click that seemed sloppy and ill-planned. And the brilliant gag of 'rigor mortis' in the opening where the characters freeze in dead body positions seemed bizarrely to be more akin to frozen ninjas than anything else. But these are minor niggles. The energy of the chorus was infectious and whilst the vocals could have been improved - for a week's work this was incredible. A special mention must go to the unnamed dead soldier whose fantastic energy stole the attention of every eye in the audience in every number be graced. His throwing of the wedding rose petals was also a personal highlight for no reason except for the beautifully ridiculous grin he plastered across his face as he threw the petals with an absurd happiness that couldn't help but spread through the audience as well.
To conclude let us examine that phrase that is so often thrown around the world of theatre; 'never work with children or animals'. This performance has only served to prove this rule in my opinion. You should never work with children. Not because they'll be difficult. But because if they're this good - they will almost certainly upstage you.