The Addams Family
Directed by Chris Baker
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Author: Sandra Samwell
Beginning with the warmest of welcomes from the front of house team through to the raffle winning moment after the show, this was a grey and rainy afternoon in St. Neots transformed into a thrilling matinee of theatrical excellence by VAMPS in their outstanding interpretation of The Addams Family. Having seen a few productions of the show this year, I judge it to be a slight story punctuated with some great one liners and terrific musical numbers by Andrew Lippa. VAMPS under the inspired and inspirational direction of Chris Baker made this a musical to remember. There was hardly a foot or a note out of place in a truly classy version of this popular piece.
The production team led by Paul Parsons ensured that the set, designed by Nick Shadlock, was of the highest standard with a plethora of superb effects from the wonderful and subtle use of the lighting rig to the magnificent scenery backdrops for the Addams’ mansion to the pyrotechnics and cartoon projections representing Fester’s trip to his beloved moon, the eye for precise detail and visually exciting touches was unmatched in any show I have seen this year. The seamless transitions from scene to haunting scene were particularly well done by Dan Cooper and stage crew and added to the pace of a fast moving production. The fact that the sound, ably supplied by Dave and Kate Maltby was top quality too added to the overall professionalism.
And as for the cast? Well, they were pure quality in consistent shedloads from the lowliest member of the company to the most prolific principal. Dressed immaculately by Nikki Tseirkesou, the principals, ghostly but great ensemble and excellent dancers dazzled with fabulous choreography by Kym Land which synchronized and moved the action on perfectly. This was amateur theatre at its finest.
There were several brilliant principals starting with the superb Tony Knox at the centre of most of the action, songs and libretto as Gomez: he was warm, funny and charismatic with a mellifluous voice. Emma Verney as a stunning Morticia proved a fitting foil with her spot-on comic timing and her sensuality .Matt Shaw made the part of Fester his own with a triumphant version of his love song to the moon played as a dazzling Busby Berkley routine with parasols and an insight into the heart of a very unusual man.
Hannah Williams enabled the sometimes thankless role of Wednesday to become real, tuneful and funny playing a very touching yet awkward young love to the equally naïve Lucas played with gauche yet natural warmth by Hugo Henche. Both were excellent.
Comic moments galore were provided by the flexibility of physicality and voice supplied by Emma Evans as Grandma: with the body shaping of a Julie Walters in ‘Acorn Antiques’ to the vocal range of the great Tracey Ullmann, this was an hilarious portrayal as was Adam Greaves’ Lurch with a gift for the well-timed and meaningful grunt and a characterisation which grew funnier as the show progressed. Rhys Nadin was a super Pugsley with an expressive face providing us with pathos worthy of a much more experienced actor. That young man will go far!
I loved Amy Howard’s portrayal of Alice Beinecke who enchanted and amused with a look or a flick of the hair in a superb vocalisation reminiscent of Kathy Najimy in the first movie of ‘Sister Act’. I admired Geoff Unwin for giving us a profound understanding of Mal Beineke and his motives, a part often thrown away but here played to its full potential.
One of the many things I liked about this show which took it to another level of performance was the truthfulness and natural feel of the acting scenes, particularly the duologues with their use of pause and panto techniques. Often musical societies play this piece as pastiche and miss its emotional heartland. VAMPS found the heart and, in turn, they plucked at our heartstrings.
This deftness with dialogue was helped by a musicality underpinned by a fine band led by Rowan Marshall. The songs are Sondheim like in their degree of difficulty and Rowan enabled the dissonance to take on a melodic quality in both the recitative and aria of the score.
Overall, some wonderful moments and pictures were created. Good decisions had been taken about the number of ensemble on stage at any one time with no attempt to bring everyone on for the sake of it and this worked to everyone’s advantage especially given the high performance energy and commitment of every single person on stage.
I loved every moment of this production and VAMPS can be very proud of their performance. The Addams may have invited us to ‘their extremely normal home’, but VAMPS welcomed us to an exceptional piece of musical magic.