Review: The Addams Family

I must admit, up until TCMS’s production, the world of ‘The Addams Family’ had quite eluded me. Indeed, I was an Addam’s family virgin – unaware of the spooky thrill of their musical family dramas. But what better way to be introduced into their world than by Ben Bauman’s production? So without further ado let us head right on in to the spooky world behind Bauman’s performance.

The performance did, admittedly, get off to a rocky start – and with the various technical malfunctions of microphones cutting out, lights missing their cues and a full fire alarm evacuation– it seemed that fate was against them. But instead of turning their show into a fiasco matching that of ‘The Play That Goes Wrong’, the actors returned with enthusiasm and infectious energy. The corpse-like chorus with their musical interludes throughout never failed to thrill, and combined with Bryson and Singhsachakul’s fabulous choreography and the charm of the orchestra, the audience were fully absorbed into the life (or rather, death) of the Addams. Although there were occasional blips in timing from the ensemble, the overall charm of the musical numbers rubbed off on the audience that by the end we were all clapping along.

But I must say – the actors who led the performance were Steggall’s Morticia Addams and Blair’s Wednesday Addams. From the outset this mother and daughter duo presented themselves as a force to be reckoned with. Particularly in the opening number ‘When You’re An Addams’, my eyes were directed towards Blair, whose constant energy and sassiness did not go unnoticed. But Blair truly opened up Wednesday’s character for audience dissection in her numbers ‘Pulled’ and ‘One Normal Night’, where her powerful chest voice and facial expressions conveying her anxiety for her family to be seen as ‘normal’. Additionally, her constant deadpan expression was equally amusing, allowing for moments of tenderness later when she shared a moment with her father Gomez in the song ‘Happy Sad’. The same can be said for Barnett-Wright’s Pugsley Addams, whose countenance of confident scheming in ‘What If’ dissolved into a sweet moment of vulnerability as the actress lay on Steggall’s lap later in the play.

Stegall’s presentation of Morticia was equally convincing. As she strutted across the stage in her glorious black dress with deathly elegance and a countenance of such judgment and such confidence – I myself felt the pressure of her gaze. Her stage presence was particularly notable in ‘Just Around The Corner’, where she presented utter purposefulness and slenderness of movement. Although I would have liked to see a little more of the frustrated side of her character in her dialogue with her husband Gomez, I did enjoy her constant poise and crossing of arms to express her utter contempt. This allowed for a moment of contrast later with the seductive ‘Tango Di Amor’ between Stegall and McWilliam’s Gomez, where she conveyed such irresistible feistiness that the audience could not but help wanting to get up and dance alongside her.

Although Stegall’s performance did, at times, eclipse that of McWilliam’s Gomez, this did, in fact, only enhance the power dynamic between them. McWilliam’s depiction of the struggling father figure was very enjoyable to the audience, particularly with the moments of direct address, allowing the audience insights into his struggle. Further praise must be given to McWilliam’s Latino character voice, reminding me of the legendary Dracula figure in an enjoyable but also somewhat disconcerting way. His songs were also enjoyable – but I did feel that his use of proxemics could have demonstrated moments of stillness. Indeed, his pacing did depict the forlorn father figure, particularly in songs like ‘Trapped’ – but there were times when I wanted to tape his feet to the centre, to allow for contrast in his movement. Having said that, I do feel that McWilliam truly depicted the essence of his character, and he received many laughs as a result.

I must say, I particularly enjoyed Martha Page’s grandma. An amalgam of Catherine Tate’s Nan and Bellatrix Lestrange, the actress truly brought the audience inside her chaotic world. Equally compelling was the dynamic between Caesar’s Mal and Battersby’s Alice, who demonstrated accomplished rapport and a clear use of contrast. Particularly with Battersby’s transformation from her jingling high intonation to a lower pitch, taking on the mannerisms of Steggall’s Morticia as she folded her arms – I truly felt her character development from an innocent mother to an unsatisfied wife. The same can be said for Caesar, who clearly embodied the seriousness of Mal’s character. Although, I would have liked to see more of the craziness of his character in ‘Crazier Than You’, as this would have emphasised the contrast all the more and allow for further comic moments. Procter’s Lucas was equally well conveyed with his development presented in ‘Crazier Than You’ – but, as before, I would have liked to have seen him get more engrossed into the crazy dimension of his character.

Combined with the actors’ performances, the gothic gate in the stage design, and the various lighting gels of Coughlan truly immersed me into the action. I particularly enjoyed the red gels presented in the dinner party, truly capturing the essence of the Addams’ strangeness, and the lime green (obviously connoting evil) and follow spot presented as Pugsley’s machinations were revealed. Such design elements truly brought the performances of the actors to life. But further praise must be given to the costume design. The luxuriously gothic darkness of Morticia and Wednesday’s dresses, combined with the sweet yellow of Alice’s dress truly allowed for moments of contrast between the Addams and the Beineke families, enhancing the performances of the actors.

All in all Bauman’s production was thoroughly enjoyable, and despite the technical hiccups, the cast were able to bounce back darker than ever. Giving us an insight into the glorious gothic world of the Addams family, you may find that once you start listening to the infectious tunes – you will always be a part of the family.

‘The Addams Family’ is being performed again tonight until 22nd February in the Trevelyan College Dining Hall at 7:30pm.  

By Josh Goodwin

Photo taken by Jacob Kalnins at the dress rehearsal.

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