Yasmine Zong enjoys an evening of kooky musical comedy with Trevelyan College Musical Society’s The Addams Family.
The most recent production from Trevelyan College Musical Society is the musical comedy, The Addams Family. Inspired by the popular cartoon strips of 1938 and subsequent movie adaptations, it is composed by Andrew Lippa. One can’t help but feel both excited and sceptical at the same time when go to see a musical portrayal of the Addams family’s drama – you are thrilled to see the familiar characters of Gomez, Morticia, Wednesday, Pugsley and Fester coming to life on stage, and you are sure that their quirky dynamic, as proved by the movies, is almost made exactly for musical comedies; but on the other hand, who knows if the creators can really bring these well-known and well-loved characters to life instead of yet again ruining our favourite story through adaptations? For this time, though, TMCS had truly put tremendous effort in bringing this piece of musical to life – and if after watching the show I still have some reservations towards the portrayal of the Addams clan because of the plot, the performance itself was definitely enjoyable and charming.
In terms of the songs, all members of the cast are capable singers, and I particularly enjoyed Millie Blair as Wednesday Addams – her clear, strong, passionate voice can hit all the way into your heart. Blair’s portrayal of Wednesday is charming; you can see right in front of your eyes how this sullen gothic princess is now utterly smitten with love, and is expressing all her young enthusiasm with her characteristic craziness. On the other hand, during the dialogue one sometimes feels that Wednesday may be a little too ‘typical teenager’-ish, too outgoing and bouncy for her persona. Similarly, during a number of scenes one may have expected Morticia to have appeared more composed and restrained, although the script rather than the actress may be more responsible for this. On the other hand, in her musical moments and dancing, Maddy Steggall’s Morticia is as perfect a femme-fatale-housewife as you can dream of.
Among the main cast the most stunning portrayal goes to Alex McWilliam’s Gomez, the head of the household, armed with a great exaggerated Spanish accent and a sword, at the same time clumsy and elegant, helplessly torn between his wife and daughter, in one second driving the audience to laughter with his comical actions and soon move them to the verge of tears with his deep emotions, his heart of gold and his voice. Damon Cleaver’s Uncle Fester is even funnier and more of a hopeless romantic than his brother Gomez, and the part with him singing ‘The Moon and Me’ is an absolute delight. For the new characters in the musical, Eve Battersby’s portrayal of Alice Beineke has left a particular strong impression. The energetic duets ‘Crazier Than You’ sung between Wednesday and her fiancée Lucas Beineke, and that between the Beineke couple, are among the songs I most enjoyed during the show.
But the real highlights of the night would probably go to the ensemble (the ‘ancestors’ of Addams family who appeared as choir and back-up dancers) , the orchestra, the music directors and choreographers, as well as the visual designers. The orchestra, with their strings, reeds and keyboards, creates the perfect landscape, at the same time noir and gothic but also with touches of the whimsical and the humorous. The Addams ancestors effortlessly switched from Broadway dance moves to pantomime to ballet and to tango, added into the fun or the drama of particular scenes, their pale makeup and stark white costumes contrasted nicely with the dark interior of the Addams mansion. In a musical the music and choreography arguably define the quality of the show, and in this production these two elements are so strong that they can almost be enjoyed purely on their own. The plot or the dialogue may go a tiny bit corny occasionally, but the moves of the ancestors and the sounds of reeds never let one down.
Thanks to the books, movies and TV shows, the Addams family have left their marks in popular culture, and members of this eccentric family had become almost everyone’s childhood friends, as familiar as your next door neighbours, although admittedly they are highly unusual neighbours to have. It is not easy to enact such well-known personas, but the TMCS’s production has done a good job – and even if you don’t know that much about The Addams Family, it’s still a hell of a good show.
The Addams Family will be playing in Trevelyan College’s dining hall on 21st and 22nd February.