One normal night is a perilous trick. Normal is hard to attain. Not least when you live in the middle of Central Park in a family of a slightly more sadistic persuasion than your average American household. Pugsley likes to be tortured by Wednesday. Morticia’s housework comprises of pulling the heads off flowers and ensuring the children are behaving badly. In a world where it is right to be wrong, why have normality when you can have dark, sexy deformity?
Edinburgh University Savoy Opera Group (EUSOG) has reimagined the Halloween classic, The Addams Family, to a truly professional standard. Given its extensive on-screen history, audience members may be forgiven for entering with pre-existing ideas of how the characters should look and perform. However, any such worries are brushed aside within minutes: Gomez Addams is every bit the charming godo espagnõl and Uncle Fester a near double of Christopher Lloyd’s film persona. This is no doubt in part thanks to stunning hair and make-up, which looks spookily natural on stage amongst the smoky set of red velvet, cobwebs and an impressive moose-head. It is also due to the phenomenal acting and singing capabilities of the cast. Solo performances by Wednesday (Ashleigh More) and Alice Bieneke (Esmée Cook) went down particularly well with the packed audience, whilst secondary characters, including Fester and the family’s baritone butler, delivered consistently on the comedy front.
Including a substantial chorus of ‘dead ancestors’, this is a fairly large cast for a small stage, but this made the neatly choreographed songs all the more powerful, bringing the dead very much back to life. The audience might struggle to believe that The Addams Family was originally written as a cartoon and not, as the actors encourage you to believe, for the domain of musical theatre.
Pushing the show into the realm of spectacular, Scott Meenan dazzles as Gomez Addams. The sparkling wit coupled with tender moments of fatherly interaction with Wednesday round the character out sufficiently to ensure that the audience cannot but warm to the patriarch of the family. The sharp libretto, witty in every line, could easily fall flat if wrongly delivered but Meenan never once falls short of the mark. Gomez is perfectly balanced out by his dazzlingly sexy wife Morticia (Melani Carrié), together treating the audience to hilarious scenes of marital highs and lows.
The climax of the play is a long-awaited dinner party during which Morticia Addams has arranged a game of ‘Full Disclosure’. Behind a long, narrow dining table, all ten of the lead characters are lined up along the front of the stage, as though inviting the audience to join the party. At the centre lies concerns about what it is to be a ‘normal’ family and by the end of this hilarious yet twisted scene it is apparent that the Addams’ aren’t alone in their apparent dysfunctionality. Esmée Cook deserves particular commendation here for an enthralling performance that delivered in every line of the libretto.
The performance ended with a well-deserved standing ovation. Simmonds and Pasola are to be commended for directing the wealth of talent within EUSOG to put on an unmissable treat this Autumn.
Image courtesy of Oliver Buchanan.