Monday, May 20

The Addams Family Live in Concert – London Palladium

Act normal. Wear a black dress or pinstripe suit. Paint your face and snap along. At the London Palladium it’s Halloween in February. Copious amounts of fog billow forth from the palatial stage and the theatre is bathed in purple light as audiences amble in, many dressed for the special occasion and already buzzing with excitement.

The orchestra, unlike the assembled spirits of the dead, remains unseen but makes its presence known in a vigorous overture playing jauntily under conductor Andrew Hilton, and is energetically reinforced by a skilled ensemble dancing in choreography by Alistair David. Consistently visually interesting even as the plot stretches itself thin and tired jokes leave audiences groaning, this rendition of a mid-tier musical is nonetheless entertaining and well performed.

Lacking neither bells nor whistles, this crowd-pleasing spectacle of a show, although advertised as a musical in concert, is extensively outfitted by director Matthew White. Simple skyline flats line the back of the playing space and a three-step stair allow for some dynamism of entrances and exits throughout the performance with some special set pieces eerily and efficiently wheeled on and off according to the plot’s demands. The highlight of Diego Pitarch’s scenic design is the pinprick starry sky backdrop that overshadows all else and makes prominent a gently expressive moon. His costumes too are lovely, particularly those worn by the ghoulish ensemble representing the spirits of a whole host of different historical eras. Ben Cracknell provides a light show to rival Canary Wharf and the creepily comical soundscape supplied by Richard Brooker fills the room with ambient laughter.

Photo: Pamela Raith

It is a faithful interpretation of its script, neither innovative nor derivative, and fans of the musical itself are unlikely to be disappointed in either production or performers. Ramin Karimloo is thrilling as Gomez Addams in what is far from the role of a lifetime for the erstwhile star of Phantom of the Opera, Les Misérables, and most recently Funny Girl. He commands the stage every moment that he graces it and elevates the work of young performers Ryan Kopel (Lucas Beineke) and Chumisa Dornford-May, who particularly impresses as Wednesday Addams. Nicholas McLean also provides a solid Pugsley Addams and is similarly supported in his scenes by veteran actor Lesley Joseph as Grandma. Joseph is note perfect in this role and acts her scenes with a confidence and commitment unmatched by any other cast member. The phenomenal Kara Lane absolutely slays the house down as Alice Beineke, with vocal chops to rival Karimloo. Dickon Gough is solid as Lurch and together with the ghastly ensemble provides amusing transitions between all scenes. The amount of staging and choreography on display belie the “in concert” billing but at times the dialogue feels so under-rehearsed it is difficult to feel immersed in the storytelling, no matter how many medieval torture devices are wheeled out and paraded around the stage.

Michelle Visage’s stunt casting as Morticia Addams gives a voice strong enough that with a little bolstering from the ensemble there isn’t a note missed and she dances her way through the final act’s tango with aplomb. Unfortunately, extended stage time with Karimloo underscores his considerable gifts rather than her own. Without the theatrical experience that past iterations have brought to the role, the play’s central conflict lacks the cogency derived from a gravitationally attractive Morticia for the Addams family to orbit around. The book itself, written in 2010 and already dated to the point of critical misfire, lacks the charming timelessness of other iterations of this family tale, but suffices to showcase the talents of its able performers.

Reviewer: Kira Daniels

Reviewed: 13th February 2024

North West End UK Rating:

Rating: 3 out of 5.
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