One of my absolute favourite theatre group’s Basics Junior Theatre School presents its 2023 annual production at the delightful Pendle Hippodrome! There is definitely nothing ‘Basic’ about this magnificent delivery of ‘The Addams Family’ with its £35,000 budget for its 35th year history of productions.
The staging was tremendous with its grand staircase, living quarters, torture chamber and an impressive monumental spooky 14ft tree which provided the perfect space for the characters to sparkle like the shining stars they all are.
One of the most striking elements of this incredible theatre school is that it is very much a family affair, from the chaperones, the dress maker Sally who alongside her late husband Dennis founded Basics, the resident musical director Andrew Mitchell who has supported the group for the past 18 years to all the parents who support them year after year front of house and with their consistent contribution physically and emotionally for these talented youngsters. Principle Andy Cooke and the Cooke family are no exception to this rule with Mrs Cooke coming out of retirement and choreographing whilst their ingenious and inventive choreographer daughter Lydia prepared for her doctorate degree. Andy alongside with Amber Holt-Manville created the set that was not only breath-taking but equally viable for the task in hand.
Many of the principal cast were playing their first lead part in the show, as several of the previous senior students have left to attend prestigious drama schools in London. However, there were still some familiar faces that I recognised from last years production of ‘Sister Act’, and it was a huge delight to see how they have advanced in 12 months.
The story is that of the kooky, upside-down world of the Addams Family, to be sad is to be happy, to feel pain is to feel joy, and death and suffering are the stuff of their dreams. Nonetheless, this quirky family still has to deal with many of the same challenges faced by any other family, and the spookiest nightmare faced by every family is when our children are growing up.
Wednesday Addams (Beatrix Higginson) is growing up and has fallen in love with Lucas (Charlie Birtwistle) a young man from a normal, respectable, if somewhat conservative family.
Wednesday confides in her father Gomez (Felix Snowden) that she is secretly engaged and has invited Lucas’s family to dinner. She tells her father not to tell her mother about the engagement – Gomez is then conflicted having never lied or kept anything from his wife Morticia (Ava-Grayce Gregson) however, he remains silent and promises his daughter that they will try to act as normal as possible for the duration of the dinner.
As the show unfolds Wednesday is not the only one hiding a secret, as there is more than meets the eye to the seemingly perfect parents Alice (Jolie Forrest) and Mal (Harris Rafferty). You see Pugsley Addams the endearing rascal (Hughie Higginson) struggle to come to terms with his love-struck sister and what this would mean for their tormenting relationship, you witness the man who simply loves to love Uncle Fester (Luke Esden) and Cousin ITT (Kayley Corrigan) crazily running around like a banshee using high-pitched gibberish to communicate. The man of very few words but nothing more than hilarious is Lurch (Freddy Adams) the loyal family butler entertains alongside Grandma (Caelyn Bell) who is as mad as a box of frogs!
There were really no weak links in this truly talented cast, all tasked with portraying iconic characters they each lived up to the expectation and exceeded it with their own flare. It is so difficult not to mention every single character and applaud them individually for their strengths and outstanding talent, just be assured that each and every one on that stage was magnificent even if you have not been named in the review.
It is no easy task to play Gomez as the suave, romantic, eccentric, passionate, enthusiastic, and macabre Hispanic character he is, as it commands dominance, control, and exceptional precision. It is inconceivable that Felix Snowden is only 15 years old as he delivered a first-class performance as Gomez with his impeccable vocals and exemplary acting. This was equally matched by the truly wonderful Ava-Grayce Gregson playing Morticia. Her vocals, her acting and her dancing were all mesmerising, and her glare was fantastically frightful! After taking a nasty tumble on stage (which is every actor’s nightmare) she managed to pick herself up and continue her solo like a true professional, which is colossal credit to her.
Luke Esden has been in Basics for 5 years and this is his last performance with the company as he is moving forward with his career in the media industry. Everyone loves Uncle Fester and Esden’s interpretation was no exception as he displayed all the quirkiness required of the character and exhibited the gentle and caring side, that we all love. Hughie Higginson a veteran of 8 years at Basics unquestionably smashed it as Pugsley, at the adolescent age of 13 years he not only shown a professional mature beyond his years but a talent that flies as high as Uncle Fester when he blasts to the moon! Another veteran of Basics is Beatrix Higginson who played her final role in the company as Wednesday and certainly leaves the company with a bang, I have been privileged to watch this young lady grow in confidence over the years and I have always been blown away by her performances. This young lady is destined for the West End and beyond and her rendition of ‘Pulled’ and ‘Crazier Than You’ was sublime which left me spellbound by her aptitude.
The Beineke Family played by Jolie Forrest, Harris Rafferty and Charlie Birtwistle all did a sterling job in their interpretation and depiction of their characters and I particularly treasured Forrest’s recital of ‘Waiting’.
I could go on and on how exceptional this show is and how gifted the youngsters are but don’t take my word for it grab a ticket and see for yourself. The show is packed with catchy songs, spectacular choreography, a phenomenal set, amazing costumes, and a fabulous 12-piece live orchestra so you’d be foolish to miss out on such a ghoulish and spine tingling spooky spectacular.
Playing until 14th October.
Reviewer: Katie Leicester
Reviewed: 10th October 2023
North West End UK Rating: