THEY are dark, they are twisted and they are side-splittingly funny. I am talking of course about the macabre, death-loving Addams Family.
The musical comedy opened on Wednesday night at Whakatane’s Little Theatre, with a cast led by Calvin Kingi as Gomez and Hannah-Rose Haimona as Morticia Addams, the Addams parents.
In the show, the Addams children are growing up and crossbow-toting daughter, Wednesday, played by well-known Whakatane singer Bailea Twomey, has fallen in love with an ordinary boy, Lucas Beineke, played by newcomer to the stage Aiden Wright.
The teens arrange for their families to meet – at a dinner at the Addams family’s New York home, and plead for it to be a “normal” dinner.
The Beinekes – an ordinary but unhappy family from Ohio – enter the bizarre world of the Addams, and this is where the hilarity begins.
Greeted at the door by the grunting giant of a butler, Lurch, played by Theo Tunley, and with a disembodied hand as another servant (handled by Olivia Mexted), you know the night is going to be anything but normal.
Families have secrets and lies, and where better than at a dinner party for the truth to come out.
The casting is spot on. Trish Marsden plays Lucas’ mum, Alice Beineke, and reveals her own dark side in a knockout performance that has the audience gasping and laughing simultaneously.
Gomez is a lovable but ruthless father and husband caught in a tug-of-war between his seductively evil wife and his beloved but stubborn daughter, who brings their freshly-shot dinner home from Central Park.
This is Kingi’s third consecutive show with Theatre Whakatane; it is a huge role, with plenty of singing, and he handles it with aplomb, his timing faultless, his Spanish accent impressive, even in his singing as he belts out Not Today, Trapped and What If.
Probably the biggest surprise of the night was Morticia. Haimona is also a newcomer to the stage and she embraces her role as the curvaceous, cat-like Morticia, mesmerising the audience as she glides gracefully around the stage, delivering her songs and sly wit with zeal.
Scott Jarrett, with his head shaved, is a perfect fit for madcap Uncle Fester, who carries out his love affair with the moon, thanks to some clever stagecraft, and his ode to the moon showing off his powerful voice in The Moon and Me, and other tunes.
Uncle Fester carries the show smoothly from scene to scene, asking the audience at one point: “So will love triumph, or will everyone go home vaguely depressed?”. He is supported by an all-female ensemble of ghostly Ancestors, wearing some great costumes.
There are strong performances from the rest of the cast, too. Wright makes his debut on stage as Lucas, and ably holds his own alongside the musical powerhouse of his love interest in the duet Crazier Than You.
“I can be impulsive,” he tells Wednesday. “I just need time to think about it first.”
Seasoned actor Gareth Moore-Jones is a typical set-in-his-ways, middle-class, Middle American dad, and Janene McIntyre draws the laughs as gross Grandma Addams.
“When I break wind, it can start the windmills of an old Dutch painting,” she quips.
Young Jonghyun Yun plays annoying younger brother to Wednesday superbly as he plots to end his sister’s relationship. The very hairy Cousin Itt is played by Xavier Christie and Libby Miller.
Theatre Whakatane’s show is directed by John Drummond, and has some wonderful big numbers, notably One Normal Night and Full Disclosure by composer Andrew Lippa. Sam McLeod choreographs this show, while Leon Gray is musical director, their efforts producing some solid, toe-tapping singing and dancing performances.
The Addams Family is kooky and spooky and packed with graveyard humour. But it is also about love, relationships, and family dynamics.
It is a completely entertaining two-and-a-half hours, a fun production that the teen with me loved too, declaring afterwards: “I have to see the movies now”.
Take your own clan, if nothing else at least you will leave knowing there are families madder than your own.