The Addams family may be obsessed with the dead and nearly dead, but from the opening moments of Stratford on Stage's latest production The Addams Family right through to the final curtain call, it is clear local theatre is very much alive.
A talented team of both cast and crew led by director Helen Snook have brought this darkly humorous musical comedy to life. So well have they done this that dead or alive, you are sure to be clapping your hands, tapping your toes and clicking your fingers throughout the show.
When 18-year-old Michael McCarty (Gomez) first spoke, I felt a moment of panic. Casting someone so good in the role meant the rest of the cast were going to be under great pressure to match his talent. With the sheer physicality of his performance belying his young age, he was likely to steal the show.
His performance throughout is faultless, and he sets the bar high.
Enter Morticia, played by Kelsi Bailey.
At 17, she has stepped into the role with a maturity beyond her years, not only meeting the bar set by Michael but building on it with their on stage chemistry perfectly played.
Like Michael, Kelsi uses her whole body in every moment on stage, and as a result her Morticia is fantastic to watch. She mixes her character's dark sexuality with a softer side, showing a mother feeling cast aside by a fast growing daughter (Wednesday Addams).
Wednesday is ably played by Philly Mullin, who at just 13 might herself be a few years away herself from true teen angst, yet manages to portray it beautifully on stage.
Some of her best scenes are when she and Pugsley (Otis Cleaver) are on stage together.
The two of them fight and argue their way through a perfectly normally abnormal sibling relationship, and their interactions beautifully inform the audience as to the conflict and jealousy Pugsley feels, which will influence his actions later on in the story.
Those actions are helped by some stand-out moments from the very youngest of the cast members, Cohen Jacobsen (7). Playing a little drummer boy, one of the many ancestors who creep and dance around the stage Cohen gives a beautiful yet spookily haunting tinge to the show.
Cohen is absolutely delightful to watch, with a cheekiness perfectly suited to his character, who while not having a speaking role, certainly moves the story along.
Uncle Fester is another show stealer at times, with Jack Peach making the character his own.
Tasked with the role of often breaking the fourth wall and talking directly to the audience, Jack does a brilliant job and shows true talent throughout.
The Beineke family, played by Xanda Kerr (Lucas), Renee Murphy (Alice) and Hamish McCall (Mal) provide a beautiful contrast to the darkly and kooky Addams family.
It can be hard to play the more vanilla characters in a show which celebrates the exotic and dark, but each of them bring depth and thought to their roles, and take the audience along with them as they discover their own darker sides through the show.
Watching Renee and Kelsi together on stage, looking through an old family album and discussing their different views of marriage, it is hard to believe both actresses are just 17. Their talent surpasses their years.
The talented cast are matched by an equally talented backstage crew.
As soon as you take your seats, the clever set transports you to the Addams Family mansion and sets the scene for a spookily fantastic show.
As the ancestors dance their way out the crypt, you can practically feel the cool crisp air of a graveyard and simple set changes then move you to rooms in the house as well as the woods outside.
The lighting helps build the gothic scenes without losing clarity, while the costuming is perfect. Clever use of colour and fabric gives each character their own unique style, right down to each and every ancestor having a specific look.
The choreography for the show is everything you would expect from Becky Walsh. She has taken a troupe of actors with varying levels of skill in dance and created movement that doesn't just complement the show, but adds to it.
From the sophisticated tango between Gomez and Morticia to the lively ensemble dance moments, Becky ensures the dance numbers bring an energy to the stage and lift the whole production.
With a brilliant backstage crew, and a talented cast of performers, this production is a great show to take the family to.
The team at Stratford on Stage have said they want to nurture and grow the young local talent we have in Taranaki and this production shows there is plenty of talent out there and Stratford on Stage is the place for it to grow.