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Thursday, June 30, 2016


Slick, smooth running and professional production from Northcliff. (Review by Keith Millar)

The annual sojourn of Johannesburg’s Northcliff High School to Durban to present their yearly musical at the Playhouse has become something of an institution, and is looked forward to by their many fans.

In the 18 years that they have been visiting, they have presented many memorable musicals from The Mikado to Thoroughly Modern Millie– and always to a very high standard. As a result, they have built up a loyal and enthusiastic following.

This year they are performing the quirky and ghoulish, but hilariously funny, The Addams Family. As one has come to expect, the Northcliff youngsters and their director/producer, Nick Jourdan, do themselves proud with a production which is presented with style, charm and confidence. It really is very good and very entertaining effort.

Having said that, let me put that last statement into perspective. Not everyone gives a perfect performance, there is occasional off-key singing and a dancer who is a bit clumsy.

However, one needs to take into consideration the age and inexperience of the cast. Eight of them are only in Grade 8. Grade nine and ten each provide six cast members, while three are in grade 11. Their ages vary from 13 to 16 years old. None of them had even been born when Northcliff first travelled to Durban.

Added to this, the production itself is very slick, smooth running and professional, the costumes are excellent and the sets are clever, effective and well-constructed.

Taking all this into account, it is possible that the effort should be categorised as outstanding - rather than just good.

The Addams Family musical is based on cartoons created in the 1930’s by cartoonist Charles Addams. They were adapted to other media, including television series (both live and animated), films, video games and the musical. Music and lyrics are by Andrew Lippa and the book by Marshall Brickman and Rick Elice.

In the musical, Wednesday Addams has grown up and fallen in love with a young man, Lucas Beineke, who comes from a “normal” rather straight-laced family.  Lucas has proposed marriage to Wednesday. She arranges for her prospective in-laws to come to dinner with her rather bizarre family so that they can announce their intended nuptials. What results from the meeting of these two families is absolutely hilarious.

The star of the show is without doubt a wonderfully talented Matthew Vey as the father, Gomez Addams. This young man, who is only in grade 9, can do it all. He acted, sang and danced with aplomb. His over-the-top Spanish accent was spot on, and his comedy timing is exquisite.

Multi-talented performer Jonathan Roxmouth is an alumnus of Northcliff High and its musical productions and based on Vey’s performance, one wonders if we are not seeing the birth of another artist of equal stature.

Also of note was the performance of Christopher Conroy as the zombie butler Lurch. This role mostly consists of moving very slowly around the stage and communicating in grunts. Conroy, who is a very tall beanpole of a lad, put in an excellent exhibition of physical comedy. He was a definite audience favorite. When he breaks into dance at the end like a demented praying mantis, it is one of the funniest things I have seen in a long time.

Tiana de Abreu as Morticia and Tao Blignaut as Wednesday also made the most of their roles.

The chorus of dead relatives (14 strong) were a delight as a group. Their singing and dancing and ghostly presence in the background in some scenes was out of the top drawer.

An accomplished 12-piece orchestra under the baton of Matthew Vlok provided the musical backing from the orchestra pit.

The only downside to this production was the quality of the sound balances. At times the singers could not be heard clearly above the orchestra and microphones were frequently not opened in time. However, these are problems that can easily be rectified and one hopes that this will happen for the rest of the run.

Northcliff High’s production of The Addams Family is huge fun. It will be loved by their regular fans, and I am sure they will win many more supporters with this delightful offering.

The Addams Family will be on at the Playhouse Drama until July 2 at 19h30 and on July 3 at 15h00
Tickets at R70 are available at Computicket. – Keith Millar