Touring– reviewed at the New Wimbledon Theatre, London
Amelie The Musical oozes Gallic charm from Daniel Messé’s evocative music to the enchanting performance of its luminous star, Audrey Brisson.
Michael Fentiman’s superbly creative production has just started a national tour and I guarantee that this beautifully told romantic comedy will captivate audiences wherever it plays.
This whimsical and surreal story about two shy, social misfits doing their best not to fall in love will appeal to everyone. I hadn’t seen the film on which it is based (due to an aversion to subtitles) but the 2001, multi-award-winning movie won the hearts of cinema-goers around the world.
Could this fanciful comedy about a strange, isolated young woman who orchestrates the lives of the people around her, retain its magic as a stage musical? Amazingly, yes. The Watermill Theatre production, which premiered at the Newbury venue earlier this year, is quirky, beguiling and brimming with joie de vivre.
I didn’t think that I would ever see a giant talking gnome and Elton John appear in the same show – not to mention see one of the most bizarre and freakish moments in modern theatre featuring a bunch of demonic figs (I’ll say no more).
Fentiman has let his imagination run riot with Craig Lucas’ appealing story, creating a Parisian fantasy populated by the strange, unusual and downright odd. It’s tragic, uplifting, utterly romantic and frequently hilarious.
Amelie leaves for Paris after her mother dies in a bizarre accident caused when a depressed Canadian threw himself off a building, squishing her on the pavement below, and her father inters the ashes in a garden gnome.
She’d had a lonely childhood, kept at home by over-protective parents, and now finds it impossible to get emotionally close to anyone.
Amelie works as a waitress in a Montmartre bar but, during her trips on the Metro, she spies a strange young man who is collecting the discarded snaps from the stations’ photo-booths and putting them in an album.
And he seems obsessed by an even stranger young man who keeps having his photo taken at various booths in the city’s underground only to tear up the images and walk away.
Amelie lives a solitary life when she’s not working but she becomes increasingly curious and attracted to the photo collector, who works in a sex shop when he’s not picking up headshots.
He has spotted her but she’s always elusive and both are too reticent to do anything about it. We spend the entire show wondering whether they will ever meet and fall in love.
In the bistro Amelie does her best to bring joy and happiness to a motley collection of patrons by arranging romances, sorting friendships, and curing the loneliness of others.
The fluid, mostly sung through, narrative follows our heroine through a series of endeavours and, yes, there is an unexpected and offbeat cameo from Elton John (beautifully recreated by Caolan McCarthy).
But at the heart of this glorious musical comedy is a bewitching turn by Audrey Brisson as Amelie who proves mischievous, Machiavellian, cheeky and charismatic in equal measures.
She is on stage for the entire performance and is a sheer delight to watch.
It isn’t really until the second act that Danny Mac’s mysterious photo collector, Nino, comes into his own. We see furtive glimpses of him, darting about in the shadows, but the show concentrates on Amelie throughout.
When they do finally meet the audience holds its collective breath as to whether either or both can keep their nerve. It’s a tense moment, particularly as Amelie has a habit of bolting like a frightened rabbit.
The large ensemble are terrific, from Josh Sneesby’s Blind Beggar, pumping out a wistful tune on his accordion, to Oliver Grant‘s mysterious man and Johnson Willis‘s frustrated artist, they all paint a vibrant picture of everyday Paris that’s worthy of Toulouse Lautrec or Renoir.
Amelie The Musical, which I caught at New Wimbledon Theatre, is a triumph, both artistically and theatrically, with the sparkling Audrey Brisson, wide-eyed, soulful and enchanting, giving a winning turn.
Amelie The Musical is now touring the UK
May 28 – June 1, Gaiety Theatre, Dublin
June 3 – 8, Exeter Northcott Theatre
June 10 – 15, Wycombe Swan Theatre
June 17 – 22, New Theatre, Oxford
June 24 – 29, King’s Theatre, Edinburgh
July 1 – 6, Alhambra Theatre, Bradford
July 8 – 13, Haymarket Theatre, Leicester
July 16 – 20, Bristol Old Vic
July 22 – 27 Alexandra Theatre, Birmingham
July 29 – August 3, Malvern Theatre
August 6 – 10, Manchester Opera House
August 12 – 17, Pavilion Theatre, Bournemouth
August 19 – 24, King’s Theatre, Glasgow
August 26 – 31 Victoria Theatre, Woking
September 9 – 14, Devonshire Park Theatre
September 17 – 21, Eden Court, Inverness
September 30 – October 5, Nuffield Southampton Theatres (NST) Campus
October 8 – 12, The Hexagon, Reading
October 14 – 19, Liverpool Playhouse.
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