So beloved was the five-time Oscar-nominated film Amélie (2001) that the story was translated for the proscenium stage as Amélie The Musical in California, fourteen years later. Amélie was, and is currently, the highest-grossing French-language film in the US; and its musical adaptation was also met with success when it hit Broadway in 2017.
The UK run of Amélie The Musical kicked off at the Watermill in Newbury in April 2019, followed by our viewing at the gala press night at the New Wimbledon Theatre with a set of red carpet arrivals. Amélie The Musical will wend its way throughout England, Ireland and Scotland through mid-October.
Amélie The Musical Review
Although the live performance of Amélie is a musical, the UK adaptation has purposefully backed away from the Broadway vibe in an attempt to bring the production back to Paris. Amélie the Musical does not match scene for scene with the film, but references iconic images (such as raspberry-topped fingers and the cone-hatted garden gnome) with new additions – like a resplendent Elton John and frightening fig spectres.
As a standalone production, the musical still follows the inner musings, doubts and struggles of its introverted heroine, Amélie Poulain. Audrey Brisson, who snagged the title role, spectacularly portrays the young, curious woman. Although playing a shy character, Brisson’s emotional range is presented clearly through her voice, facial expressions, posturing and movement. She quickly endears the audience, so we cheer her on throughout in hopes she can shed her wallflower antics.
The show sets the scene with traditional French accordion music, the sound score by Daniel Messé; and this aesthetic weaves between musical-style songs, such as ‘The sound of going around in circles’ and the jubilant gospel ‘Goodbye, Amélie’. Amélie the Musical eschews the arresting soundtrack by Yann Tiersen, but it conveys quirky Montmartre and quixotic Paris.
Amélie the Musical isn’t particularly dance-y, but the staging cleverly swirls characters in and out of the spotlight, whisking the audience to different parts of the city. The set is full of props – like tables at the Two Windmills Café, and the characters play instruments as they sing, so dancing is minimal. However, Brisson’s expressiveness and experience with Cirque Du Soleil are apparent even in her gestures or small pantomimes, such as bouncing on the train, occasionally careening sideways.
(Did you know: Café des Deux Moulins really exists in the Montmartre area of Paris.)
The musical is equally narrative and episodic, as it follows its stuttering lead. It focuses on everyday interactions, magnifying and delighting in the mundane – the little tidbits that mark us as unique individuals. We see Amélie’s world grow as she connects with her co-workers and neighbours in her quest to help others find happiness.
We also watch Amélie play cat and mouse with love interest Nino Quincampoix, performed by charismatic Danny Mac. A departure from his performance as eager, wide-eyed Gabey in On the Town, Mac plays a reserved, genuine man; he is someone gentle and honest enough to pair with Amélie. The romance isn’t overdone, and the show ends with no promises – just supreme satisfaction.
Director Michael Fentiman says:
“Amélie [the musical] must resist the pressure to behave like a traditional musical… It an’t always yearn to please; that would fight the spirit of its aloof, Parisian routes.”– Michael Fentiman, Director of Amélie the Musical
But, intentional or not, the show does please – simply in its own way, on its own terms and in its own time.
Were you able to catch any of the performances of the Amélie The Musical tour – or did you see the show stationed in New York City? Tell us what you thought about the show in the comments below!
Disclosure: Dance Dispatches received complimentary press tickets to Amélie The Musical for an open and honest performance review.
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