I SAW this show on an earlier leg of its tour in Birmingham and was delighted to revisit it in the unique elegance of the Malvern theatre.
On first viewing, I said that Amélie was my musical experience of the year so far – and that opinion remains unchanged – in fact it’s underlined in heavy pencil!
Amélie was an multi-award winning film back in 2001, which I took my 15-year-old son to see – he hated it – I loved it. Now many years later his artistic tastes have become much broader. The film has become one of his favourites and as he is currently over from his home in Australia I took him with me to Malvern last night. His verdict? The transition from screen to stage has turned ‘a charming feel-good movie into a delightful go-home-happy musical’. I pretty much agree with that, Robin.
For newcomers the story revolves around an unloved introverted young woman, ‘Amélie’ who stealthily travels the streets of Paris seeking to bring joy into the lives of complete strangers.
Audrey Brisson, who flies in and out of scenes via a seemingly magic lampshade, is totally captivating in the title role. Brisson is petite in stature but oh so powerful in voice and superhuman in agility.
Apparently her feline flexibility comes from being Cirque du Soleil family stock. It may sound a cliché but Brisson seems to have been born to play Amélie on stage perhaps as much as her namesake Audrey Tatou was born to play her on film.
Director Michael Fentiman, using well-crafted tools of the book by Craig Lucas and music and lyrics by Nathan Tysen and Daniel Messé as his canvas, has seemingly done the impossible – taken a delightful film and turned it into an equally exquisite musical.
Fentiman has assembled a glorious company who double and treble as Parisian workers, drinkers and bohemians and also make up a street orchestra; playing everything from flutes to double basses, through violins, cello’s, accordions, drums and penny whistles.
The story goes down many an eccentric alleyway none moreso than when Amélie imagines her own funeral mirroring Princess Diana’s – complete with Elton John.
There are almost human puppets, illuminated wise words popping up randomly, a giant garden gnome and dancing figs – golly gosh it’s a weird and wonderful piece.
My moment of the show is when our heroine finds love, with of all people, a sex shop worker – Nino (spot on performance from Danny Mac). There occurs between them the most wondrous stage kiss, the silence is captivating, the tension spine tingling and the moment a magical masterpiece.
Madeleine Girling’s design is as eccentrically majestic as the show itself. Its set-piece structure is as full of surprises as an advent calendar. It opens piece-by-piece to reveal a crowded Paris metro, a church and its confessional, art galleries and much more but best of all, Amélie’s hideaway, way up in the air behind the station clock.
On stage the set comprises two beat up upright pianos and a few random tea chests. The pianos turn into fruit stalls, bars and the infamous sex shop – as well of course as being practical, the tea chests become everything else furniture-wise and part of the orchestra as drum boxes.
I felt Amélie gained in intimacy at Malvern which gave it a new perspective – it suffered slightly in sound in that the balance twixt instrument and voice wasn’t always spot on (and it needs to be as you can’t afford to miss a word such is the complexities of the plot) – I’m sure though that this was just first night in a new house and has already been sorted.
I’m pleased to have seen it Amélie twice and would happily see it thrice – don’t miss it – this is a show like no other.
The show runs until Saturday, August 3, at Malvern Theatres.
Click here for times, tickets and more information.
Review by Euan Rose.