Adapted from the critically acclaimed 2001 French romantic comedy film, Amélie – The Musical, under the direction of Michael Fentiman, concludes its UK tour at the Playhouse Liverpool.
With the stage transformed into a Parisian metropolis, we follow the story of Amélie Poulain (Audrey Brisson) whose young life is transformed through her unusual relationship with her parents and a surreal suicidal fish. Educated at home and given as little stimulation as possible due to an incorrect diagnosis of a heart condition, to combat her loneliness she grows up inside her own imagination, and when we meet her again several years on, she lives quietly, working at a café in Montmartre, full of curiosity about the world but reluctant to engage properly with it. Following the death of Princess Diana, she becomes inspired to orchestrate small but extraordinary acts of kindness to bring happiness to those around her but when true love comes her way in the form of Nino (Chris Jared), Amélie realises that to find her own contentment she will have to risk everything and say what is in her heart.
The story has been reworked slightly for the stage by Craig Lucas and is all the better for it with the music and lyrics by Daniel Messé and Nathan Tysen evoking Amélie’s world of innocence and beauty in equal measure, whilst retaining the abstract quirkiness of the original film.
Whilst the two leads rightly deserve much credit for their outstanding acting and vocal performances – Brisson captures perfectly the eccentric yet passionate personality of Amélie, with Jared convincing as the struggling Nino longing for fulfilment – the success of this production is down to the ensemble playing multiple roles as well as providing the live musical accompaniment with special mention for Sophie Crawford (Gina); Faoileann Cunningham (Georgette); Rachel Dawson (Amandine/Philomene); Oliver Grant (Lucien/Mysterious Man); Caolan McCarthy (Hipolito/Elton John); Samuel Morgan-Grahame (Joseph); Kate Robson-Stuart (Suzanne); Jez Unwin (Raphael/Bretodeau); and Johnson Willis (Collignon Dufayel).
The cast provide live musical accompaniment throughout and armed only with stringed instruments and drums they generate an infectious cacophony of sound to take Amelie on her journey of self-discovery which is further orchestrated by Tom Jackson Greaves’ delightful choreography throughout, with the train scenes particularly memorable.
The musical numbers – and there are many - capture every nuance and emotion of the piece from the moving ‘The girl with the glass’ to the energy of ‘Goodbye Amélie’ including an Elton John cameo to close the opening half, with emotions back to the fore after the interval from the opening ‘Half asleep’, through the challenges set out in ‘Halfway’ to the concluding intimacy of ‘Stay’.
The set design from Madeleine Girling is something to behold as it perfectly embraces the sensationalist elements that litter the story which include dancing garden gnomes; puppets; giant figs; and flying lampshades, the latter enabling Amélie to elevate out of the here and now and survey the world below her from the comfort of her self-contained flat.
This is a beautiful production filled with longing and hope; comedy and comic moments; and it will bring a tear to your eye because at its heart it is a love story. The closing number is ‘Where do we go from here?’ I’m not sure because this production is theatrical perfection: encore bravo et merci, Amélie.
Amélie – The Musical performs at Liverpool Playhouse through to Saturday 19th October 2019 with performances at 19:30 as well as a matinee at 2pm on Saturday. Booking via https://www.everymanplayhouse.com/whats-on/amelie
Reviewer: Mark Davoren
Reviewed: 15th October 2019
North West End UK Rating: ★★★★★