THE NORTHCOTT THEATRE – TILL 8 JUNE 2019 AND TOUR
AMELIE – THE MUSICAL
RUNNING TIME – 2 hours 30 minutes – 1 interval
Northcott Box Office – 01392 726363
REVIEW – CORMAC RICHARDS – 3 JUNE 2019
As the big musicals blast their way around the circuit, occasionally, tucked away, you might find something less boisterous, more affecting and almost old-fashioned in its content.
Based on the much-loved film of the same name ‘Amelie – the Musical’ is, without doubt, one of the most delightful shows I have ever had the pleasure of seeing.
Our heroine, Amelie, is a free-spirited girl helping others rather than herself, seemingly the result of unconventional parents who could never show her much love. As her path crosses that of the mysterious Nino – who collects discarded photos from metro station photobooths – a journey of discovery begins, to find out who he is – and, as a result, who she is herself.
The story is packed with great characters and delightful vignettes as the audience is sucked into the Parisian life of Amelie which veers between fantasy and reality, all of which is accompanied by a tremendous score and songs which will make you smile.
The Watermill Theatre, who are the producing house for the show, are well known for actor/musician shows were the actors are also the musicians. If you have never seen one of these productions, then it is such a unique experience that often makes you gasp with delight. The skill of acting, singing and dancing whilst playing a cello, a flute, a harmonium or a double bass is not to be underestimated.
The wonderful set designed by Madeleine Girling gives us a Paris metro station platform with the all-important photo booth and then, when Amelie goes to her home, the clock above the station opens out and Amelie is whisked up there, courtesy of a lamp which is lowered and hoists her upwards. It is a triumph. Elsewhere on stage, two pianos are played and are artfully converted into shops – selling fruit and veg oh, and sex toys!
When the story moves into the surreal it does with tongue very firmly in cheek – so, the garden gnome in which Amelie’s Father keeps her Mother’s ashes comes alive; the greengrocer, who doesn’t understand his son’s real love for the fruit and veg they sell, is terrorised by giant figs; Amelie dreams of doing good, like Princess Diana, and when her death is announced on TV there follows an hilarious sequence with ‘Elton John’ singing a tribute to Amelie herself as if it were her that died. Brilliant.
As performances go, Audrey Brisson’s Amelie is wide-eyed, charming, witty and completely lovable; she sings like an angel and performs with a glint in her eye. This is a classy performance! As Nino, the man Amelie is fascinated with and who, maybe, she is in love with, Danny Mac gives a perfectly pitched, low-key performance – no histrionics, a super singing voice and subtle acting – I am not sure I have ever seen a more sensitive or romantic love scene ever which is played out in complete silence for minutes. Such is the confidence in the production that they can do this, and it works.
Jez Unwin is a wonderfully affecting Bretodeau and as Amelie’s Father, Raphael, conveys such a sense of sadness. Johnson Willis excels too in the roles of Collignon and Dufayel whilst Caolan McCathy has huge fun as Elton John as does Sophie Crawford as Gina and Kate Robson-Stuart as Suzanne. But it is wrong to really highlight individuals in this fantastic ensemble piece.
The book by Craig Lucas is, by turns, sensitive and laugh out loud hilarious – it’s very good writing. Likewise the lyrics by Nathan Tysen and Daniel Messé are exquisite – and equally funny – is there another song which contains the words ‘bacterial vaginosis’? Messé has created a tremendous score which blends the feeling of French café jazz and old-fashioned ballad and is performed with expertise by this talented cast.
Michael Fentiman has directed this with a keen eye on telling the story without resorting to anything flashy – he serves the writers perfectly. Praise to for Movement Director, Tom Jackson Greaves, who had his work cut out here and comes up trumps as does the skilful lighting design from Elliott Griggs.
I might have run out of superlatives. I laughed, I engaged, I admired and, yes, I had a tear in my eye. And when we find out the mystery of the Photobooth man, we smiled broadly. Whilst the big shows barge and bluster their way around the world, take in a little piece of Paris and seek out this show. It is a glistening piece of theatre. Shimmering bright in the firmament of stars.
I was blown away.
AMELIE – AUDREY BRISSON
NINO – DANNY MAC
GINA – SOPHIE CRAWFORD
GEORGETTE/SYLVIA – FAOILEANN CUNNINGHAM
AMANDINE/PHILOMENE – RACHEL DAWSON
LUCIEN/MYSTERIOUS MAN – OLIVER GRANT
JEAN-YVES – NUWAN HUGH PERERA
RAYMOND – CHRIS JARED
CECILE – CHARLEY MAGALIT
HIPPOLITO/ELTON JOHN – CAOLAN MCCARTHY
JOSEPH/FLUFFY – SAMUEL MORGAN-GRAHAME
DELPHINE – EMMA JANE MORTON
SUZANNE – KATE ROBSON-STUART
BLIND BEGGAR – JOSH SNEESBY
RAPHAEL/BRETODEAU – JEZ UNWIN
COLLIGNON/DUFAYEL – JOHNSON WILLIS
BOOK – CRAIG LUCAS
MUSIC – DANIEL MESSÉ
LYRICS – NATHAN TYSEN & DANIEL MESSÉ
DIRECTED BY – MICHAEL FENTIMAN
DESIGNER – MADELEINE GIRLING
LIGHTING DESIGN – ELLIOTT GRIGGS
MOVEMENT DIRECTOR – TOM JACKSON GREAVES
MUSICAL DIRECTOR – GEORGE FRANCIS
PUPPETS – DYK DOWNEY
SOUND DESIGN – TOM MARSHALL
A HARTSHORN-HOOK & SELLADOOR PRODUCTION IN ASSOCIATION WITH THE WATERMILL THEATRE AND BROADWAY ASIA