For the show to lure a nervous (but now fully vaccinated – yay!) me back to the theatre after nearly 15 months, it’s hard to imagine more soothing fare than Amelie The Musical.
I had seen the 2002 French film, but so long ago, I only retain vague memories: Audrey Tatou’s impish grin, Montmartre, a feeling of joie de vivre.
These gave me a predisposition to liking an adaptation based on the film but the advantage of coming to the musical fresh. So I was charmed anew by the story of a solitary girl who becomes a painfully shy young woman with the power of imagination to quietly meddle in the lives of others and direct them towards happiness.
In the title role, French Canadian Audrey Brisson is excellent, as pixie-perfect as Tatou. She’s surrounded by a quirky ensemble of actor-musicians who bring to life an array of Parisian eccentrics – including Chris Jared as her photobooth-obsessed love interest Nino and Caolan McCarthy who, after his energetic dream sequence as Elton John, must be a shoo-in for any stage version of Rocketman – as well as a magical metropolitan landscape (set by Madeleine Girling), dancing garden gnomes and murderous figs.
It’s a delightful, deliciously sweet concoction, powered by a slew of whimsical songs by Daniel Messe and Nathan Tysen (I’m listening to the London cast recording on Spotify again as I type), with assured direction by Michael Fentiman. A kind of Mary Poppins meets Once with a French twist à l’Amour.
There are lines in Amelie that land with added poignancy post-Covid too – “everyone’s connected though they may not understand”, “we are all permanently stuck alone together”, “times are hard for dreamers” and the tentatively hopeful finale “Where do we go from here?”
Thanks to Amelie, I’ve also learned the secret to life: leave a trail of breadcrumbs. I hope this blog leaves a trail of digital breadcrumbs that leads you to the Criterion Theatre.