Adapted from the five-time Oscar nominated French language movie of the same name, Amelie tells the story of a girl with a wild imagination who takes pleasure in performing “small, but extraordinary acts of kindness” with the goal of bringing joy to those around her. What must she do to bring herself the happiness that she so effortlessly provides those around her?
Charming is the only word I can think of that sufficiently describes Amelie. The relatively small stage and auditorium of The Other Palace greatly contribute to the cosy feel of the production, which makes it perfect for a date. The couple sitting in front of me would probably agree, as they partook in an endless round of tonsil tennis throughout.
The only downside of the small stage size is that, at times, it felt overcrowded, especially due to the actor/muso approach - the cast members themselves were the ones playing the instruments on stage. However, this was rarely an issue, and I strongly believe that the small stage size helped give the production an intimate feel more than it hurt it. There were some relatively odd choices sprinkled throughout the show, such as using the death of Princess Diana as a timeframe reference, and as justification for Amelie’s actions. However, the oddest moment of the production was a dream sequence involving ‘Elton John’ serenading the lead character, complete with weird pop culture references (such as Oprah’s famous ‘you get a car’ speech). I guess this all worked well to illustrate the colourful imagination of Amelie and draw the audience in..
Although the show was globally outstanding, the final twenty minutes were completely breathtaking, and without a doubt some of the most romantic moments I’ve ever witnessed on stage.
I am half ashamed to admit that I have yet to see the movie, although I have been in love with its score for many years. I was hoping that the show would have borrowed some elements from the iconic score by Yann Tiersen, which brilliantly captures the charm and the melancholy of the character. This unfortunately wasn’t the case. However, the music was strong enough to stand on its own two feet, having a distinct Parisian feel.
The overall cast was exceptional, with Audrey Brisson providing an unbelievable vocal and theatrical performance as the titular character. Her voice had a magical, unique quality that feels as true to the character as one could imagine or hope for. Likewise, Chris Jared proved to be an excellent choice for Nino, the mystical yet endearing potential love interest for Amelie.
Having opened on Broadway in 2017, closing a mere two months later despite the undeniable star power for Philippa Soo (her first role since leaving the cast of Hamilton), I was curious to find out two things: why the Broadway production ended so prematurely, and why such a failure would be brought to the London stage. Being the investigative journalist that I am, I quickly found out that the main issue with the Broadway production was the complete loss of its original charm and Parisian feel. This is abundantly clear from the Original Cast Recording as well, which sounds like… well… every other show on Broadway…
I am extremely happy to report that this issue has been completely resolved for the UK production as this is no direct import from Broadway, but a re-imagination of the source material, and a complete return to form. This is a completely new show, complete with a new director, new staging and new musical arrangements (complete with accordions), which brings back the Parisian feel to the show that it desperately seems to have been missing in New York.
Charming. That’s all I can say about this gorgeous production that ultimately has its strength in its cosy feel. Don’t let the initial bad press surrounding the Broadway production scare you. See this show.