Amelie the Musical

Despite the slow start, Amelie the Musical is full of good things. Peter Gray reports.

Image credit: Pamela Raith Photography

It may disappoint some diehard fans of the original movie, but the Criterion Theatre’s new offering, Amelie the Musical, is an engaging, whimsical, and often charming affair.

The production gets off to a slow start, it must be said. While Jean-Pierre Jeunet’s quirky direction and cinematography quickly distinguished the movie version of the tale, the theatrical version of the story initially struggles to find its feet with the opening biographical section feeling rushed and overly wordy.

 

 
 
 
 
 
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The early songs fare little better. Sweet but instantly forgettable, most pass by amiably, however, the score’s musical genres (trad jazz, folk) do not necessarily match the quirky charm of the tale.

Things improve noticeably when Amelie’s mysterious neighbour shows up, however. A shut in with a rare condition that makes his bones shatter like glass, Dufayel has an instinctive understanding of Amelie’s social phobias and also a keen appreciation of what she is missing out on.

 

 
 
 
 
 
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The old man takes Amelie under his wing, and it is his promptings that force Amelie to finally confront her fears and take action when she meets the man of her dreams.

Dufayel also snags one of the musical’s best songs in The Girl With The Glass, which he duets with Amelie.

The musical seems to gain confidence from this point on. Several good scenes follow, the highlights being a hilarious funeral scene featuring a scene stealing Elton John impersonator (the brilliant Caolan McCarthy) and an inspired and equally amusing sequence with a life sized gnome.

 

 
 
 
 
 
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Audrey Brisson is engaging enough as the title character, even given the all but impossible job of matching the kaleidoscopic charm of Audrey Tautou. Brisson convinces as the elfin matchmaker whose socially minded schemes cannot mask the depth of her social anxiety, however, she is not quite as successful in conveying the same level of likeability as the winsome Tautou.

Chris Jared is good too as Nino, the quirky loner whose odd lifestyle perfectly matches that of Amelie.

Both are ably supported by a supporting cast  who not only play multiple characters but who also play all of the musical instruments in the show.

 

 
 
 
 
 
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The central flaw in this stage version of the much loved movie is that without Jeunet’s box of celluloid tricks, the screenplay suddenly seems indulgent and verbose, and some of the tight sight gags from the film fall short in the limited confines of the stage.

Nonetheless, there is still much to admire here, with the stage production affording several small delights. One is Amelie’s Poppins-esque stage exit: ascending on a lampshade from the stage floor to her attic room behind a clock.

Another is the inspired comeback that faces the villain of the peace, the green grocer and bully Collignon. I won’t ruin it for you by revealing the full details of his come uppance but let’s just say it is extremely satisfying.

 

 
 
 
 
 
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Amelie the Musical will certainly divide audiences but while those who delight in the film’s freewheeling may find this stage adaptation mundane, just as many will delight in this new telling of the story.

There is certainly much to enjoy. The music – once it kicks into gear – is delightful, the performances are good and a few of the reimagined scenes are quite inspired. Yes, there is much to enjoy in The Criterion Theatre’s new version of Amelie – just don’t go in expecting an exact replica of Jean-Pierre Jeunet’s hit movie.

Amelie the Musical is at the Criterion Theatre from the until the More information about the production can be found here.

For information on other theatre productions in London, please click here.

-London's Best Events-
What: theatre
When: From 20 May 21
Where: Piccadilly Circus