Merci Amélie the Musical for bringing some much-needed sunshine to a bleak and midwintery London. The petite French girl that we fell in love with in the 2001 film is treading the boards at The Other Palace in a production that’s a billet doux to Paris and is as enchanting as it is heartwarming.
The original Amélie starred a young Audrey Tautou and was nominated for five Oscars. It is to-date one of France’s most successful screen exports. The new musical adaptation, which transferred from Newbury’s Watermill theatre, is directed by Michael Fentiman and stars French-Canadian Audrey Brisson as Amélie Poulain.
Set in Montmartre, the story plots the lonely and eccentric life of a young French girl who is home-schooled and loses her mother when she is six (she is squished by a suicidal tourist who jumps from the Notre Dame rooftop).
Fast forward a few years, and Diana, Princess of Wales has just died. Amélie discovers a box of childhood treasures in the roof of her garret flat and vows to return the keepsakes to their original owner. In the process, she makes it her mission to help as many people as possible, from her eccentric work colleagues at the Café des 2 Moulins, to an ailing artist who has been painting the same Renoir scene for years.
Biensur, there is also a love story. And as it’s French, there is a soupcon of raunchiness with some oversized dildos which might erm, make it a little awkward for the teens watching with mum and dad.
The diminutive Brisson is powerful and enchanting as Amélie. She can belt out a tune, she will make you laugh out loud with some hilarious one-liners, and she’ll make you forget that moment you fell in love with Audrey Tatou in the film version.
It’s not every day you’ll see a musician who can act, sing, dance and act as a stagehand. In Amélie, the entire cast dips in and out of all the above. I am still puzzled as to how some musicians stage-waltzed with cellos suspended mid-air above torso.
There’s an excellent impersonation of Elton John by Caolan McCarthy, complete with sequinned glasses and feathered shoulder pads. I must mention puppet master Oliver Grant who animates the young Amélie and who also doubles as a zingy dancing gnome. Another noteworthy performance is by Kate Robson-Stuart as the formidable café colleague Suzanne. Once a trapeze artist, she now seductively semi-limps her way around stage.
Madeleine Girling is the girl with the magical design wand, transforming this south west London theatre into a Montmartre stomping ground. It’s as Parisian as you can get, minus the baguettes and berets.
Give me Amélie the Musical any day of the week over the other Froggy in town, Cyrano, at the Playhouse. It’s camp, it’s silly, and it’s magnifique. We all need a fresh breath of Amelie right now.
I was invited to Amélie the Musical. As always, opinions are all my own.