Theatre Review: AMELIE THE MUSICAL – Alhambra Theatre, Bradford

Audrey Brisson and Danny Mac in AMELIE THE MUSICAL

Audrey Brisson and Danny Mac in AMELIE THE MUSICAL. Photo: Pamela Raith Photography

Imaginatively staged and beautifully performed, AMELIE THE MUSICAL is a visual treat, even if its score is a little forgettable

3.5 out of 5 stars

Much like the main character herself, stage musical AMELIE has had somewhat of a strange life. Premiering at the Berkeley Repertory Theatre in California, before transferring to Broadway in 2017, the production closed after just 56 performances, marking what seemed like the end for this musical. Yet, despite its fraught past, there is still plenty of magic left in this whimsical story as Michael Fentiman’s latest UK production demonstrates.

Based on Jean-Pierre Jeunet’s 2001 Oscar-nominated film, AMELIE tells the story of a quiet and lonely young woman who performs small but extraordinary acts of kindness to bring happiness to those around her. When Amelie crosses paths with Nino, a handsome young man who accidentally drops his scrapbook in the street, Amélie sets out to find him, risking everything to say what’s in her heart and finally have a chance at love.

Danny Mac in AMELIE THE MUSICAL

Danny Mac in AMELIE THE MUSICAL. Photo Credit: Pamela Raith Photography

It’s clear from the opening number that Craig Lucas (book), Daniel Messé (music and lyrics) and Nathan Tysen (lyrics) have worked hard to restore the much-loved delicate whimsicality of Jennet’s film. From Madeleine Girling’s imaginative two-storey set design to Tom Jackson Greaves wonderful movement direction which sees Amelie swing around the set on a lampshade, every inch of this production is a visual treat, embracing the story’s surreal wit, spirit and magic.

Much of its success lies in the talented ensemble of actor-musicians, who not only act, sing and dance but also provide the music for this charming and inventive production. French-Canadian stage and screen star Audrey Brisson is delightful in the role of Amélie, her wonderfully expressive face communicating every hope and her glorious voice emphasising Amelie’s sweet nature.

Elsewhere, Danny Mac is winningly tender as love interest Nino, displaying a lovely warmth in musical numbers like WHEN THE BOOTH GOES BRIGHT while Kate Robson-Stuart as café confidante Suzanne and Johnson Willis as Amélie’s artist neighbour Dufayel also stand out for their comical yet touching performances.

Audrey Brisson and cast in AMELIE THE MUSICAL

Audrey Brisson and cast in AMELIE THE MUSICAL. Photo Credit: Pamela Raith Photography

Shame then that despite its inventive staging, there is just too much going on. From projections and dancing gnomes to giant figs, puppetry, large dildos and even Elton John, there’s so much to take in with this production that by the end of act one, you need the 20-minute interval just to take a breather.

Disappointingly, Messé and Tysen musical score is also a little forgettable. Don’t get me wrong, its gentle and stirring pace suits the Parisian setting and it’s exquisitely performed by the cast on stage, but nothing really stands out here or sticks in the memory.

That said, on the whole, this is a delightful show which is imaginatively staged and beautifully performed and while its whimsical nature may not be for everyone, it’s sure to appeal to fans of the original film.

AMÉLIE runs at the Alhambra Theatre, Bradford until 6 July and at Palace Theatre, Manchester from 6 to 10 August 2019