Prior to a run at The Other Palace, Amelie has been on a UK tour and this week stopped off in Reading.
Based on the popular French film and directed by Michael Fentiman, this musical teams Audrey Brisson and Danny Mac in the roles of Amelie and Nino, with a company of actor-musicians.
The show has a sense of the absurd, with puppets (child Amelie, a fish), a garden gnome, three giant figs, and a bizarre dream sequence which brings Elton John out of reports of the Princess of Wales’s funeral into a celebration of Amelie herself.
The score by Daniel Messe, with lyrics by Nathan Tysen, is richly constructed, the playing of the lead role delightful. A clever set (by Madeleine Girling) utilises the pivotal photo booth where Nino collects offcuts from customer’s lives, making it the main entrance and exit plus the route up to Amelie’s circulat haven.
We first encounter Amelie as a child, shielded from social intercourse by her mother and utilised by her doctor father ,(Jez Unwin) as a patient of curiosity. Slowly she retreats into a dreamworld where real life is kept at arm’s length, even when she leaves home and takes up a job as a waitress.
Like Jane Austen’s Emma, Amelie is about a girl who makes a difference to people’s lives: the owner of a box of marbles, a lonely widow, a grocer’s assistant, her father, and ultimately, herself.
Amelie has vibrant colours, Parisian streets, shops and stalls, and even electronically projected words. It is endlessly inventive and the company of sixteen gels well together – as well as Brisson, Mac and Unwin, I’d like to single out Sophie Crawford (Gina, the widow), Johnson Willis (the priest and grocer), and Faoileann Cunningham (big-hearted Suzanne).
Amelie may make you laugh, smile or bewilder you, but you’ll fall in love with the young gamine who has more of a hint of Leslie Caron, and you will never be bored.
Photo credits: Pamela Raith.