Amélie The Musical – King’s Theatre, Edinburgh

Book: Craig Lucas

Music: Danie Messé

Lyrics: Nathan Tysen & Daniel Messé

The awkward daughter of a neurotic and a germophobe (we’ve all been there), Amélie is as socially fragile as she is dedicated to helping others. In the aftermath of Princess Diana’s death, Amélie has a revelation – to help flicker the light of the world through minuscule, almost invisible acts of kindness which spiral into deliciously absurd results. Now, if only she could find a way to have that adventure in her own life.

Audrey Tautou’s performance in the cinematic release acquired universal praise. Audrey Brisson’s Améliehas the base characteristics, but she has an edge, a bite to her. In part, this is mostly due to the music elements, Brisson’s voice an intensely emotive one. As a recluse, we adore her, want to keep her safe, but know her determination and creativity will keep her out of (too much) trouble.

For as little time as Danny Mac and Brisson spend on stage together, they generate a remarkable amount of chemistry. Nico, a character he brings life to when able, is woefully underutilised given Mac’s impressive vocals and quaint charm.

This is how you adapt a cinematic masterpiece. This is how you encourage a fresh basis for fans, lovers and admirers of the theatre. Sculpting a sublime stroll through the whimsical world of Amélie the Musical, Craig Lucas’ book carefully adapts Jean-Pierre Jeunet’s 2001 award-winning French movie. Expanding the surrealist imagery, modern fairy-tale narrative and mise-en-scène of a timeless France for the theatre. It’s a rare, triumphant feat in knowing which parts of the film could be grander onstage and which components to leave behind.

Following from the original Broadway outing, there was an injection of ‘Frenchness’ by director Fentiman in the composition of the production. For the film, there’s a dusty cloud of bon-bon sweetness to its French identity. The stage version captures the je ne sais quoi, striking a timeless Gallic style of folk music in Daniel Messe’s score. There’s a sublime use of rough beats, which from the outset pump blood around the body, letting us know that the score and lyrics for Amélie maybe its mightiest asset.

It isn’t all champagne and caviar, through all the madness, the surrealist nature of Amélie does take the time to breathe, both to success and its only let-down. We find tender moments of delight, touching scenes which round off characters, provide some space to gather ourselves. The closing act feels drawn out, by around ten minutes. The story is spun, our character’s content. Finally, Amelie is to have her deserving moment, but it doesn’t arrive when it ought. We have our emotions of tenter hooks, only to wait a little longer.

Amélie the Musical is a contemporary fairy-tale, the genre in which we find aspects of imagination, the fantastic and enchantment through our characters absurdist disconnection with reality. We have malevolent figs, goldish companions and a charmingly crafted young Amélie puppet. A garden gnome, travelling the world and kind enough to send postcards. They all represent something, insecurities and failure to move on through grief. Madeleine Girling’s design takes note of Jeunet and Laurant’s 2001 aesthetic, magnifying it for the stage. From the moment we enter the theatre, the cast-iron greens peer out from the thick nicotine-tinted lighting. It’s a visual splendour of theatre.

It is these moments, these heightened fantastical scenes which make Amélie a treasure for the musical theatre collection. Its illusionary lighting, coy fairy-tale charm and folk-style composition set it apart from the rag-tag of Jukebox and ever replaying musicals. So, take advice from Amélie, leave the confines of boredom, dive into imagination and treat yourself to something magical.

Review originally published for Reviews Hub:

Production Touring:

Image contribution: Pamela Reith


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