Hartshorn – Hook Productions, Selladoor Worldwide and Broadway Asia Company
in association with The Watermill Theatre
AMÉLIE The Musical
Book by Craig Lucas
Music by Daniel Messe
Lyrics by Nathan Tysen & Daniel Messe
Director - Michael Fentiman
The Other Palace
29 November 2019 – 1 February 2020
Reviewed by Clive Burton
There’s only so much whimsy an audience can take, and Amélie the Musical mercilessly pushes it to the limit.
It’s a chamber musical with big ambitions; an impossibly wide-ranging story; enormous demands on the small cast of actor musicians and a set that is required to suggest a multiplicity of different locations as the convoluted story progresses in a three-decade plus timespan.
Amélie is based on the 2001 French film that was nominated for five Oscars and garnered a host of awards around the world but, with 36 songs packed into its leisurely three-hour hour run time, it can sometimes drag and the humour becomes more laboured and slows down the complicated story as it pogresses.
Despite its drawbacks, it has attained cult status on the back of the film, although Amélie, The Musical managed a modest run of just under 100 performances when it opened on Broadway. Its UK run was originally produced at The Watermill Theatre in Newbury before kicking off on an extensive UK tour.
The serpentine plot really doesn’t bear scrutiny here. It is basically a love story with the shy and introverted Amélie at its heart: she lives her life vicariously through the love lives of others – observed from an attic room reached, Poppins-like, by flying in through an upper-story window on a conveniently-descending lampshade.
Madeline Girling’s sumptuous but subtle set is full of such felicitous inventions, bringing Paris to life through Elliot Griggs’ evocative lighting: Tom Marshall’s sound is at best variable, with many lyrics - and some explanatory dialogue near the end - lacking audibility.
A versatile photobooth at the heart of the story focuses on Amélie’s love fixation, a man who collects discarded portraits and assembles them into an on-going artwork: this mysterious, anonymous, artist is one of several who inspires a lifetime obsession in Amélie.
Michael Fentiman’s direction keeps the story moving dizzyingly fast among multi-purpose sets and props that include a confessional, an upright piano (one of two) that converts into a bar, and many scenes are set on a jostling Metro which other ingenious peripatetic musos negotiate with consummate skill while singing, dancing and playing their instruments to accompany the action.
Despite outstanding performances on all fronts – with Audrey Brisson as a jolie-laide powerhouse Amélie – many will find it hard to bond with the multiplicity of characters emerging throughout the text although book-writer Craig Lewis’s whimsical sub-plots could well do with trimming.
As could Daniel Messé's insistent score, although an Elton John pastiche succeeds thanks to a barnstorming performance by Caolan McCarthy.
For many, Amélie is a show whose self-indulgence is simply too pronounced to provide broad appeal. But, then again, who could imagine that Dear Evan Hansen would take Broadway by storm?
AMÉLIE THE MUSICAL
THE OTHER PALACE, 12 PALACE STREET, LONDON, SW1E 5JA
DATES 29 NOVEMBER 2019 – 2 FEBRUARY 2020
RUNNING TIME: 2 hours 15 minutes (including an interval)
TICKET PRICES*: Tickets from £19.50 – £65.00
Age Guidance: 12+ (contains adult themes)
*All prices are subject to availability, may only be available on certain performances and are subject to change without prior notice.
CHRISTMAS AND NEW YEAR PERFORMANCES
Tuesday 24 December at 2.30pm
Wednesday 25 December NO PERFORMANCE
Thursday 26 December at 2.30pm and 7.30pm
Tuesday 31 December at 2.30pm and 6.00pm
Wednesday 1 January NO PERFORMANCE
The Other Palace
12 Palace Street
London SW1E 5JA