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Amelie The Musical at Alexandra Theatre - Review

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by Alison Brinkworth (subscribe)
Freelance journalist in Birmingham with a passion for the dynamic theatre, art, food and fashion scene in Britain's 'Second City'.
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Danny Mac and Audrey Brisson Star In Quirky Musical
The feel-good factor and quirkiness of award-winning French romantic comedy Amelie wowed moviegoers at the start of the millennium and a musical stage version is now hoping to do the same.

Amelie the Musical, UK tour, Birmingham, Alexandra Theatre
Amelie has a clever set design


The Broadway musical of Amelie has reached the UK for its first tour on British soil and I caught it during its stint at Birmingham's Alexandra Theatre from 22 to 27 July. It stays in the Midlands at Malvern Theatres from 29 July to 3 August before heading off to cities including Manchester and Glasgow.

With the acclaim associated with the film, it is no wonder that director Michael Fentiman described putting on Amelie the Musical as an exciting yet terrifying challenge "that you absolutely cannot turn down".

The show is very much based on the much-loved 2001 film by Jean-Pierre Jeunet and keeps to the essence of the movie, while adding changes that make it more endearing on stage.

It has a gentle pace in the first act but enchants with a wonderfully melodic songbook, enhanced further by the cast of musician-actors. They play cellos, drums, violins and pianos live on stage while also acting out this crazy, heart-warming story.

Meanwhile, the music by Daniel Messť has a folk feel to it, full of sweeping chords and lilting voices that make you want to sway.

Amelie the Musical, UK tour, Birmingham, Alexandra Theatre
Amelie is transferred to stage


What works well is that this romantic comedy is as eccentric as the film. It is quirky and madcap with a cleverly designed set that is under the shadow of a huge, green Metropolitain underground sign, It involves magical scenes with puppets, flashing photobooths and Amelie floating up to her rooftop apartment by a kitsch lampshade.

The eccentricity at first seems bizarre but quickly feels charming and fun. There is a singing gnome that steals the show, along with an adorable puppet of a young Amelie, plus a fantasy scene where Elton John transforms into Elvis to honour the memory of Amelie instead of Princess Diana at a state funeral.

For those of you who haven't seen the film, the story unfolds about the life of shy but imaginative Parisian waitress Amelie Poulain as she attempts to improve the lives of those around her in a series of small acts of kindness. These escapades bring her into contact with delightful characters, including an attractive stranger that she feels an instant bond with but is too scared to follow up.

Playing the lead role that Audrey Tautou made famous in the movie is French Canadian performer Audrey Brisson. She is well-cast with a strong resemblance to the Amelie of the film and exuberating the same wit and charm that made the character so well-loved.

You may recognise Brisson from her background in theatre, including at renowned Kneehigh (also known for its quirky productions) and The National Theatre. More probably, she wlll seem familiar for her roles in TV and film, starring in director Clint Eastwood's film Hereafter, Madonna's movie W and television drama Outlander.

Amelie the Musical, UK tour, Birmingham, Alexandra Theatre
The talented cast members are musicians as well as actors


There's good character development through the enlightening songs; not just for Amelie but the friends she makes along the way to her own happiness.

Danny Mac plays the love interest, Nino, with a good French accent and even better voice. It's no surprise as before his days in Strictly Come Dancing and Hollyoaks, he was a regular on stage starring in Les Miserables in the West End, Wicked and was more recently in the UK tour of Sunset Boulevard that came to Birmingham Hippodrome in 2017.

But there's a strong cast all-round, committed to bringing to life peculiar yet likeable characters in unconventional ways.

Amelie the Musical, Danny Mac, UK tour, Birmingham, Alexandra Theatre
Danny Mac plays the love interest


This tour - brought to stage in the UK by Hartshorn-Hook Productions, Selladoor Productions, The Watermill Theatre and Broadway Asia - opened at the small Watermill Theatre in Newbury in April. Transferring on to much larger stages, like that of the Alexandra, thankfully doesn't affect the impact of the show and it translates over well.

The show still feels intimate and visually rich in colour and detail. There's an endearing warmth about it that cocoons the audience into its bubble of surreal events.

Amelie the Musical's eccentricity combined with great performances and an enchanting soundtrack make this a complete joy and unlike most things you will have seen before.


RATING:

UPCOMING UK TOUR DATES

Tour dates in full are at the Amelie Musical website.

The Alexandra, Birmingham
22 - 27 July Box Office: 0844 871 3011

Malvern Theatre
29 July - 3 August
01684 892277

Manchester Opera House
6 - 10 August
0844 871 3018

Pavilion Theatre, Bournemouth
12 - 17 August
0844 871 7648

King's Theatre, Glasgow
19 - 24 August
0844 871 7648

New Victoria Theatre, Woking
27 - 31 August
0844 871 7645
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Why? See musical version of Amelie film
When: 22 -27 July, 2019
Phone: 0844 871 3011
Where: Suffolk Queensway, Birmingham, West Midlands, B5 4DS
Cost: From £23.90
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