With so many musicals becoming like blockbuster movies with huge budgets and Disney film-to-stage adaptations such as Frozen, Aladdin, The Lion King and Mary Poppins filing theatres, is the world ready for the biggest French language film to grace theatres with added songs?
Amelie starred Audrey Tautou and audiences all over the world loved the dreamlike visuals and the sanitised version of Paris that graced the screen.
It went on to make £109 million worldwide on a budget of £10 million and was particularly popular here and in the US.
Four years ago, this musical version premiered in Berkeley and transferred to Broadway, where it opened and closed within two months. Here it is faring much better and is about to transfer to London and you can see why.
Instead of simply repeating the film’s greatest moments, the musical has been designed to appeal to fans of the movie and newcomers alike.
From the moment it begins it offers you pure escapism, transporting you to a chocolate box style Paris.
Audrey Brisson avoids impersonating Tautou which means in her hands Amelie is something different. She plays this interesting character as someone trying to make sense of a world that she has grown to fear because of her parents’ insecurities so she invents a world which is much more palatable.
This means that creatively the team behind this mesmerising musical have a field day. So we see a singing goldfish, some ferocious figs (I’m not kidding), a giant garden gnome and Elton John singing an ode to the protagonist at her funeral – an adieu to Amelie.
The result is a wacky, quirky, inventive, fast paced and surprising piece of eye candy which is as good as it looks. It’s a stripped back musical, the complete opposite of juggernaut shows like Wicked which bombard you with set changes and dazzling costumes and effects.
Here, the music and lyrics are more important and there is some great wordplay throughout which leaves you smiling.
Craig Lucas has written a book which does not dilute the original vision but tries new things – and it works incredibly well.
Michael Fentiman directs with a real glint in his eye and clearly loves the world which Amelie conjures up – and it shows. The attention to detail from Madeline Girling’s eye catching set design through to Dik Downey’s beautiful puppet designs is astounding.
One of the problems with the Broadway production is that it lost some of its Parisian feel in translation. Here it’s back. Daniel Messe’s music has the foot tapping quality that you long for in a decent musical, and he and Nathan Tysen have written some great lyrics reminiscent of a French Victoria Wood.
The entire cast are superb, with most of them also playing instruments as the onstage band, and when they reappear as characters and put their instruments down it’s seamless rather than awkward.
Danny Mac’s vocals are soft and velvety as love interest Nino. You can see why he brings Amelie out of her shell.
Brisson is superb as the sarcastic and sardonic protagonist who does not how ‘to be’. She plays piano, has an inventive way of transporting herself to her apartment and has stage presence to burn.
Reminiscent of a Kneehigh musical, this is as close to perfect as you can get. Imagine the foot stomping brilliance of Once and Come From Away and stir in some crème brûlée and melt in the mouth lyrics with some kick and bite, and you have all the ingredients for one of the best musicals to grace the Manchester stage in some time. Amelie is merveilleux.
Amelie is at The Opera House until 10th August.