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Phil Willmott

Review: AMELIE at the Other Palace Theatre

Amelie the Musical I'm not sure of the science behind this but pretty much all of us, at one time or another need a hug. And this delightful musical is the theatrical equivalent.

The setting is a story-book France at the end of the last century where you’re never far from an accordion solo and everyone treats life’s ups and down with a good natured shrug.

Little Amélie grows up lonely when her eccentric parents conclude her racing heart means she must be cocooned from real life. But when her best friend, a goldfish, is killed and sings her a goodbye song she breaks out into the world as a young adult with a mission to make people’s lives better from her humble position as a waitress. 

Amongst the people she helps is an artist who collects discarded and torn pictures from the city’s photo booths. Their mystery and the divided nature of many of the lives she encounters are solved, wounds heeled and hearts mended as love breaks out all around her.

I must confess, at first I felt resistant to all that whimsy, but from the point when the fish sang I was dragged into the action and captivated by the joy of the story and down-beat loveliness of Amélie herself. The fish isn’t the only unlikely soloist. Expect to hear from a sinister fig and a globe trotting garden gnome!

The restaurant setting of Amélie’s workplace allows the narrative to embrace a range of gorgeous little characters, all one step away from happiness, a step their waitress allows them to take.

The show also includes several references to Princess Diana’s real life car accident and a pastiche of Elton John’s funeral song. This ought to jar but the fairy tale reverence that’s always been afforded to Diana feels like a reflection of Amélie’s ability to transform the lives around her, often by simply taking an interest or providing a nudge in the right direction.

I found the music by Daniel Messé a constant delight of smile inducing resolutions, sweeping themes and captivating key changes. I downloaded it immediately I left the theatre.

As Amélie, Audrey Brisson is completely adorable and leads an equally charismatic cast who all sing, act and whirl around the set playing musical instruments with such ease it’s almost as if some of them are miming to a track.

Based on Guillaume Laurant & Jean-Pierre Jeunet’s 2001 film of the same name, Michael Fentiman’s direction and Madeleine Girling’s design are like a box of agreeable tricks that keep surprising and delighting you. 

It does take a while to get going and it is 15 minutes too long but this delightful, life affirming show is the perfect tonic to our gloomy, post-election, winter.

Amélie The Musical