REVIEW: Amelie, New Victoria Theatre

This new musical based on the film has a quiet charm about it that reflects the central character’s personality.

(c)Pamela Raith Photography.

Not since Emma Rice’s Romantics Anonymous have I felt so charmed, captivated and so emotionally invested in a musical through watching Michael Fentiman’s beautiful production of Amelie.

Featuring a book by Craig Lucas, this stage adaptation based on the 2001 film, Amelie is a lonely and isolated character who decides to do good deeds for those around her, while attempting to deal with her social anxiety. It is a sensitive and warmhearted story that is completely relatable.

Having never seen the film, how this stage adaptation compares to the original I can only guess at, but it is certainly fair to say that director Michael Fentiman’s production handles the characters and story with great sensitivity – although there are times when certain elements of the story could be expressed clearer. For example the way in which Collignon has a nightmare or the suicidal goldfish is staged is wonderfully quirky but can be in danger of getting carried away with itself.

This being said, the way in which the cast of actor-musicians are constantly involved, helping to narrate the story as well as performing the music, adds an unexpected charm that also keeps the show feeling intimate.

There is also a wonderful folk-inspired theme surrounding this show, with Daniel Messe’s gloriously varied music combining beautifully with the lyrics he co-wrote with Nathan Tysen. Numbers such as ‘The Girl With the Glass’ and ‘Stay’ are just two highlights in a score that charmingly flows the story forward and draw the audience into Amelie’s story with great charm, while also highlighting her growing confidence and the way her life blossoms as she begins to take more chances.

Visually, there is much to be admired – in particular the rustically charming set that is easily converted to a number of locations such as the cafe at which Amelie works is also surprisingly intimate enough to keep the audience intrigued. Meanwhile, the costumes, lighting and even the puppets are also used impressively to highlight the quirky appeal of this show – everything about it is warm and well intentioned.

This is also reflected in the performances as well. Audrey Bisson is extraordinarily charming as Amelie, capturing her social anxiety with great sensitivity – the scene in which she dresses up as a nun is one of the highlights of the show. The way in which she expresses herself through her movement across the stage allows the audience to really see just how introverted this character is – making her transformation even more of a pleasure to watch. She is well matched with Danny Mac who as Nino completely inhibits the character with a quiet charm that reflects the character well.

Amelie is a musical that casts a magical spell over the audience from start to finish. Utterly charming.

By Emma Clarendon

Amelie continues to play at the New Victoria Theatre in Woking until the 31st August.

Rating: ⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐

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