amelie cast

Audrey Brisson as Amélie with the multi-tasking cast. Pictures: Pamela Raith Photography

Amélie – The Musical

The Alexandra Theatre


Every so often along comes delightful surprise, and what a pleasure this is, a wonderful flight into whimsy in a charming musical studded with eccentric characters.

Based on the Oscar nominated 2001 French film of the same name, French-Canadian singer and actress Audrey Brisson is just superb in the eponymous role.

She has the voice of an angel and busily darts around flitting from place to place in her . . . rather bespoke world. It is a beautiful performance.

Her world is populated by a series of unconventional characters starting with her parents. There is her mother Armandine (Rachel Dawson) who just about makes it through the opening couple of numbers before being “squished”, in Amélie’s words, killed as she left Notre Dame Cathedral after confession by a suicidal Canadian tourist leaping from its towers landing on her.

Then there is her father Raphael (Jez Unwin) who never leaves home and builds a shrine to his dead wife with her ashes deposited in a garden gnome – a shrine he maintains on what seems an hourly basis.

Is it any wonder Amélie grows up a little . . . different? She leaves home and ends up working as a waitress in a cafe in the artistic Montmartre district where the owner  Suzanne (Kate Robson-Stewart) is a former circus performer, Georgette is a card-carrying hypochondriac and fellow waitress Gina spends her days reading letters from her dead husband – who died in a plane crash heading for Machu Picchu after running off with his receptionist.

Then there is Joseph (Samuel Morgan-Grahame) who went out with Gina once and refuses to believe it is over and the poet Hopolito, (Caolan McCarthy) who is also a mean piano player and does a pretty good impression of Elton John . . . don’t ask. Not to mention air hostess Philomene (Dawson again) who has a cat looked after by Amélie when she is away . . . and who takes Amélie’s mother’s shrine gnome on a world tour!

Chuck in Collignon (Johnson Willis) who is a greengrocer who doesn’t like fruit and veg while his son Lucien (Oliver Grant) is a simple soul who goes into orgasmic raptures over them. There is Amélie’s artist neighbour, Dufayel, (Willis again) who she nicknames the Glass Man on account of his brittle bone disease. He has been recreating Renoir’s The Boating Party for 20 years without ever getting the girl with the glass right.

On the day of Princess Diana’s funeral Amélie’s decides to bring comfort to the world after finding a box hidden and forgotten by a small boy long ago in the apartment she now lives in. She sets out to find the boy, now a man, Bretodeau (Unwin again), changing his life, which gives Amélie her new mission in life- changing lives.

And into this melange of eccentricity comes Danny Mac in a fine performance as the bookish, bespectacled Nino. It would be nice to say he was normal but as this is a man who constantly travels the Métro stations searching passport photo booths for discarded pictures and sticking them in an album, you can make your own mind up.


Caolan McCarthy as Hopolito after Amélie spray painted the words of one of his poems around Paris

His obsession is finding a mysterious man (Grant again) constantly using booths and discarding photos – and, as it turns out, the phantom photo man is the only normal(ish) one in the whole thing!

We know Nino and Amélie are destined for each other – but how is that going to happen, especially is Amélie sets Nino treasure hunt clues to find her. Well that is what this is all about so just join the ride. Whether anyone is set to live happily ever after . . . who knows? But at least, with Amélie’s help they are all happy at the end so we can all head off home with a warm glow and a smile.

If there was a fault, some words were lost in the French accents, which missed a couple of punch lines, but meaning was never missing so even if you didn’t quite catch what was said you could still follow.

I never saw the film, so it was all new to me, but it is fairly simple to follow with some fine music and lyrics, sometimes sad, sometimes very witty and funny, from Nathan Tysen and Daniel Messe and a book by Craig Lucas.

Michael Fentiman’s direction involves an onstage orchestra which requires a multi-instrumental cast, 14 strong at times, which means sometimes it is a full stage, but the crowding works in scenes such as travelling on the métro and, as an orchestra, they sure can play and give us some lovely choral work to boot with both solos and ensemble singing.

amelie and nino

Audrey Brisson as Amélie with Danny Mac as Nino 

The whole thing is set off with a magical set from Medeleine Girling under a giant Métropolitain sign, the Sunday name of the Paris Métro, so you know where you are as soon as you enter, and isn’t Metrolpolitain the most attractive font? That’s the old newspaperman talking.

Beneath that is a large clock face, reminiscent of the giant clock at the wonderful Musee D'Orsay, which divides in the middle to reveal Amélie’s apartment where she retreats into solitude. She enters by being lifted by a wrist strap from a lampshade descending from the flies – a nod, perhaps, to Brisson’s time in Cirque Du Soleil as a singer and acrobat.

Below her room is a photo booth which serves as a confessional, as well as a doorway and plenty else as it is revolved around by the hard-working cast – who are also scene shifters and band as well as doubling up on roles. They earn their money all right.

On stage we have two upright pianos, presumable keyboards set in piano cases as the pianos open up to give us a tabac and a greengrocer’s shop where the stringed frame should be.

Scenes change with no delay the music is entertaining and often fun, the story engaging and the acting first class - the result is an evening of pure joy and entertainment. To 27-07-19.

Roger Clarke


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