King’s Theatre, Edinburgh – until 29 June 2019
Reviewed by James Knight
Amélie Poulain, a young French waitress with an unconventional upbringing, decides that she will act as a guardian angel of sorts to those around her, whilst at the same time keeping herself at a distance from her own desires and true happiness.
Based on the 2001 film starring Audrey Tautou, this new musical, with a book by Craig Lucas, music by Daniel Messé and lyrics by Nathan Tysen and Daniel Messé, is nothing short of a theatrical miracle. The original Broadway production closed after around two months, but it has now been re-worked for its UK tour. And it seems all the changes have been for the better.
For starters, I cannot praise the ensemble cast enough. Sixteen actor-singer-musicians impeccably create the quirky Parisian world Amélie inhabits, with all the music coming from them. Their talent is undeniable, to play a two-hour musical, with no sheet music or visible conductor, while acting, singing, dancing… The whole show is filled with the unstoppable force of quadruple threats. Daniel Messé’s music is achingly beautiful (of course, we’re in France) from the opening number, to Nino’s ballad ‘When the Booth Goes Bright’ and Amélie’s ‘Times are Hard for Dreamers’. That’s not to say we don’t get to inside the more quirky aspects of Amélie’s imagination – we also get a singing fish, singing figs and a singing gnome. Not to mention Elton John’s ode to Amélie at the end of Act One, which will leave you wondering why it’s not been included in ‘Rocketman’.
Little moments filled me with joy. Amélie entering her flat reverse-Mary Poppins style via a ceiling light. The use of light for the photo booths that Nino searches. A lost treasure box returned to its owner. Amélie’s parents, neurotic, but still made for each other, singing and playing cellos in unison. And a long-awaited kiss that happens, in a show filled with sounds and music and movement, in simple and blissful silence.
‘Amélie the Musical’ is a joyous celebration of human connection and small moments and rightfully deserves its own moment in the spotlight. Drop everything that you’re doing, go and see it, and you’ll leave the theatre a little lighter.