It’s getting on for 20 years since Jean-Pierre Jeunet’s Amelie hit British cinema screens with its story about a gamine introvert fixing it for the people in her life to experience some elusive happiness.
Imagine a cross between It’s A Wonderful Life, A Christmas Carol and ‘Allo ‘Allo and you’re in the right ballpark. God knows we could all do with a little joy these days, so this musical adaptation should hit the spot.
Whether it does, of course, rather depends on your attitude to musicals. Playwright Craig Lucas indicates in the programme notes that the genre relies on characters declaring their feeling through an “I want…” song.
Amelie doesn’t know what she wants, so this production is full of “I think I want…” songs instead – not to mention exposition songs, sad songs, happy songs, backstory songs and more besides. In fact there are 36 songs in Amelie. Little surprise the running time nudges 150 minutes. Again, whether you think this overlong will probably come down to whether you wish every moment in life was highlighted by an accompanying song.
At the centre of it Audrey Brisson is a captivating Amelie, using her vocal and acrobatic skills to full effect.
The ambiance is very much on point. A sumptuous set recalls the hyperreal Paris of the film: Jeunet’s 80 locations and million details translating well onto a stage that puts one in mind of coffee, fresh baguettes and overpriced croissants.
Amelie is often sweet and sometimes funny. There are smart moments of humour and wit, met with grateful applause. Monstrous figs menace the obnoxious, fig-phobic M. Collignon; Elton John appears in one of Amelie’s flights of fancy to sing her praises, giving Caolan McCarthy a lovely moment; A garden gnome belonging to Amelie’s father arrives to deliver a song. And at the centre of it Audrey Brisson is a captivating Amelie, using her vocal and acrobatic skills to full effect.
But every time something genuinely amusing, unusual or quirky occurs it swiftly makes way for another song. Frankly there are about a dozen too many and Amelie sags under their weight. The film wasn’t everyone’s cup of tea, but no-one could have suggested it was a little, well, dull.
If you loved the film the chances are you’ll adore this production. It’s full of skill, character and heart. We could all use a some Amelie in our lives – but sometimes less is more.
Until 19 October