This review of Amélie The Musical at the Bournemouth Pavilion is courtesy of complimentary tickets given to me by BH Live
Last night I had the great joy of seeing one of my favourite films of all time, ‘Amelie’ but this time turned musical, with my Mum at the Bournemouth Pavilion Theatre courtesy of tickets from BH Live, the South Coast’s leading operator of leisure and event venues.
The original film, ‘Le Fabuleux Destin D’Amélie Poulain’, was released in 2001, starring Audrey Tautou (one of my all-time favourite actresses who is also sensational in ‘Coco Before Chanel’) and Matthieu Kassovitz.
To date, it is one of the highest-grossing French-language films released in the United States, taking $33 million. And the huge international success that Amélie was, went on to win Best Film at the European Film Awards, four César Awards in 2002 (including Best Film and Best Director), two BAFTA Awards (including Best Original Screenplay), and was nominated for five Academy Awards, including best foreign-language film.
Amélie is the story of an astonishing young woman who lives quietly in the world, but loudly in her mind. She secretly improvises small, but extraordinary acts of kindness that bring happiness to those around her. But when a chance at love comes her way, Amélie realises that to find her own contentment she’ll have to risk everything and say what’s in her heart.
Telling the story of the imaginative and shy romantic with a gift for helping others, Amélie The Musical is a vibrant, re-conception of the Broadway production and film with new orchestrations.
From start to finish, you’ll be inspired by Amélie as an imaginative dreamer and idealist who finds her voice, discovers the power of connection and sees possibilities around every corner. Although times are hard for dreamers, Amélie is someone to believe in.
At the heart of the story, French-Canadian stage and screen star Audrey Brisson makes an extremely confident lead as the iconic altruist Amélie Poulain. With an incredible voice, her unique authenticity truly carving the part as her own, divine comic timing, quirky innocence and emotional illiteracy she leads this part with such magic, and she was surely born to play this role. Of this part, Audrey Brisson said:
“Bonjour, je m’appelle Audrey Brisson et c’est avec un immense plaisir que je m’apprête à jouer le rôle d’Amelie Poulain. That is to say, I am really looking forward to sharing this journey filled with imagination and quirkiness that Amélie will concoct for us. Until then, à bientôt. (Have a raspberry on me!)”
Audrey trained at the Central School of Speech and Drama. She also studied Classical Singing at Cegep St-Laurent, Canada. As a child and teenager, Audrey worked extensively with Cirque Du Soleil as a vocalist and acrobat. She performed in their international tours of ‘Reinvente, Quidamand’ and the Cirque Du Soleil 30th Anniversary Concert.
Alongside her as the leading man, Nino is played by Danny Mac, who I fondly remember from Hollyoaks but whon has also appeared in ‘Les Miserables’ (Southampton), the West End’s ‘Wicked’ and ‘Strictly Come Dancing’ (BBC finalist). With his Disney Prince Charming esque looks, I so loved his warmth, and his sincerity in this role where he never tried to steal the limelight from Audrey, but rather subtly complimented her every move throughout so beautifully. He truly shined with his breathtaking voice and superb timing in a role that truly built momentum throughout.
They were then joined by a sensationally strong ensemble of actor-musicians who were beyond superb. As a musician myself with absolutely no idea about acting, the fact they could perform so well at both disciplines is mindblowing. Going from accordion to piano, to strings, to their placements, it all added a hugely impressive, atmospheric and expressive element to this unique performance. What was so evident above it all was the sheer pace this musical is set to. And from the music, to the choreography, the musical has movement at every turn, which in turn truly celebrates the mood of each and every magical moment on stage.
The music itself is by Hem’s Daniel Messé, with lyrics by Nathan Tysen and Daniel Messé and book by Craig Lucas, this new musical adaptation of the five-time Oscar®-nominated film is written by Jean-Pierre Jeunet and Guillaume Laurant, will be directed by Michael Fentiman.
Ever since I first watched the Amélie film, it is the piano score by Yann Tierson that has become so loved and cherished by pianists and listeners all over the world. I remember so fondly learning all of the pieces on the piano, and thus I was so curious to see how this would come across in the musical.
And whilst there are no big showstopping numbers in the musical that are perhaps as memorable as the film, I just so adored this whimsy score of improvised modern French music that so builds and builds, word paints magically, and has many exquisite poignant moments such as the pin-drop ending. Coupled with the live performers, I truly felt like I had been transported to magical Montmartre for the night immersed in the sights and sounds of my favourite city.
To me, Amélie the film is a masterpiece, and so I was beyond excited to see the musical version. It’s always hard not to compare, but what is true for both, is how beautifully the exploration of human behaviour, loss, growing old, and feeling love is portrayed.
Both the film and the musical truly emphatically draw you into Amélie’s heart and journey, and there’s true enlightenment and joy for us all when she is ready to embrace and accept the love which is offered. I think this ending is most spectacularly portrayed in the musical version, as being in a room full of other people, with the pin-dropping silence, truly added a beyond poignant, spectacular ending to this most beautiful moment.
The film version of Amélie is of course so magical because it is in the French language, and set in the heart of fairytale Paris, however, the musical set truly transports you to the fairytale city with as much ease. From a rotating photo booth that doubles as a church confessional, pianos that take a million different scenes on, a typical french cafe scene, and the enchanting room where Amélie watches the world unfold from the circular window and reaches to it from a lampshade from the stage ground.
The themes in both are comparable as both tackle sweetness, light and of course, it truly is known for its wondrous whimsicality. However, it is also a film and plot, with some very heavy things going on in it that are unearthed as Amélie goes on her journey of exploration. The musical is rated as a 14+ as a result. The musical version also exacerbates a huge streak of surrealism that I am so used to with French art! For example, a rather nasty grocer is taken over by gigantic figs, and a huge oversized gaudy gnome performs a quick-change routine while singing about the destinations he’s visited!
But overall, every scene is so well crafted with little details that make you smile, laugh and cry. It’s a truly timeless, wonderful story, a huge range of emotions and a distinctive French flair, packaged with a strong dose of joy and humanity. My one criticism would be that if you haven’t seen the film, like my confused Mum, then you will be just that: confused! The musical really lends itself to some prior knowledge otherwise I think the whole thing could seem a surreal evening in itself! The accents also need some concentration and attention if you’re unsure what is going on.
A huge thank you to BH Live for the tickets to this most enchanting performance of Amélie. How many of you have also seen Amélie?
If you’d like to see Amélie in Bournemouth, at the Bournemouth Pavilion, the show is on until Saturday 17th August 2019. To get your tickets with absolute ease you can head to BH Live online or order them by calling 0300 500 0595.
Event: Amélie – The Musical
Venue: Pavilion Theatre, Bournemouth
Date(s): Monday 12 – Saturday 17 August 2019
Tickets: £15.50 – £30.25