WORTH A LOOK?: ***
WHERE? Other Palace RUNTIME: 150 minutes (including a 20-minute interval)
WHEN? 27/12, runs to 1/2/20
We’re a stone’s throw from Buckingham Palace and had forgotten that the Paris-set 2001 film on which this musical is based references the death of Princess Diana in that city quite so much.
- Read on for reasons including which West End show the British actress who originated this Amélie opens in this autumn
Our titular heroine works as a waitress in a Montmartre cafe and reflects on a childhood of home schooling that has left her as an onlooker on life with a desire to do anonymous good deeds to transform the lives of others.
The first act climaxes with an Elton John pastiche (Goodbye Amélie) well performed by Caolan McCarthy which raises the stakes that its concluding segment never quite matches.
Audrey Brisson’s Amélie reminds of Audrey Tautou’s from the film and she’s surrounded by strong character actors, including puppeteer Oliver Grant and Josh Sneesby’s blind beggar, many of whom also play instruments on stage reminiscent of Once, which we see next month on tour in Woking.
The staging is a quirky highlight and reminds of Emma Rice’s fine Brief Encounter especially when Amélie takes hold of a lampshade to ascend to her high-rise apartment.
The Other Palace is where we first saw actress Samantha Barks shortly after she originated the role of Amélie in the musical before she was replaced ahead of a brief Broadway transfer.
It all came good in the end for Barks, third in BBC1’s I’d Do Anything in 2008 behind Jodie Prenger (currently in A Taste Of Honey at Trafalgar Studios) and film’s Jessie Buckley, who went on to star on Broadway in Pretty Woman: The Musical, which opens without her at the Piccadilly Theatre in February. She stars instead in Frozen at Theatre Royal Drury Lane this autumn.
We’re digressing, which perhaps sums up how we feel about this quirky take on a beloved film which won two BAFTAs and was shortlisted for five Oscars. It’s a musical with its heart in the right place but seemingly without an ear for a musical hook. Like Cats (the film) this is not the best medium in which to see this material. Don’t expect to come away from this musical humming its tunes.