Review: Revisiting – Amélie the Musical. Criterion Theatre London.

A retrospective. Une rétrospective.

Back in the summer of 2019 I reviewed Amélie The Musical at the Leicester Haymarket Theatre. As many audience members discover, une visite formidable (one tremulous visit) is never enough. So, ever the Amélie fanboy, I went to see it again at Leicester Haymarket with Chris Jared reprising his original Watermill role as Nino, on the Saturday matinée, plus twice more at the New Theatre Oxford and Birmingham Hippodrome. I never got the chance to see it at The Other Palace in London. When the UK London cast soundtrack got released I played it to death and still do.

UK London Cast Soundtrack image.

So imagine what a great delight it was, to be made aware, as theatre thankfully started to return, that Amélie The Musical was to return, this time to London’s West End Criterion Theatre with a socially distanced audience until things change re Covid. With barely contained excitement an online booking was made and, once again, I found myself sat in the stalls on Saturday 29th May joyfully grinning as the lights dimmed and a shimmering impression of the Paris Metro unfolded. How my heart sang as the actor-muso cast began their charming, funny and emotionally gripping tale of Amélie Poulain (Audrey Brisson) and Nino Quincampoix (Chris Jared) and a myriad of quirky French characters, some druggy figs, a vital gnome and a goldfish called Fluffy. Une fois de plus j’ étais au paradis du théâtre. Once more I was in theatrical heaven.

Verdict. le verdict.

Our five stars for this show remain 100% firmly in place after my Criterion experience and the show really benefits from this historic theatre’s intimacy. Seeing it for the fifth time I found myself drawn to the atmospheric music and lighting as well as having my Amélie The Musical eyes and ears freshly engaged. I found myself especially appreciating the ingenious choreography of the piece anew. Actors alone using the space creatively is one thing but actors manipulating often large string instruments on a compact stage playing live is quite another! Wow! And… to my fanboy’s and audience’s delight Amélie said the French number ‘quinze‘ not ‘fifteen’ after her amusing and vocally expressive considerations about how many people were orgasming in Paris that evening! All the production’s characters have back stories and dreams that they hope to come true and my return to this fabulous show meant that I was listening and watching out how well they fitted into this theatrical adaptation (Craig Lucas- book/ Daniel Messe – music and lyrics by Daniel Messe and Nathan Tyson) from the popular French film. The adaptation remains a theatrical triumph especially as the UK production gives the work so much more proper Gallic charm than the Broadway attempt did. Madeleine Girling’s multi-functional set continues to work its magic.

The staff and young ushers at the venue are top notch and any current or future member of the audience is guaranteed a Covid safe and enjoyable watching Amélie The Musical.

There have been a few cast changes since the #AmelieUK 2019 tour and the following new actor-musicians blend seamlessly into the revised and talented ensemble. They are, Sioned Saunders (Gina), Mathew James Hinchcliffe ((Raymond), Robyn Sinclair (Cecile), Miiya Alexandra (Delphine), Jack Quarton (Blind Beggar) and Flora Spencer Longhurst (Georgette-Sylvie).

The remaining original cast members are Audrey Brisson (Amélie), Chris Jared (Nino), Rachel Dawson (Amandine/Philomene & dance and movement captain), Samuel Morgan -Grahame (Joseph/Fluffy), Oliver Grant (Lucien/Mysterious man/Gnome), Nuwan Hugh Perera (Jean-Yves), Caolan McCarthy (Hippolito/Elton John), Kate Robson Stuart (Suzanne), Jez Unwin (Raphael/Bretodeau/ music captain) and Johnson Willis (Collignon/Dufayel).

Theatre is coming back and this show will delight your heart. Times may be hard for dreamers but allow your best ever dreams to live or, like mine, be revisited. Book now.

Original cast image by Pamela Raith.
Original cast image by Pamela Raith.
Original cast image by Pamela Raith.

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