When you discover that someone has turned one of your favourite films into a musical the initial reaction is “well, that can only end badly”. When you then discover that it is going to be staged in a theatre the size of your living room the probability you assign to this being a success drops even further.
So it was with great trepidation that I went off to see Amélie The Musical at The Watermill Theatre just outside of Newbury last week.
Amélie is the story of a young French girl that tries to alter the lives of those around her (usually for the better) while neglecting to do the same for her own life. It is a charming and funny film that bears repeated watching.
The Watermill Theatre is similarly charming set in a beautiful little village it has the ability to attract some great plays that often go on to tour or hit the West End. It is, however, tiny and given this and how many locations the film is set in I was curious to see how they would pull this off on stage and such a small one at that.
Through brilliant use of sound, lighting and space was the answer. The very opening scene was a great example. The play starts with the blind accordion player as seen in the film on the platforms of some Paris train station. Lights and sound were used to show the passing of a train through the station and very effective it was too. The rest of the show continued in a similar way. One particularly good use of space was having Amélie’s room above the main set reached through a rope that would drop down occasionally and pulled her up Mary Poppins style.
The music of the show captures both the themes from the original score along with the light humour. The show itself is (almost) all sung-through (a phrase I’d never knew existed until I went to see Hamilton!) and is witty and cleverly done. Rather than a separate orchestra or band playing the music the cast all played at least one instrument and at times all 12 were on stage singing and playing.
So it turned out that the reservations were unfounded and Amélie the Musical is a great companion to the film version and I thoroughly recommended it.