Recently we saw the musical Amelie, based on the 2001 French film co-written and directed by Jean-Pierre Jeunet. I saw the film over 10 years ago and vaguely remembered the plotline, so when seeing the musical I was pleasantly reminded of some things.
We then re-watched the beautiful film more recently and it was interesting seeing how some things were changed for the musical. The hubby played me a few songs before seeing the musical, but the songs definitely come alive when sung live on stage with all the props and lighting etc.
The couple near-ish us evidently hadn’t watched the film because when a character’s identity is revealed at the end, they both audibly gasped.
These were very talented performers who can sing, dance, act, and play multiple musical instruments – all at the same time. It was very well choreographed and perfected, with cellists walking around with their cellos whilst singing and dancing, and performers switching from violin to piano seamlessly in the same song – all very impressive.
The person playing Amelie, Audrey Brisson-Jutras, definitely looked and fit the role. The hair very much resembled Amelie’s in the film. Brisson-Jutras is French-Canadian, so was naturally better able to keep up the French accent throughout the musical, unlike some of the other performers.
The musical had clever use of lighting and effects and excellent choreography on stage, using pianos as mini train station platforms and makeshift mini bars, and using a lampshade as a lift service. It was really interesting how Amelie’s apartment was set up on a mezzanine level and how the stage portrayed different locations.
I loved how props were used on stage: a piano becomes a blackboard, a photobooth becomes a confession booth, young Amelie as a wooden puppet, the fish at the start jumping out of its water bowl, the gnome as a comedically large puppet, figs coming alive. It was all done so hilariously.
On re-watching the film after seeing the musical, I was reminded how colourful the film was. Amelie wears a lot of red, her apartment is all red, when she guides the blind man through the streets of Paris telling him everything she sees – it’s beautiful.
I loved the camera work in the film too, something that can’t really be replicated on stage. But on re-watching the film, I loved the aerial camera shots showing Amelie skipping stones, and the manoeuvring of the camera showing Amelie’s perspective as she spies on the people in the cafe.
Comparisons between musical and film
The musical is based on the film and there were some slight differences. Gina the waitress and Madeleine the landlady from the film are combined into one character in the musical, Amelie’s mother’s ashes were not put inside the gnome in the film as it was in the musical, and the grocer is portrayed as a meaner character in the film.
I totally understand the changes made for the musical, I feel it allowed more concise storytelling, as the musical appeared quite short compared to others I’ve seen. It meant the storyline happened more in the cafe, and there was more significance in the gnome leaving the garden/ father’s home and going on holiday. It provided more emotional depth, giving the sadder songs more impact.
There were a lot of references to Princess Diana in the musical that I didn’t remember from the film. On re-watching the film, there were indeed references to Princess Diana, but I feel not as much compared to the musical.
I love the film, but I feel the musical really emphasised more of the emotions and the humour, there was even an Elton John-esque number thrown in for good measure. The songs were very moving and really hit you in the feels. Absolutely fantastic, I thoroughly enjoyed both musical and film.
The musical experience
The seating was very spacious, with at least one seat between each group unused, and there was no scrambling over people to get to your seats. It seemed as if the staff removed several rows of seats and spaced out the remaining rows.
A much pleasanter experience, with no heads directly in front of me obstructing any views. And as soon as curtains were down for the interval, the staff had drinks out ready serving at your seat – very swift and efficient service.
If you enjoyed the film, I would highly recommend seeing the musical at the Criterion Theatre. And if you haven’t watched the film, but like whimsical narratives with funny puppets and a multi-talented cast, then the musical is still definitely worth a look.