Amélie was the hit 2001 French film that spawned a thousand incorrectly accented English girls’ names. A modern-day retro fairy-tale of quirkiness set in picturesque Montmartre, it made an international star of the elfin Audrey Tautou. Perhaps the only wonder is that it has taken so long to come to the British stage in musical form.
But after an American premiere in 2015 and an acclaimed British opening at the Watermill in Newbury earlier this year, the show from Craig Lucas (book), Nathan Tysen and Daniel Messé (music and lyrics) finally arrives in London. It boasts the ideal actress to play the titular whimsy pixie, who perhaps surprisingly manages almost never to grate. French-Canadian Audrey Brisson is an unending – and tuneful – delight as Amélie Poulain, whose sheltered only childhood has led her to become a reclusive dreamer of an adult, plotting secret kind deeds for the café full of eccentrics where she works. Fellow romantic oddball Nino (Chris Jared) might be the one for her, if ever the two of them could manage to meet properly and not just in fleeting encounters by the photo booths at major railway stations.
A talented company of actor-musicians makes fine work of the gently melancholy score that, bien sûr, features accordions. One of the evening’s admirably few problems arises from the fact that the accompaniment too often drowns out the lyrics, an obstacle when a lot of the narrative comes from the songs.