Review: Strictly's Danny Mac stars in this quirky and sometimes surreal spectacle
I take my hat off to the 16-strong cast of actors/musicians who pulled off this amazingly quirky, bizarre, hilarious and sometimes surreal spectacle of excitement and mischief which at times was pure ‘bonkers’. The audience were treated to two and a half hours of material which completely held my interest with its constant movement and which culminated in almost erotic foreplay leading Amelie (Audrey Brisson) and Nino (Danny Mac - pictured above) at last to come together.
The musical is based on the 2001 five-time Oscar nominated film with book adaptation by Craig Lucas and is Directed by Michael Fentiman who trained at Bretton Hall near Wakefield in West Yorkshire and Mountview Academy. Music and lyrics are by Daniel Messe and Nathan Tysen. The plot revolves around Amelie, who has an emotionally challenging childhood and loses her mother at an early age, and which leads her as a young adult to offer extreme acts of kindness which in the end lead her to soulmate Nino.
The musical is set in Paris whose atmosphere is set immediately by the beautiful typically-French accordion playing by Blind Beggar (Josh Sneesby) in the setting of a bar steeped in moody rich dark red hues. The ‘Frenchness’ of the production pervades throughout and the beautiful accents enrich the atmosphere whilst also adding at times to the comedy of this sometimes farcical drama.
Dark humour was prominent especially during the first act which worked well in this French setting and made us laugh at bizarrely unfunny events. The puppet used to portray Amelie as a child was surprisingly expressive and I felt added a sense of the grotesque, which reflected young Amelie’s stunted childhood experience whilst cleverly interacting with the adult Amelie helping the audience to understand her emotional development.
The musical skills of the actors were outstanding whilst strings and piano pervaded with melodies which touched the heart. Audrey Brissons’s singing voice was touchingly beautiful and pitch perfect. Her ability to be hoisted into her womb-like room not only displayed her acrobatic skills but added a wonderful dimension to the performance itself by turning her very cleverly into a Mary Poppins-like character. Danny Mac’s portrayal of a very quiet and almost sultry Nino I found quite magnetic and his singing was also so beautiful it it almost brought a tear to my eye.
The use of lighting was very prominent in this production luring us into flashing storms, beautiful golden hues with pulsing glowing light, flashing neon, and green melting misty goo quite out of synch with the rest of the show, but producing a fascinating effect.
The highlight of the piece I would say was the appearance of Elton John, wonderfully performed by Caolan McCarthy, displaying his amazing costume which made the audience roar with laughter. The Diana theme was obviously very relevant owing to the story being set in 1990s Paris, with Amelie using Diana as a role model for tremendous compassion. I felt slightly uncomfortable by certain elements of comedy introduced to portray this scenario given the grief and terrible sadness at the time induced by Diana’s untimely death, but recognise that other audience members might perhaps not see this scenario in the same light as myself given the passing of the time.
This show was entirely different to what I had been expected. It was absolutely packed with content and to me was a quite impressive, different, surreal, hysterically funny and fascinating experience.
By Carol Whittaker
May 24, 2019