Amélie

Reviewed by Alex Broadley

Opening Night verdict ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️

Amélie The Musical has the unenviable task of bringing the award winning French film Amélie (or, to give it its full name, Le fabuleux destin d’Amélie Poulain) to life. And it does this with gusto, whimsy and fabulous savoir faire.

Amélie tells the story of young Amélie Poulain (played fabulously by Audrey Brisson). Brought up by neurotic and unusual parents, Amélie’s father (Jez Unwin) misdiagnoses a heart condition and her mother (Rachel Dawson) decides Amélie is too delicate to be in contact with others. Isolated and lonely, Amélie’s only childhood friend is a goldfish….who we later say ‘au revoir’ to.  After the early death of her Mother, Amélie is brought up by her emotionally distant Father, who has attached all his emotions to a garden gnome.

As a young woman, Amélie escapes to bon Paris and although she makes acquaintances, she is still very much alone until she finds a long forgotten box which will send her life in a different direction entirely. Amélie decides to help others in their quests for happiness, but can her own loneliness and unwillingness to interact with others be overcome?

The film is known for being full of whimsy and the musical delivers this and more. Amélie has been adapted for the stage by a fantastic team of writers and directors. With a book by Craig Lucas, the musical sticks closely to the film and in many ways is less sugary-sweet and more fun than the original screen-play.

One of the special things about the show for me, was the hard-working actor musicians. Many of the talented cast play multiple parts seamlessly. The instruments are weaved into the narrative and the music (composed by Daniel Messé) and lyrics (Nathan Tysen and Daniel Messé) have a magical folky feel. This all works well with the playful feel of the production. There are no particular stand-out songs, however there doesn’t need to be; Amélie’s story is episodic and shifts from story to story within it. The gentle and harmonic melodies weave their way into the narrative in a way which is genuinely wonderful. Although there are no traditional dance numbers, the sense of movement as Amélie moves through busy platforms, streets and trains is done brilliantly.

Audrey Brisson is fantastic as Amélie. She plays her perfectly, with just the right amount of naïve vulnerability and hope. Audrey has a fantastic voice and is a genuine tour de force of the show. The character of Amélie is complicated, as we all are, and Audrey shows the different sides of Amélie perfectly. Danny Mac plays Amélie’s love interest Nino and his performance showcases a warm voice and the final scene is genuinely touching.

Madeleine Girling’s set design deserves to be mentioned. A lampshade serves as a magical way of transporting Amélie to her flat and who knew that a photo-booth could be a confessional, a shop front and a market stall? The set transports us to what is undeniably Paris. The art nouveau style detail is beautiful and reminiscent of Parisian cafés, walks along the Seine and croissants. The hard-working cast almost blend into the set, waiting around the corners.

Special mention should also be given to the puppets (designed by Dik Downey). Adding to the sense of fun in the production, the appearance of a giant gnome and goldfish are definitely memorable moments! The appearance of Elton John (Caolan McCarthy) leaves the audience in stitches.

The show was packed but the audience was completely silent during the final scene; testament to how far we were drawn into our heroine’s plight. We desperately want our lonely Amélie to accept the love which is offered.

Amélie the Musical is on at Manchester’s Opera House until Saturday 10th August tickets available here.

 

 

 

Interview |Amélie the Musical |Michael Fentiman

Described by Whats On Stage as a ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️ ‘perfect production’ Amélie the Musical arrives in Manchester next week after wowing audiences across the country as part of its first ever UK tour. Ahead of the shows West End transfer we caught up with Director Michael Fentiman to hear a little more about this magical musical.

How closely does Amélie The Musical resemble the film?

The film refused to behave like any film we may have recognised at the time. The approach to narrative is episodic. Favouring small vignettes, tiny films within a film, that group together to create a collage, a poetic mural that conjures a sense of loneliness and isolation in the bustling metropolis of 90s Paris.

The central character is largely passive. The first rule of script writing is usually that your protagonist is actively pursuing a change in the world they inhabit, Amélie is largely trying to avoid it.

It favours philosophical thought and ambiguity over conflict, sentimentality or explicit didact (usually the staple diet of your blockbuster filmmaker).

Somehow, by ignoring the rules of what constitutes enjoyable art, Amélie managed to appear in the late 90’s as a hugely enjoyable antidote to all the art that had started to believe there was a formula.

So if the film refused to behave like a film, in some respects Amélie must resist the pressure to behave like a traditional musical. It can’t be loud and brash, that would crush its fragile frame.  It can’t always yearn to please, that would fight the spirit of its aloof, Parisian routes. It can’t resort to slapstick laughs or lean on personal tragedy to illicit tears in ballads. It can’t open act 2 with a kick line or close act 1 with a burst of pyro or a tense cliff-hanger.

But what it can do is invite an audience into a simple, gentle, moving exploration of human loneliness and isolation and the earnest attempts to avoid it.

What were the main challenges in adapting it?

The challenge when adapting and staging a piece like Amélie is that the iconography of the film imprints itself so vividly in the mind of its audience, any stage production is in some respects competing with memories of the film. The music of Yann Tiersen, the cinematography of Bruno Delbonnel, Jean-Pierre Jeunet’s left of centre script and dreamlike direction. All smashing together to create something unique, oddly moving and vivid that lingers in the memory. Yet in order for it to satisfy in the theatre we must find a freedom to occupy its own space in our imaginations. It’s a tricky balance to get right.

Can you tell me a little about the music? Do what degree, if any, was it influenced by Yann Tiersen’s original soundtrack?

The music is hugely influence by the tone and feel of Yann Tiersen’s music. How could it not be? We have an amazing company of actor musicians, so we have incorporated into the score multiple violins, cello’s, accordions, pianos and flutes to create a very unique and moving sound.

How did you go about finding your Amélie? The similarities between Audrey Brisson and Audrey Tautou are striking, but we imagine there are some striking differences too…

As soon as I was asked to direct this production, Audrey was the first name I mentioned for the part. We have worked together before. Last time she played a hedgehog (obvious casting for Amélie!)  in a production of The Lion the Witch and the Wardrobe I directed a few years back. She is an extraordinary performer. A rare thing. A classical trained singer, who once toured the world with Cirque de Soleil, a superbly charismatic comic and clown and a sensitive and intelligent actress. She is also a fluent French speaker!

How have you created Paris on stage?

It was impossible to fully realise Paris onstage. So we have tried to capture a smell of Paris so that the audience can fill in the gaps. Are location for the set is one of the iconic Metro stations featured in the film, but from there we are whisked all around the city with simple props, beautiful music, brilliant acting… and a bit of imagination.

What is the enduring appeal of this story?

At a time where we are increasingly feeling at a distance from each other, and to some degree, from the world we inhabit, Amélie is a Musical that seeks connections. Kind connections, that close down distances and make us feel like we are able to look up, smile and reach out to the strange and the stranger.

Amélie is on at the Manchester Opera House from Tuesday 6th until Saturday 10th August tickets available here.

 

Wizard of Oz Interviews | Part 2 | Holly Tandy

Holly Tandy

Following on from our chat with Kelvin Fletcher, we caught up with Holly Tandy who is about to step into the ruby slippers and play Dorothy in Sellador’s Blackpool Christmas extravaganza, The Wizard of Oz.

Opening Night: This is your first musical theatre role, how are you feeling?

Holly: I’m super excited; it’s such a good opportunity for me. I’ve never done anything like this before and have always wanted to, it’s one of those things where I’m constantly learning which has just been just great. I know the skills I’m learning in addition to the things I already feel I have strength in together are preparing me for not only this role but my future career, it’s brilliant.

Opening Night: Are you looking forward to performing in Blackpool?

Holly: I’m so excited to get on stage and perform, being back up North feels really special for me too. I’m so excited for the audiences to see this show, my family are all coming along as well and they can’t wait, it’ll be really nice to share this with them.

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Opening Night: What is it about The Wizard of Oz that makes it so appealing?

Holly: It’s such an iconic show, a total classic that everybody knows and loves. There’s something very comforting about The Wizard of Oz and the familiarity and affection we all have for it. It’s such an engaging piece of theatre too, great for kids, just a really good feel-good show and the perfect Christmas musical for all the family.

Opening Night: How are you finding working in a cast as opposed to as a soloist on X Factor and how does the performance vary?

Holly: It’s so much fun. We all get on so well, everyone’s been so great, we’ve really clicked. There’s so much talent in this show, every cast member from the ensemble to the leads, I couldn’t be happier really with how everything’s going.

X Factor was a great was to build my confidence but this is very different. Pop elements don’t really fit with musical theatre so I’ve been really disciplined in adapting my style and the way I work for this show. I’m enjoying the challenge so much, I’ll always be grateful for my X Factor experience; it’s given me a platform to build on and led to this great opportunity.

Holly Tandy as Dorothy in The Wizard of Oz

Opening Night: What’s are the challenges working on the show?

I was feeling a little nervous about working with Toto at first before we started rehearsals but we’ve got such a great team that I know it will be great. They’re so well trained. Also the amount of lines at first was something I didn’t quite anticipate, I knew there were lots but didn’t realise quite how many, but that’s come on great and you soon pick things up, the show is looking and sounding really good.

Opening Night: Are you feeling any nerves ahead of officially opening?

A little, but I think that’s healthy. It’s a nervousness of wanting to do well, wanting to do the role justice etc. it’s not the kind of nerves that are eating me up. I’m really enjoying it and I think a little bit of nerves shows just how much you care and I do really care about getting this role right and doing a good job.

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Opening Night: Selladoor are known for being inventive and dynamic how are you finding working with them?

Holly: It’s been amazing, they are just so good at what they do and such a great bunch of people, all so good at their jobs, they are all so talented, from the director, to the choreographer to the musical director each and every person I’m working with is just so brilliant and so good at getting each cast member to be the best they can be. It’s been an absolute pleasure so far and no doubt will continue to be.

The Wizard of Oz opens on Friday 7th December at Blackpool’s Winter Gardens and runs until Sunday 30th tickets available here.

Wizard of Oz Interviews | Part 1 | Kelvin Fletcher

Kelvin Fletcher

Following on from the huge success of Peter Pan last year Selladoor Productions return to Blackpool with an iconic musical adventure as we see Dorothy click her heels together and arrive at the legendary Opera House.

This highly acclaimed adaptation from The Royal Shakespeare Company promises to be a magical treat for all the family featuring timeless classics: We’re Off To See The Wizard, Ding Dong The Witch Is Dead!, The Merry Old Land Of Oz and Over The Rainbow, add to this lavish sets and spectacular costumes and you really do have the prefect festive treat.

We were lucky enough to catch up with cast members Kelvin Fletcher (Tin Man), Holly Tandy (Dorothy), Scott Gallagher (Cowardly Lion) and Kate Milner-Evans(The Wizard) ahead of opening night on 7th December to hear a little more about what audiences can expect from this theatrical adventure.

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Opening Night: How are rehearsals going?

Kelvin: Absolutely brilliant, it’s been such a whirlwind. We’re doing full run-throughs now and tech rehearsals are getting closer, the whole process has been amazing for me, a lot of new firsts, coming into musical theatre, I’ve never done this sort of thing before, anything I have been a little bit anxious about the team who have been great have reassured me and offered some brilliant advice. I feel like I’m really growing in confidence every day, we’re all really looking forward to getting to Blackpool now and performing in front of an audience.

ON: We all know you so well from Emmerdale, how is acting on stage different to TV acting?

Kelvin: Day to day it’s very different, yes I’m used to acting but acting on stage is so much more expressive, especially in musical theatre with such larger than life characters. It’s been wonderful really to get a chance to do things I know are in my repertoire but that I’ve never had chance to express before. I’m also really excited for people to see this different side of me, a very different side to what they’re used to seeing; it will be a lot of fun for everyone including me.

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ON: As the Tin Man you have one of the most restrictive costumes in the show, how are you finding that?

Kelvin: First couple of dances I thought it would be best to try and be quid rigid with my movement but then I was struggling a little to get the fluidity of the dance so I decided to do it the opposite way and master the dance first then add the rigidity of the Tin Man. This is the great benefit of rehearsals it allows us to try different ideas and see what works best. Then of course there’s the silver makeup which looks amazing but I’ll definitely need help with that, I managed to leave some on the other day and caught myself in the mirror still wearing a bit of guy liner!

ON: Will your family be making the trip to Blackpool?

Kelvin: Yes, they are so excited, when I first started acting it was on the stage, that’s where my love for acting blossomed so it will be nice for us all really to get back to where it all started and it couldn’t be a better show, a big flamboyant musical like this is just so exciting for us all.

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ON: How does it feel knowing you’ll be performing at the Winter Gardens?

Kelvin: I’d never actually been despite knowing how iconic it is, it’s got such a great reputation, so to be performing there is going to be unbelievable. It’s such a great space, it’s huge, we can’t replicate the size of the set in the rehearsal space because it’s so huge which gives a sense of the sheer scale and spectacle of this production.

ON: We know you’re used to working with animals from your Emmerdale days but how about on stage?

Kelvin: I keep thinking to myself “If the dog doesn’t run at that particular point what will we do?” ha ha but I don’t have a lot of interaction with the dog to be honest it’s more Holly, as if playing Dorothy isn’t tough enough! The dogs are so well trained thought that no doubt they’ll be as good as gold and more than likely steal the show!

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ON: How are you finding the singing?

Kelvin: Our Musical Director has been amazing, I’ve never had any singing training before so I’ve just been like a sponge really taking on any piece of advice. We’ve all got numbers throughout and mine’s a lovely little number which starts off with some dialogue then breaks out into a song, I really can’t wait. Then of course there are lots of great songs throughout, choreographed dances, there’s so much going on it really will be spectacular.

The Wizard of Oz opens at Blackpool’s Opera House on Friday 7th December until Sunday 30th December tickets available here.

Flashdance

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Opening Night verdict ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️

Reviewed by Francesca Eagleton

Get your legwarmers at the ready because Flashdance The Musical is in full swing at the Palace Theatre this week!

Not even the producers expected Flashdance to be a hit when it was originally released in cinemas in 1983, but, screenwriter, Tom Hedley has successfully taken on the challenge of adapting one of the most successful films of the 80’s for the stage in this all-singing, all-dancing neon extravaganza!

Alex Owens, played by Joanne Clifton of Strictly Come Dancing fame, is a feisty and confident female lead. Working as a welder in a workroom filled with boisterous strong males, she certainly doesn’t fade into the background as she knows how to stand her ground and make a name for herself. She shines in the role and commands the stage at every turn.

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Alex certainly doesn’t lose sight of her dreams of one day joining the Shipley school of dance, despite the potential distraction of falling for love interest Nick Hurley, (played by Ben Adams) and with a little bit of help from her tutor and mother figure Hannah, (Carol Ball) she makes steps to follow her dreams.

It was no surprise that Joanne Clifton’s dancing skills would be a real highlight of the show. Clifton’s stamina is extraordinary, one minute she’s kicking and splitting her way across the stage and the next belting out a ballad without even breaking a sweat. We were tired just watching her! A real triple threat performer.

Ben Adams makes for a hugely charismatic and enormously likeable love interest in the form of Nick, the on stage chemistry between the two is exceptional.

Fans of the original film wont be disappointed, as the show embraces iconic scenes including the infamous scene with Alex, a chain and a whole lot of water. The show also features hits from the original film soundtrack; Maniac and Manhunt – alongside original songs by Robert Cary and Robbie Roth.

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Cramming song after song into this toe-tapping musical forced the plotline, at times, to suffer a little, however fans of the film will know it’s not the deepest of plots. The second half moves the action on swiftly, packed full of high energy and fast paced – everything that we wanted and expected it to be.

Of course the audience aren’t left disappointed, as we finally get that all important audition scene. As the introduction to the title song Flashdance…What A Feeling began to play out, the crowd erupted, clapping and dancing along – earning Clifton and the cast a well deserved standing ovation at the end of the show.

Dig out your lycra  and catch Flashdance the Musical at the Palace Theatre from Monday 12th until Saturday 17th February, tickets available here.

Peter Bergin is Peter Pan!

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Peter Bergin who trained at Rose Bruford, will take flight in Blackpool as he takes over the role of Peter Pan from Jake Quickenden who will soon be appearing on ITV’s Dancing On Ice.

Featuring a live band, lavish set and spectacular costumes, JM Barrie’s classic story has been wowing audiences at Blackpool’s Winter Garden’s since December 16th. Read our ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️ review here.

Also appearing are TV star Jennifer Ellison as the villainous Captain Hook, Blackpool’s own Maureen Nolan as Mrs Darling and Radio Wave’s Breakfast Host Scott Gallagher as Hook’s hapless sidekick, Smee.

The show runs until Sunday 7th January, offering audiences just a handful more opportunities to capture this magical family, musical adventure!

Tickets can be purchased here.

Flashdance the Musical

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By guest reviewer Casey Nicole Gwilliam

Flashback to the 80’s in this dazzling production of the all time classicJoanne Clifton dazzles as the feisty Alex, a young apprentice welder with a passion for dance, and a dream to get into the prestigious Shipley School of Dance.

With the help of her old dance teacher Hannah (Carol Ball), Alex prepares for her Shipley audition, as well as falling for the dashingly handsome Nick Hurley (Ben Adams) and having to save the day and set her friend Gloria (Hollie Ann Lowe) straight, she seizes the opportunity and dances her heart out.

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The numbers that were amongst audience favourites included “Maniac” and “Gloria” as well as the crowd pleasing “I Love Rock and Roll” which wowed the audience as the immensely talented ensemble dazzled with their moves demonstrating some  incredible tricks that made the audience wince and then cheer. The entire ensemble gathered together and created an absolutely amazing and retro atmosphere, wowing the audience with their moves and vocals that left even the audience breathless!

The lighting and set along with the extremely vintage costuming hurled the audience into the 80’s along with the perms and pumps. The authentic 80’s feel gave a sense of nostalgia, and was in keeping with the 1983 movie of the same title. Keeping audiences happily entertained.

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Joanne Clifton’s performance stood out as leading lady, Alex. Her husky voice was perfect for the scrappy young dancer and her acting and singing skills were on a par with her dance; proving to be a delightful triple threat. As well as having the audience envy her for pulling off spanks and a sports bra for the majority of the show.

Overall the show makes for an extremely enjoyable evening and was an instant hit with the audience, everybody was up dancing during the finale mega-mix ensuring everyone got a chance to show their moves!

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Flashdance the Musical is on at the Blackpool Opera House until Saturday 4th November, tickets available here http://www.wintergardensblackpool.co.uk/events/flashdance/