As magical and mesmerizing as the Oscar nominated film it’s based on, “Amelie” makes its world premiere at the Berkeley Rep and likely could be the next Bay Area show that is Broadway bound.
Full of charm that made the French film the classic it is, the musical version brings all of its quirkiness to a more accessible audience, translating the story into English but still retaining the essence of the French film.
The story of a shy and awkward Amelie whose imagination carries her away from reality and into a world of child-like adventures is as endearing as it was in the film, thanks to a lot of clever use of puppets, miniatures and multi-media and, of course, expert direction by Pam MacKinnon, who won a Tony Award just a few years ago.
The story is brought to beautiful life with a book by Craig Lucas and Daniel Messe and songs by Messe and Nathan Tyson. The songs are a beautiful mix of fun adventures that all advance the plot and add to character development, as well as some soulful ballads that enhance the burgeoning love story of Amelie and Nino.
The innocent lovers’ chemistry draws them together, more often than even their characters get together.
A star powered performance comes from lead Samantha Barks, who has great West End credits but is best known to Americans by her role as Eponine in the movie version of “Les Miserables.”
This role skyrockets her to the forefront of young theatre actresses and reminds one of the star making performance of Jessie Mueller who starred in the San Francisco world premiere of “Beautiful,” that went on to Broadway and won Mueller the Tony Award.
Barks is shy, uncomfortable and adorable, creating a winning Amelie that we all can easily root for.
She is well paired with Adam Chanler-Berat, who is a charming Nino. He is the yin to Barks yang. With underlying rock star qualities, Chanler-Berat also does well emoting his feelings through songs.
Our lead’s chemistry reaches its pinnacle in a beautifully staged and sung moment that takes place on two sides of a door. It’s really a romantic and wonderful theatre moment.
However, the show’s success isn’t limited to the two great leads or direction, the entire cast each has their time to shine.
Randy Blair has a scene stealing moment in which, through song, he created a hybrid of Elton John and Elvis. Additionally, Amelie’s cafe co-workers each have a chance to stand out in song thanks to three memorable performers: Carla Duren, Alyse Alan Louis and Maria-Christina Oliveras.
The rest of the cast is also wonderful even though Tony nominee Tony Shelton’s role seems too small for an actor with such impressive credentials.
In any event, “Amelie” is a winner on every level and it wouldn’t be surprising if it does end up on Broadway. It’s Bay Area run has already been extended through Oct. 11.
To get tickets and more information at www.berkeleyrep.org.