Past Reviews

Regional Reviews: San Francisco

Amélie, A New Musical
Berkeley Repertory Theater

Also see Richard's reviews of For the Love of Comrades, A Streetcar Named Desire, Between Riverside and Crazy and Richard III and Eddie's review of Loveland: Good Grief

Samantha Barks, Maria-Christina Oliveras and Adam Chanler-Berat
Madames and monsieurs, may I present Amélie, A New Musical at Berkeley Repertory Theatre, one of the most charming musicals I have seen in a long time. A brilliant cast makes this almost two hour production a delightful experience. It has an enjoyable score of light airy music one would find in a Disney film, thanks to Daniel Messé, and sweet lyrics by Nathan Tysen and Daniel Messé. The eccentric book by Craig Lucas fizzes with enchantment. Director Pam MacKinnon has crafted a wonderful blend of pictorial and performance enjoyments in this imaginary tale.

The musical is based on the 2001 Oscar-nominated French film starring the irreplaceable Audrey Tautou. The film was filled with subplots, and Craig Lucas has tried to cram most of the them in—maybe too many, but this is still a work in progress and I am sure it will be refined if it goes further.

This coming of age story focuses on restaurant worker Amélie. She is a fixer-upper who secretly takes roguish joy in fixing the lives of those around her. She helps those who inhabit the café, like unpublished poet Hipoloto, trapeze survivor Suzanne, love-lorn Joseph, cheeky Gina, and cloying Georgette—plus Dufayel, who calls himself Mr. Glass and never leaves the apartment, a would be painter who paints a copy of the same Renoir every year. Amélie also romantically pursues naïve, idiosyncratic photo collage artist Nino in this attractive musical.

Samantha Barks, who was Eponine in the film version of Les Misérables, is the spritely imp Amélie. She is charismatic in the role and her sweet vocal cords are beautiful to hear. She makes this role her own. Adam Chanler-Berat is outstanding as the boyish Nino. He has strong vocal chops, especially on the song "Stations" which is an elegy of the magic of the Photo Mat. Tony Sheldon has an exquisite voice as Dufayel and his duets with Barks are some of the highlights of the musical. As Hipoloto, Randy Blair rocks, transforming into an entertaining take on Elton John. Maria-Christina Oliveras, Paul Whitty, Carla Duren, and Alyse Alan Louis are splendid as the café occupants. They all have terrific singing voices. Also wonderful is John Hickok, who brilliantly plays the father of Amélie, Raphael, and also has powerful vocal cords.

Scenic and costume design by David Zinn along with Peter Nigrini's projections give out a fantastic appearance, with towering walls of boxes, dressers and tall cupboards, which swiftly convert into a café or the garrets of Montmartre through skillful lighting effects by Jane Cox. Sam Pinkleton's choreography consists of lovely floating movement patterns. The ten-piece orchestra led by Kimberly Grigsby is pitch perfect.

Amélie, A New Musical plays through October 11th, 2015, at the Roda Theatre, Berkeley Repertory Theatre, 2015 Addison Street, Berkeley. For tickets call 510-647-2949 or visit www.berkeleyrep.org. Coming up next is The Hypocrites' Pirates of Penzance opening in the Osher Studio, 2055 Center Street, Berkley on October 16 and running through December 20th.

Photo: kevinberne.com

Be sure to check the lineup of great shows this season in the San Francisco area

- Richard Connema

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