Reach out and connect

AMELIE captured the hearts of film fans everywhere. The shy romantic with a gift for helping others – played in the 2001 French romantic comedy movie by Audrey Tautou – is an astonishing young woman who lives quietly in the world, but loudly in her mind.

Now the story has been brought to the stage as a musical which is coming to Woking at the end of this month.

French Canadian actress Audrey Brisson is in the famous role, and she doesn’t sound too daunted.

Audrey Brisson says Amelie is a fascinating character to play

“It is such a fabulous story, and I love the film it’s based on,” she enthuses. “Amélie is a fascinating character. Her imagination. Her reluctance to give up. She grows up thinking she can’t connect with anyone and that she’ll always be alone, yet she’s got this positivity within her.

“I love her positivity, her perseverance and her way of seeing a situation that’s potentially very dark and then bringing some colours into it. I think that’s something I need to hold on to.”

Amélie secretly improvises small, but extraordinary acts of kindness that bring happiness to those around her. But when a chance at love comes her way, She realises that to find her own contentment she’ll have to risk everything and say what’s in her heart.

Audrey explains: “Amélie is a story of a young girl who struggles to connect to people around her so she just creates a world of imagination. She likes to have a step away from the rest of the world and to view it. She likes to meddle in other people’s lives to try and force them to connect with other people.”

But she adds: “It’s not a fairy tale… She’s not portrayed or made to look perfect and beautiful. She is a complex human being as we all are. She reminds us all of ourselves a little bit, in a way.”

Turning Amélie into a musical was not an obvious move, but Audrey says it works completely.

“It’s the connection,” she says. “You can sit on your sofa and watch the film, and you’ll still be able to enjoy the beauty and be moved by it, but when you come to the show you have real people singing for you, looking at you, talking to the audience.

“We invite you into the story. I think it’s great to remind people that we are, as humans, all in this together. No matter how lonely you might feel, you’ve got someone next to you listening to that same story.

“When you’re in an auditorium of people who will all experience the story differently because they have their own journeys, you’ve got a room filled with different interpretations of what it is to be human. I think that’s quite potent and wonderful.

“Barnaby Race, the music arranger, worked on the music heavily to try and bring it back to a European-ness and closer to the quirkiness of the film. Changing the tempo, the key signature of the music, and the fact we have actual musicians on the stage – it brought that French-ness.”

The UK production also now contains some scenes that weren’t in the Broadway production and Audrey says: “Michael Fentiman, the director, has done a wonderful job of bringing the magical aspect of the film to the stage. There’s this wonderful moment in the movie where Amélie melts and turns into a puddle of water. We can’t do that on stage, but it feels as though we’ve got that same enchanting feeling.”

The film is set in the 1990s and the stage musical version has stuck with that era and Audrey explains: “Our version is set at the same time as the film, before mobile phones and everything, but it’s still so relevant to today with the fact people don’t connect even though they have so many opportunities to talk to one another with phones or texts, message, or emails – it’s so accessible yet so hard to reach.

“I like that… I like the complexities of her as a character. We all have that need and desire to connect with one another, in cities where we are so jammed up together and yet we can feel quite lonely, because God forbid you would ever smile at the person that you were next to on the train.

“I hope that this story is a nice reminder that you should look up and smile at the person on the train next you, they won’t bite you, and actually they’re probably in a similar situation to you, just wanting to be seen and wanting to be acknowledged.”

Audrey Brisson will be joined by Strictly Come Dancing favourite and television actor Danny Mac when Amélie The Musical comes to the New Victoria Theatre from Tuesday 27 to Saturday 31 August.

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