This Friday, August 9, 2019, 2nd Star Productions will begin performances of “Amélie the Musical” at the Bowie Playhouse at 16500 White Marsh Park Drive, in Bowie, Maryland 20715.
2nd Star Productions was founded in January 1996 by Jane Wingard, John Guyton, Gordon Gustin, Joanne Wilson and Martin Hayes. They wanted to form a group where they could do high-quality productions and still enjoy the camaraderie of others who enjoyed working in regional theatre. The company now produces two musicals and one comedy each season.
“Amélie” was originally a movie in 2001. The musical with music by Daniel Messé, lyrics by Messé and Nathan Tysen and book by Craig Lucas opened at Berkeley Repertory Theatre in 2015 and then on Broadway in 2017. The plot focuses on an extraordinary young woman who “lives quietly in the world but loudly in her mind.” Love finds its way to her, but she must take risks to say what’s in her heart. “She is an imaginative dreamer who finds her voice, discovers the power of connection and sees possibility in every corner.”
This production is directed and choreographed by Kelsey Meiklejohn Bowen with musical direction by James Huchla. I had the opportunity to interview Ms. Meiklejohn Bowen.
Bio: Kelsey Meiklejohn Bowen is grateful to be working on her second production with 2nd Star after appearing as Molly in “Peter and the Starcatcher.” Previous directing and choreographing credits include: “Mamma Mia!,” “Love’s Labour’s Lost” (The Madeira School); “James and the Giant Peach,” “Godspell,” “The 25th Annual…Spelling Bee” (Encore Stage & Studio). In addition, she served as the choreographer for “The Addams Family,” “Into the Woods,” “Kiss Me Kate,” “Anything Goes,” “Footloose” (The Madeira School); “Seussical,” “The Music Man,” “Mary Poppins,” “Shrek,” “Legally Blonde” (Encore Stage & Studio). Select acting credits include: Peter Pan in “Peter Pan” (The Arlington Players); Past Jane in “The Oregon Trail” (Flying V); Maggie in “Flora The Red Menace,” Myrtle May in “Harvey” (1st Stage); Puck in “ A Midsummer Night’s Dream” (The National Players, Olney Theatre Center); “The Winter’s Tale” (Shakespeare Theatre); Juliet in “Romeo & Juliet,” Jessica in “The Merchant of Venice“ (Maryland Shakespeare Festival).
- Can you tell us a little more about yourself?
I was born in Alexandria, VA. So, I am still pretty close to home! I was lucky enough to be accepted into the dance department at Duke Ellington School of the Arts for high school. I still remember learning from a guest choreographer the importance of learning to count music in the time signature it was written. My mind was blown that while I could force an eight-count on music it wouldn’t serve my work as a dancer or choreographer to truly connect with and enliven the musical nuances of a piece.
- You have worn many hats in the theatre. Which do you prefer, acting, directing, choreography or something else?
I have recently come to love the holistic view you get to take on as a director, but I feel truly at home choreographing musicals. Some of my favorite time spent is listening to a little flourish in the music on repeat and finding ways to highlight it with the movement. I find that in musicals especially when the movement and music feel interconnected the audience feels encompassed in the moment. It is something really only musical theatre gives us as an art form, and something you see throughout our production of “Amélie”!
- “Amélie” was most definitely French. How did you decide to keep a French tone in the production?
The background of the scenery is a gorgeous Renoir style painting of famous Montmartre sights including the Moulin Rouge. The musical has a very whimsical feel yet is also quite straightforward which strikes me as very French. The show is based on a French film and the script maintains many of the classic moments from it including the locations. So, although we have not added any accents the production still has a fantastical French flair.
- There are children in the cast? Do you work with kids the way you work with adults or do you use different techniques?
We have one incredibly talented young girl in our cast, who plays Young Amélie. I spent many years working with the youth theatre Encore Stage & Studio, and I have always found that I work very similarly with both children and adults. Acting is all about embracing the imaginary circumstances, and often children will dive into that imaginative space quicker than adults.
- What message do you think your audience will walk away with after seeing this production?
The show is all about letting our imaginations run wild. Amélie’s world is filled with dancing fish, singing gnomes, and the ability to always see the best in others. Yes, there is a love story, but the production encourages us to allow our own imaginations to take over. My hope is the audience will be encouraged to let their inner child take over every so often and embrace the adventure!
“Amélie the Musical” will play Fridays and Saturdays at 8 PM and Sundays at 3 PM until August 24, 2019. There is no evening performance on the 24th. However, there will be at 3 PM performance on the 24th. Purchase tickets online.