2nd’ Star Productions’ “Amélie: The Musical” is presently playing at The Bowie Playhouse, 16500 White Marsh Park Drive, Bowie MD 20715. The musical, based on the 2001 romantic film comedy, features Music by Daniel Messé, Lyrics by Daniel Messé and Nathan Tysen and Book by Craig Lucas. This production is directed and choreographed by Kelsey Meiklejohn Bowen, produced by Nathan Bowen and includes musical direction by James Huchla.
The story opens with Amélie as a young girl (Naia Albert). Her father Raphael Poulain (Bill Fellows), a doctor, and mother, Amandine (Lucy Newton), are overprotective and unable to show her affection. They home school her due to their worries over her health and keep her from any emotional attachments. The parents allow her one pet, a fish (played in costume by Aref Dajani), which the child calls Fluffy. As Amélie is a normal little girl at heart, she bonds to this fish. Even that is too much for her parents, and she is forced to let it go, “World’s Best Friend.”
Somehow, Amélie transitions to a relatively normal young woman (Lindsay Espinoza), moves to Paris and gets a job as a waitress at the Café des Deux Moulins. Her mother has died, and her father cannot move on, emotionally locked onto a garden gnome he uses to memorialize his dead wife.
Amélie decides upon finding a “treasure box” hidden in her apartment for decades on the night of Princess Diana’s death, to reunite it with its owner. She does this with the help of her neighbor, Dufayel (Dave Robinson). Dufayel suffers from a brittle bone disease and is trying to paint a picture of “The Girl with the Glass” from Renoir’s “Luncheon of the Boating Party.”
Amélie decides to be an anonymous fairy godmother, doing good deeds to help people live happier lives. She also at this time comes into contact with a young man at a train station, and later she finds his picture album in front of the photo booth at the station. Her friend Dufayel sees she is attracted to this young man, Nino (Mark Zubaly), and encourages her to make contact. Amélie’s shyness keeps this from occurring. Her friends at the café decide to help her open her heart.
‘Amélie: The Musical’ tells the tale of the strength of the human spirit. This heartfelt, joyous and, sometimes, very funny production should not be missed.
Espinoza lights up the stage as the older Amélie Poulain. She captures the soul of this shy but endearing woman. She has a glorious classically trained voice and great stage presence. Her performance is worth more than the price of admission. Espinoza also masterfully gives some humor to the role
Albert is also a bright star as Young Amélie. She brings joy and hope to this socially cut off young girl who sees the glass as half full despite her bleak life. She opens the musical with “Prologue,” which is followed by “World’s Best Dad,” “World’s Best Friend” and “World’s Best Mom.” Albert grabs us immediately into the plot and into the character. She and Espinoza perform as a sweet duet in “Halfway” which explains Amélie’s emotional dysfunctionality due to her isolated childhood.
Mark Zubaly is a fine Nino. I really found great chemistry between him and Espinoza in their love song “Stay.”
Rounding out the cast Fellows as the father, Raphael Poulain, is tragic but comical. He and Espinoza along with Joshua Hampton as the Garden Gnome, are quite funny in the number, “No Place Like Gnome.” Leigh K. Rawls as Suzanne, the ex-circus performer and owner of the café, Stephanie Bernholz as Gina, the unhappy widow, and Christa Kronser as the hypochondriacal Georgette, hit it out of the park as the three friends/waitresses in their hysterical melody, “A Better Haircut.”
Several of the performers, including those mentioned above, play more than one role, some in very odd costumes. Aref Dajani as Lucien, Fluffy and Adrien, but especially as the anthropomorphized fish, adds greatly to the warmth of the show. Eric Meadows plays Hipolito and a Belgian Tourist, but it is his over the top Elton John paying tribute to Amélie in her dream of her own death, during the funeral of Princess Diana, that is most memorable. Robinson as Julien Dufayel, the neighbor, captures the man who in his own isolation, yet reaches out to help Amélie. Hampton also plays Joseph and Mysterious Man, but his Gnome is unforgettable. Gene Valendo is Bretodeau and Collignon. However, his Blind Beggar, as he takes a “Tour de France” with Amélie in hand, is one of the highlights of the show. Newton is perfect as the unfeeling mother, Amandine Poulain.
Bowden’s direction and choreography makes sure the focus in on her star, Espinoza. Most of the action places Amélie in the center. She does the same with Albert as Young Amélie in the early scenes. When the three waitresses have their number at the end, it is very cleverly staged. I also appreciated that although there are no microphones (at least that I could tell), I could hear all the actors clearly.
Musical Director and Conductor, James Huchla, leads the orchestra made up of himself, Mari Hill, Anuraag Sharm, Chris Mercado, Linda Christensen, Kristie Snively and Arielle Miller. The orchestra is hidden in a pit onstage, and I am appreciative that the music never drowned out the singing.
Gene Valendo designed the set. The French flavor of the painted flats are used as a background that open and close to allow mobile doors and door-sized picture frame to come in and out. I highly regard, too, the recreation of the photo booth as well and the use of dropped signs to let us know where we are (café, sex shop).
Linda Swann also keeps the Parisienne touch with her costuming. Her fish, gnome and Elton John costumes are humorous in their own right.
“Amélie: The Musical,” tells the tale of the strength of the human spirit. This heartfelt, joyous and, sometimes, very funny production should not be missed.
Advisory: Due to some mature language and props, this show might not be appropriate for young children.
Running Time: One hour and 40 minutes. No Intermission.
“Amélie: The Musical” presented by 2nd Star Productions will play at The Bowie Playhouse, 16500 White Marsh Park Drive, Bowie MD 20715, Fridays and Saturdays at 8PM and Sundays at 3PM until August 24, 2019. There is no evening performance on the 24th. However, there will be a 3PM performance on the 24th. Purchase tickets online.
Note: Catch our ‘A Quick 5’ Interview with the director, Kelsey Meiklejohn Bowen.