Hidden Treasures – a review of “Amélie”

By Michael Buzzelli

Amélie Poulain(Britt Dorazio), a waitress in a French cafe, is on a quest to bring joy to those around her, and, in doing so, discovers the joy deep within her in the musical version of the French film, “Amélie.”

There’s a lot of plot and a multitude of characters in this story, but we’re going to stick to the basics.

Strap in!

When her worry-wart father,  Raphael (Patrick Brannan), misdiagnoses Amélie with a heart condition at an early age, he and his wife, Amandine (Meighan Lloyd Harding) shelter her from the harshness of the world by homeschooling her. Unfortunately, during a trip to the Cathedral of Notre Dame, a suicidal tourist jumps from the roof, landing on and crushing her mother.

Raphael plants a gnome in his garden, housing the ashes of his late wife.

Cut to: Many years later, Amélie is working in a French cafe (the very real  Café des 2 Moulins), drifting and daydreaming through her life until she unlocks a small box of treasures (keepsakes and knick knacks from a young boy’s childhood) hidden in her apartment. She sets off on an adventure to find the original owner, and, thus, discovering her own long-buried secrets.

From that point, she is always concocting new and exciting ways to bring people closer together. At one point, she steals her father’s garden gnome, hands it off to her flight attendant friend who takes him with her on her excursions, sending her father photos of the gnome from around the world.

Then she “almost” meets Nino (Evan Krug) who loses his book of photos. Before she reunites him with his book, she falls for him, complicating her life in new and mysterious ways.

To open her heart, Amélie (Britt Dorazio) must open the door to Nino (Evan Krug). Photo credit: Hawk Photography and Multimedia LLC

Dorazio is cuteness personified as Amélie. She is superb, charming the audience with her faux-French accent and big, bright eyes. Her hair, make-up and costume causes her to resemble the original Amélie, Audrey Tautou (“Amélie,” 2001).

Dorazio has some palpable chemistry with her leading man. Krug shines in his performance as Nino Quincampoix.

There are some stand out performances, mostly from delightful dream sequences that showcase the talents of the other performers around Dorazio and Krug. Most notably, Nathaniel Yost as fish, Gavin Calgaro as Elton John and Ben Nadler as the aforementioned garden gnome.

Don’t ask.

Suffice to say the show is brimming with quirky humor and sparks moments of pure unadulterated bliss.

Note: It might be unadulterated bliss, but, there are some very ‘adult’ situations. Not as many as you’d think, considering that Nino works in a sex shop. Enough to consider keeping the kids at home.

Other notable performances include Erin Bock as Georgette and Cait Crowley as Gina.

“Amélie” is deftly directed by Patrick Cannon, juggling multiple storylines and an enormous cast on a small stage. He capably moved the various plotlines together swiftly and seamlessly, working from the book by Craig Lucas (based on the five-time Oscar-nominated film by Jean-Pierre Jeunet and Guillaume Laurant).

Cannon turns the disadvantages of working in a “theater-in-the-round” stage into great advantage, turning lemons into lemonade.

“Amélie” reminds us that when we spread joy, it can return to us ten-fold. It also encourages us to embrace the miracles in the small moments. There are quite a few great moments and little miracles in this uplifting production.

– MB

“Amélie” runs from May 18 until June 4th at the Little Lake Theatre, 500 Lakeside Drive South, Canonsburg, PA 15317. For more information, click here

One Reply to “Hidden Treasures – a review of “Amélie””

  1. I’m biased, of course, but I’ve never thought of in-the-round staging as a “lemon!” I agree totally though, Michael, with your opinion of Patrick’s remarkable staging. Never once with such a large cast on stage did I lever lose the focal point. Couldn’t agree more with your review of this charming production!

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