Director Patrick Cannon’s clever staging and a talented cast led by the compelling Britt Dorazio in the title role of a challenging musical
By MAC Hoover
Snapshot: Paris, Montmartre, France, 1970s, 1980s, 1990s. As a young girl, Amélie witnesses her mother’s tragic and unexpected death, at which time her father becomes overly protective of her and the memory of his wife. As Amélie matures, she realizes that kindness, the bonds of friendship, and love ultimately make life worth living.
It is challenging to come up with words to describe Little Lake Theatre’s production of Amélie. There is a fantastic amount of talent in this production on and off-stage. The actors are careful and nuanced, and the vocal talents are overall solid and pleasant. The orchestra was just right for the in-the-round venue, and the lighting and sets were concise and appropriate. The costumes were ill-fitting and just a bit “off.”
That was my overall feeling about the musical Amelie: “It was just “off.”
I do not believe this is the fault of Patrick Cannon‘s meticulous direction and choreography of the staging. The talented character actors were amazing in their abilities to demonstrate the quirkiness of the denizens of Montmartre. The singing was beautiful, the acting superb, yet the play itself, was a jumbled whirlwind that left me puzzled.
The story of Amélie is, in itself, quirky and subtle. The original film, upon which the musical is based, is light and nuanced. While it made a delightful film, the musical’s book does not translate any of this into a practical story of magical realism that should have become a cohesive musical.
The issues I have with Amélie are not the fault of this production by Little Lake, and it is a brave and ambitious project capably accomplished by its director and the talented cast, musicians, and crew.
The actors playing Amelie (Britt Dorazio) and Nico (Evan Krug) were excellent together with great chemistry. But, their journey to meet felt panicked and frantic. Not their fault; it’s how the roles were written.
Amélie was raised by her father as a solitary figure, seemingly at odds with Dorazko’s effervescent portrayal. Krug has impressive talent, but his character’s intensity was startling and not totally necessary. He scared many audience members when he flung fliers with Amélie dressed as Zorro at near-seated patrons. Their non-courtship’s cat and mouse games seemed more like a looney tunes anvil festival. These actors seem capable of so much more, yet they could only play it as it was written. I want to see more of these voices in vehicles that utilize their abilities.
There were several other casting standouts:
There were so many beautiful voices with tepid songs that tried to convey the story’s action. Patrick Brennan did a great job as Raphael / Bretodeau. While he was great as the neurotic father, his impact as Bretodeau was stunted by the curious setting/discovery of his toy box and his failed familial connections when it was returned at the cafe as his story’s denouement. I’m not sure the audience connected his misspelled name with the stylized French accents that filled the production. Once again, not the fault of the team.
Ben Nadler was terrific as the gnome. He also played a mean telephone booth, yet his excellent singing voice was lost in the melange.
Meighan Lloyd Harding has an incredible voice, and her portrayal of Amandine was excellent, especially in her duet about the boats with Amelie.
The trio of women at the cafe ( Jessica Tomsic, Erin Bock, and Caitlin Crowley ) were a lovely, affable blend of voices. Their staging did not lend itself to understanding the camaraderie of their essential interactions with Amelie, especially toward the end of the production, when the blending should have been more understood.
I was not a fan of the costuming; you could see ripped seams from the audience and costumes that didn’t fit. Amelie’s shoes were noticeably odd. Even the ensemble was oddly attired. There is little room to hide when you are that close to the audience. The color palate was right, and the red accents were the right subtlety for the ending.
Amélie was a delightful movie that became a mediocre musical, yet the cast and production crew did a terrific job of trying to make it work. The actors, singers, and musicians were remarkable, making it an enjoyable evening despite the musical’s shortcomings.
A musical is like a soufflé. You can take the best and freshest ingredients and follow the recipe to the letter, yet sometimes, the soufflé still comes out flat.
Details and Tickets:
Little Lake Theatre Company’s Production of Amélie has performances through June 4th, 2023. Evening performances are at 7:30pm. More information and tickets at: https://www.littlelake.org/on-stage