Reviewed by Judy Richter
This musical version of the 2001 French film tells the story of a shy young woman whose small gestures help people connect while she herself moves closer to her own romantic connection.
With ear-pleasing music by Daniel Messé, lyrics by Nathan Tysen and Messé, and a book by Craig Lucas, "Amélie" is an utterly engaging show.
It features Samantha Barks as the title character with an assured Savvy Crawford as young Amélie. Her caring but distant parents are played by Alison Cimmet and John Hickok.
The adult Amélie finds work and a family of sorts with the patrons and other workers in a Paris cafe. From there a series of adventures leads her to a photo-collage artist, Nino (Adam Chanler-Berat). It takes a long time on her part and a lot of effort on his before they finally connect in person in a shy, sweet scene.
Most of the 13 performers in this ensemble cast play varied roles, and all do well, often transforming themselves in seconds. Some of the more notable contributions come from Randy Blair, who does a hilarious Elton John imitation; and Tony Sheldon, who plays the kindly older artist who becomes Amélie's mentor.
Taking place between 1975 and 1998, the show is inventively directed by Pam MacKinnon with creative musical staging and choreography by Sam Pinkleton.
Hidden on an onstage platform, the excellent band is led from the keyboards by musical director Kimberly Grigsby.
Adding to the show's delights are David Zinn's fanciful scenic and costume designs, projections by Peter Nigrini, lighting by Jane Cox and sound by Kai Harada.
Although it probably will undergo some tweaking before it moves on, "Amélie" has all the makings and the strong feeling of a Great White Way hit. It's already a huge hit for Berkeley Rep, so much so that eight performances have been added on the strength of its opening weekend.
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