The Mercury Theatre Co. production of ‘Amelie’ need tweaking
As I have said many times before, there ought to be a law. It should be totally illegal for any American actor to fake either a British or French accent while on stage or in a movie. Case in point is the Mercury Theatre Company’s production of “Amélie” now playing in the spacious Regina Auditorium at the Notre Dame College in South Euclid, Ohio.
Taken from the Internationally award winning French movie “Le Fabuleux Destin d’Amélie Poulain (The Fabulous Destiny of Amélie Poulain) the musical tells the story of a young girl born in June of 1974 who is brought up by eccentric parents who erroneously believe that she has a delicate heart. Sequestered at home Amélie (Gracie Keener) develops an advanced imagination and mischievous personality.
At the tender age of six her mother, Amandine (Jennifer Myor) is killed when a Canadian tourist commits suicide by diving off the roof of Notre Dame and landing on her. This results in her father, Raphael (Brian Marshall), who is a prominent doctor, to withdraw completely from social life. He spends his days watching after a garden Gnome that stands guard over his late wife’s ashes.
As soon as Amélie reaches eighteen years she moves to Paris taking a job as a waitress at the Cafe des deux Moulins (Cafe of the Two Windmills) in the suburb of Montmartre. The cafe is frequented by an eccentric mix of customers who stop by to eat, drink and socialize. Amélie’s life takes a dramatic turn on August 31, 1997 when news is released of Diana, Princess of Wale’s untimely death in Paris. On hearing the news on the television Amélie drops a plastic perfume stopper that dislodges a piece of flooring revealing an old metal box full of childhood keepsakes left by a former inhabitant of the apartment. Amélie vows to track down this mystery person with the promise that if she can make him happy with the return of these small treasures she will devote her life to making others happy.
Through a bit of detective work and with the help of her neighbor, Raymond Dufayel ((J. Michael Pressimone) she finds the man and secretly gets the box to him. The man, Bretodeau (Brian Marshall) is so thrilled he vows to reconnect with his estranged wife and son. Seeing the joy she has wrought, Amélie begins to secretly enter the lives of those around her.
She begins by befriending a blind man whom she escorts to the metro station while telling him about the abundance of life on the Parisian boulevards. She visits he father and in an intricate scheme spirits away his precious garden gnome giving it to a flight attendant friend, Philomene (Jennifer Myor) who sends back photos of the gnome posed in front of famous landmarks around the world thus convincing the father to once again travel.
She sparks a romance between the cafe’s hypochondriac waitress, Georgette (Aubrey Fink) and Joseph (Jonathan Bova) a cafe regular. For her friend Gina (Meely Gevaart), whose husband was killed on a flight with his lover, she forges a postmortem love letter from the husband telling Gina that he has decided to return to her. Lastly, she berates the grocer, Collignon (J. Michael Pessimone) to stop mistreating his mentally ill assistant (Nick Grimsic) who sees vegetables and fruits as works of perfect art.
Through all of this she meets a young man, Nino (Benson Anderson) whose hobby is collecting discarded photos from the metro station photo booth. When she discovers his vital collection book of thrown away photos she puts together an elaborate scheme to return it to him. The people in the cafe whom she has helped, take control of the situation and see to it that the two lovers finally meet.
As this is a delightful (but confusing) tale it is made even more confusing in this production by the muddied French accents that the actors drift in and out of through the course of the show. While the orchestra is superb it is in a word “too good”, overpowering the vocalists during their numbers. Some timely adjustments to the sound board are in order to reduce the impact of the orchestra and boost up the singers so we can hear and understand them. Also, kill the accents and play it straight in English.
Standouts include Gracie Keener as Amélie, Benson Anderson as Nino, Kelvette Beacham as Suzanne and Brian Marshall as Raphael. The show is directed and choreographed by Pierre-Jacques Brault with music directed by Mathew Croft. David McQuillen Robertson is the Scenic Designer and Technical Director, Lighting design is by Michael Jarret with sound design by Eric Simna.
With a little bit of work on the technical side of things this could be a delightful summer theater outing. Hopefully, as the production moves forward it will evolve. I would also suggest that attendees of the show read the synopsis of the plot by googling “Amélie The Musical” and clicking on the Wikipedia offering.
Amélie runs through August 7, 2021 at The Mercury Theatre Company located in the Regina Auditorium on the Campus of Notre Dame College at 1857 South Green Road, South Euclid, Ohio. For tickets and information visit https://www.mercurytheatrecompany.org/ or call (216) 771-5862.