REVIEW: Boundless Creativity In NKU’s Sublime ‘Amelie the Musical’ 

‘Amélie: The Musical’ is as warm as the coming spring and as limitless as the stars. The zaniness of the show is entertaining, but the heart of the story is what truly makes this a sublime time spent at the theatre.

Review by Noah Moore 

Spring has sprung! And Northern Kentucky University’s glittery production of Amélie: The Musical, leaps off the stage of the Carnegie. Amélie invites audiences to think big. In a series of colorful vignettes and creative storytelling, the bright-eyed titular character finds herself in a story of hope and fate with a warm, jazz-infused score. 

Picture of 'Amelie' by NKU Sota
Amélie (Chloe Esmeier) appears with five raspberries on her fingers. Photo by Tammy Cassesa.

The Story of Amélie 

Based on the classic 2001 French film, Amélie tells the story of the title character, a waitress at a Parisian cafe in the 1990s. Having grown up in a loveless household, she works to make the world around her a better place, while balancing her feelings of isolation. When her path crosses with Nino, a quirky young photo collector, a story of verging fates, belonging, and love unfolds. 

With a gorgeous, stirring score by Daniel Messé and Nathan Tysen, the show originally premiered on Broadway in 2017, starring Phillipa Soo. It was subsequently retooled and reworked into the version presented here–a series of heartwarming vignettes filled with magic little moments. By the conclusion, these vignettes create a glowing mosaic of a snapshot in time. This production is directed by Jamie Strawn, with music direction by Steve Goers.

Amélie (Chloe Esmeier), discovers a hidden box in her floorboards, setting her off on a journey to find the original owner. Photo by Tammy Cassesa.

The Performances of Amélie The Musical 

Nestled behind short, black bangs is our protagonist, Amélie (Chloe Esmeier). Esmeier nails the nuances of the introverted character with a wild fascination–not to mention her soaring vocals. Complimenting her, Nino, (Zachary Farmer), has a beautiful tenor voice and assertiveness that outweighs Amélie’s unsureness. The two have rich chemistry, and a hilarious will-they-won’t-they romantic dynamic. 

Within the vignettes are sprinkles of hilarity, most notably through Zach Petrie’s portrayal of Elton John, glasses and all, and Cody Combs’ Lucien, whose crowd-favorite song, ‘Three Figs’ he sings with precision. The ensemble as a whole succeeds in creating a world that feels lived-in, as well as serving as our puppeteers and storytellers. Rounding out the ensemble are Kristin Kaufman, Kelly Messer, and Katie Chambers, as the trio of café mainstays, Georgette, Gina, and Suzanne, respectively. Their moment to shine comes late, with the Act II song ‘A Better Haircut,’ but is side-splittingly worth the wait. 

'Amelie' by NKU Sota
Through puppetry, Amélie’s childhood story unravels, aided by Zachary Farmer’s puppeteering. Photo by Tammy Cassesa.

The Technical Elements

The show creates a very specific time period in 1970s-1990s Paris. From the tall opaque glass panels to the creatively-utilized photo booth, the scenic design, by Sam Reno, conveys the decadence of Paris with steampunk Victorian industrialism. The lighting design, by Jo Sanburg, helps distinguish the show’s many settings, from whirring lines on the subway to clever usage of silhouettes. 

With such an boundary-pushing piece, the show’s puppetry helps the text leap from the stage. Designed by Lizzy Duquette, the puppets are ornate, including a giant goldfish, garden gnomes, and even full characters in puppet form. The zany and colorful designs make the show’s imaginative arc become even clearer. 

Amélie (Chloe Esmeier) hears Gino (Zachary Farmer) knock on her door, after a fate encounter. Photo by Tammy Cassesa.

Summed Up 

For any theatre lovers who have been wanting to catch a show fresh off Broadway or those who simply enjoy a heart-stirring story with beautiful songs, Amélie: The Musical is as warm as the coming spring and as limitless as the stars. The zaniness of the show is entertaining, but the heart of the story is what truly makes this a sublime time spent at the theatre. The show runs through March 23 at The Carnegie, and tickets are on sale now CLICK HERE.

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