When it came out in 2001, Amélie, with its winsome, unforgettable star, Audrey Tautou, rapidly became one of the most popular French films in history, reviving for a new century the fanciful style of cinema that had catapulted the auteurs of the Nouvelle Vague to worldwide acclaim in the 1960s. With the citizens of Paris featuring as costars alongside the title character, Amélie introduced a new generation to the distinctive artistic sensibility of the City of Lights.
Beginning Friday, November 9, and running through Sunday, November 18, Out of the Box Theatre Company, Santa Barbara’s resident purveyor of cutting-edge musical theater, will present Amélie: A New Musical at Center Stage Theater. Speaking recently with Samantha Eve, who will direct and star as Amélie, I learned that the musical, while having been questioned for mostly abandoning any pretense of being musically French, nevertheless manages to capture what made the film an international hit. “I’ve wanted to do this one for a while,” Eve said, “because it has a message that I really believe in. There’s no bad guy standing in the way in this story. Instead it’s about someone whose real obstacle is within herself. It’s about what we have to do to get out of our own way.”
The production features a wide range of ages and lots of actors who will be familiar to Santa Barbara theatergoers. Almost all of them play multiple roles, something that has given Eve and the rest of the cast a lot of joy in rehearsal. UCSB’s Christina McCarthy will contribute in two capacities. She’s choreographing the show, and she’s also building puppets, including one that represents Elton John and another that’s a lawn gnome.
Comparing the aesthetic to that of American indie film director Wes Anderson, Eve describes the innovative adaptation by playwright Craig Lucas as making the fairy-tale adventures of Amélie “shine in a different way” than in the film. With stirring songs, surprising puppets, and loads of whimsy, Amélie: A New Musical is sure to send you to a Paris of the imagination. See centerstagetheater.org.