REVIEW: Amelie The Musical. Malvern Theatre.

This ambitious production has all the charm of the film and manages to tell a complex, moving tale through music.

There is spoken dialogue and exposition, but not very much, which gives the show an operatic quality, beyond that of conventional musicals. It is largely a narrative told through song, with excellent use of cellos and violins.

It probably helps if you've read the book or seen the movie; but it's not essential.

At the show's heart is the sheer exuberance of Audrey Brisson, who plays Amelie as a pocket-sized dynamo of introspection, which sounds like a contradiction, but this lies at the heart of the character. Amelie wants to help others but seems unable to make connections herself. As a child she has a talking fish - and an occasional use of puppets in this production is one of its strengths. As an adult, she sends her mother's ashes, contained in a garden gnome, on a tour of the world!

Movement director, Tom Jackson Greaves, and the director, Michael Fentiman, deserve special praise for the sheer grace and choreography of the action, most of which takes place in a bar. Most of the cast double up as musicians, which is a seamless transition and no mean feat. One of the unforgettable highlights is a parody of an Elton John performance by Caolan McCarthy - following the death in Paris of Princess Diana.

Do the rest of the songs stand up? 'Stay' is particularly moving. None are immediate ear worms, but listen a few more times and they would start to be memorable.

Gary Bills-Geddes.