When I was 14 I went to see Les Mis in the West End: my first musical. It must have been a last minute buy, or just a cheap one, because our seats were at the top and back of the large theatre. It was barely possible to make out the stage all those rows below, let alone any action or emotion happening on it. The theatre was drafty and cold, and that's how I remember the experience. I wasn't caught up in Fantine's plight or Jean Valjean's struggle - it was just... dull.
So. I hate musicals: my dirty little secret. They're too brash, too cheery. The overacting, injected with a fake sugary merriment, seems exhausting. I find myself pinning my face into the shape of a smile, and holding it there until the show's over.
Good theatre will reel me in and keep me there, gripped. But musicals, I can't relate to their stories: French revolutionaries, wicked witches, pottery-spinning ghosts. Of course it's the singing, too. An irritating interlude from the momentum of the plot, and one which derails it. By the time Sandy has finished vocalising her hopeless devotion, I'm lost.
Maybe I just haven't seen the right musical yet. I'm keeping an open mind, which is why I was intrigued when I heard about the plans for an Amélie musical. The original French movie from 2001 tells the story of Amélie Poulain, an adorable Parisian woman who follows the adorable mishaps of her Left Bank neighbours before getting caught up in her own adorable adventure. It's all very adorable, and in my view, the second most romantic movie ever made (after Edward Scissorhands, obviously). It's an eccentric romcom for people who hate romcoms.
Directed by Jean-Pierre Jeunet, Amélie made a star out of Audrey Tautou and was a surprise foreign language hit with mainstream audiences. It has the meet cute story that's ripe for adaptation, the Parisian backdrop that never gets old, and that awesome nostalgic aesthetic.
But will a musical work? There are loads of challenges: getting the set and costume design quirky but not cliché, making sure the narrative is sweet and whimsical without being cloying - and the score, of course, Yann Tiersen's accordion-heavy soundtrack that walked the line between upbeat and poignant. The obvious choice here is Michel Gondry. Does he do musicals? He should.
The actual team behind the impending Broadway addition is playwright Craig Lucas (voice behind the Tony-nominated The Light in the Piazza) and Dan Messé (of folksy NY band Hem). Messé has already said that he's not interested in doing Parisian music - he's not even planning to use accordion. I'm tempted to shun the whole thing at this point (no accordion?!), but the songwriter has also said he won't be "playing up the Americana elements either". No pedal steel, no fiddle, but it will be "hyper-romantic and playful".
It'll be interesting to see how this goes down with die-hard Amélie fans; I suspect they're the type to favour a quirky, uniquely presented story over soppy musical cliché. Jeunet himself has said the idea of the Broadway adaption of his movie "disgusts him" and he only agreed to it so he could give the cash to a children's charity - not exactly a good sign. But I'm keeping that open mind. Just about.