Dreamers, Gnomes, and Elton John: A Reflection on Amélie

Louis Park ’26 in Arts | October 20, 2023

        Last week, on October 11, 12, and 13, the Periwig Club presented Amélie, this year’s fall musical, to the Lawrenceville community. Aligned with Parents Weekend, this year’s fall musical attracted many families and Lawrentians alike. Initially inspired by the classic romantic comedy movie Amélie from 2001, Craig Lucas adapted the film into a musical, which has been performed everywhere from Broadway to the West End and now at Lawrenceville. According to the Periwig crew member Kingsley Du ’26, the Periwig faculty advisors chose Amélie because it embodies a very interesting pop vibe and a deep and sincere message of connections, which they felt was what the Lawrenceville community needed. The eight-yearold musical is the newest show Periwig has ever produced. 

        Amélie is about a young, inquisitive French girl of the same name who enjoys the simple things in life and lives vicariously through others. Although she has many voices in her head, Amélie has difficulty expressing her true feelings because of her upbringing. Her mother died after a tourist leaping from Notre Dame Cathedral crushed her, and her father is emotionally distant. From a young age, her mother taught her that two objects can never fully touch, a sentiment Amélie internalizes in her adult life. One of the most emotional songs in the musical, “Halfway,” showcases young Amélie and her mother at the kitchen table, where her mom taught her about Zeno’s Paradox: you go on to the destination that you can never reach because no matter how far a boat travels to its final destination, it is always halfway, and then another halfway, then another to shore.

        Nevertheless, after events like Princess Diana’s death and discovering a childhood memory box from a past tenant of her apartment, Amélie goes on a journey to help strangers and be kind to them. For example, she leads a blind beggar, played by Reed Cloniger ’25, on a trip to Paris, visiting different sights, and helps Nino Quincampoix, played by Sameer Menghani ’24, discover the mysterious man he always wanted to find in an abandoned Paris photo booth. In the end, Amélie and Nino discover the true power of connection, the solution to Zeno’s paradox, while falling in love with each other. 

        Speaking on behalf of many audience members who enjoyed Amélie Robbie Chang ’26 and Oskar Honekamp ’26 shared their impressions after the show. Chang remarked how the play “filled [him] with joy,” especially with the “amazing sets and props” along with “wonderful singing” from his fellow Woodhullians Elijah Miller ’25, Victor Mongon ’26, and Braedon Owen ’26. Chang said that Amélie was a show “for the ages.” Honekamp also “adored” the musical as it struck the “right balance of entertainment and storyline,” and he would have “recommend[ed] it to anyone visiting the school.” 

        I also enjoyed every moment of the musical. I originally attended the show to support my friends who are performing on the Tech Crew. But as the show went on, I was more than amazed by the quality of the musical; I was mesmerized by how all the actors were singing and acting so naturally with near-perfect English-French accents. Following the lead of Claire Jiang ’24 as Amélie, all the individual performances were outstanding, especially their incredible singing, which was accompanied by a talented pit orchestra. Although my neck hurt after two hours of looking upward, front-row seats were well worth the hour-long wait in the Kirby Arts Center (KAC) lobby before the doors opened! 

        Some actors also shared their feelings after the success of the closing night. Mihajlo Gajic ’26, who played Dominique Bretodeau, a lonely man in his 50’s who used to live in Amélie’s apartment, recalled how he felt “a lot of mixed feelings” during dress rehearsal night. Gajic felt “energetic and enthusiastic” but also “really, really nervous.”However, practice makes perfect, as Gajic was “barely nervous at all” on the closing night, feeling only “excited and grateful” to be a part of such a fantastic production every time he stepped on stage. One of the most significant difficulties for Gajic was the fear of singing on a stage as big as the KAC’s. Gajic had to audition over Zoom as a new sophomore, which “was not a delight” as he needed to show off his singing skills, and Zoom was not the best option. He said he had always been “very insecure” about his voice, but this musical has definitely cured this insecurity. Gajic nailed a role, and he was “beyond excited” to participate in his first-ever musical, with theatre being “the biggest part of [his] life.” 

        One of Gajic’s fellow underclassmen cast members shared his experience during his first Lawrenceville musical. Actor Victor Mongon ’26 was “a little intimidated” by all the “extremely talented singers” in the cast. But after two months, these people became Mongon’s morale boosters and a great source of comfort, allowing him to feel “exhilarated” on the stage. Mongon also enjoyed dancing and singing backstage during the shows where everyone “went crazy.” 

        The backstage assistant, Kingsley Du ’26, shared some of his favorite moments as a part of the Stage Management Team. Seeing Braedon Owen ’26 as Elton John belting out “Goodbye Amélie” at the end of Act One “always filled [him] up with pure joy.” Du also commented on Anna Androulakis ’26 in her gnome costume, who “never failed to make [him] laugh.” As for behind-thescenes moments, Du cherished daily warmups with Amélie’s Assistant Director Sofia Carlisi ’24, where he had fun watching her and the cast dancing to Cotton Eyed Joe or playing koomcha. Regarding the ending of the musical, Du felt “very sad” but also “extremely joyful” now that the musical ended: “I am so glad that I was able to be a part of this awesome cast and crew, and it’s genuinely been one of the best experiences of my life.” 

        The Periwig cast and crew also showed their immense appreciation to the faculty members who spent long nights in rehearsal and in the scene shop: John Allerheiligen, Larry Barnes, Colette Burns, Matthew Campbell, James Cuthrell, Gabby Lescadre, Grant Mech, Craig Renoe, PJ Scott, and Derrick Wilder. 

        Amélie showed the power of the Periwig Club and the level of artistic talent those in this year’s musical had to offer. Amélie also showed the power of connection and the importance of taking chances on people, even if it may seem absolutely terrifying. This strong message appeals to our Lawrenceville