LIVERPOOL is certainly the place to be this month if you are a lover of first-class musicals.

There's Les Misérables at the Empire, Girls Don't Play Guitars at the Royal Court and the sublime, surprising and sparklingly surreal Amélie at the Playhouse.

It is full of warmth and magic.

The theatrical equivalent of a hug.

Actress Audrey Brisson is the star but this multi-versatile French Canadian performer is adamant that the 15 strong ensemble cast - who all play instruments from accordions, cellos to percussion and keyboards - make this such a 'must see' production directed with sheer brilliance by Michael Fentiman.

Musical director Barnaby Rice also hits the right notes every time.

And designer Madeline Girling deserves a glass of the best cognac for her imagination.

It is set in the Paris of the early nineties where we meet Amélie, who is brought up strictly by her academic parents and becomes a loner.

Her aim in life is to help spread joy to others she meets without telling them.

There are characters you feel deeply for and others who are in need of redemption.

But then during her mission waitress Amélie falls in love.

What follows is two one hour acts punctuated by an interval, so the audience and cast can catch our breaths.

It is a masterclass in how to turn a hit film into an even better stage version.

It is visually stunning with a set design that becomes a railway station, French Cafe and our heroine's high-up circular apartment.

Two pianos make more than sweet music as they transform into so many differerent props.

The songs - lyrically and melodically - are a joy.

They tell the story with charm and clarity.

This is not a fairy tale, because it is grounded in reality in these sometimes impersonal days where people don't connect with each other.

There is a beautiful use of puppetry both poignant and comical.

This show, which ends its six month UK tour in Liverpool is heading for the West End.

Treat yourself to a ticket while it is here.

It is high energy entertainment with a universal message.

One of the best productions at the Playhouse this year.

Adorable - five stars.

The production is on until Saturday

Tickets from 0151 709 4776