I did not see the 2001 movie of the same title that has been adapted to the stage of the Walter Kerr Theatre by Craig Lucas (book) and score by Daniel Messe (rambling unmemorable background music) and Nathan Tysen/Daniel Messe (simplistic lyrics). No comparisons here.
This whole seemingly well-intentioned but misbegotten one act project has been directed by Pam MacKinnon of Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf? fame with musical staging that amounts to stylized movements by Sam Pinkleton.
How did this overblown bland children’s show get to Broadway? Phillipa Soo of the lovely voice and her co-star Adam Chanler-Berat of the quirky charm are the obvious answer. Both are excellent but they do not actually start up a relationship until the end of the show. And so AMELIE doesn’t catch the gold ring but meanders along in short vignettes with various narrators to urge the absence of a plot along slowly and unsurely.
Is it a fantasy? Is it a metaphor? Perhaps a bit of everything that never ignites our imaginations.
This supposedly takes place in Paris. Could have fooled me. There is nothing French about this working-too-hard to be charming show except a menu. Not even a “Bonjour.”
Amelie starts off as a young girl played by a shrill Savvy Crawford belying her name. Her parents are so concerned about her racing weak heart that they home school her. Her only friend is a goldfish she names Fluffy – Paul Whitty) that is quickly set adrift in the sea – as is the audience.
Amelie escapes to Paris to work in a café. Friendless again. Her mother is killed by a tourist represented here by a Thanksgiving Day Parade like balloon who jumps off of Notre Dame. Her dad then creates a Gnome Memorial (David Andino) to his wife. Still thinking of going?
Princess Diana is killed in a car crash giving new meaning to Amelie’s life. She will help others. Anonymously. She’s still friendless except for a neighbor (Tony Sheldon) who has been painting a reproduction Renoir for a very long time – longer than the 1 hour fifty minutes it takes to slog through this unmusical musical.
The all types, all shapes and sizes ensemble portray the other characters. Not much is developed or develops. Until Amelie meets Nino (Adam Chanler-Berat) – who collects discarded photos from one of those photos booths of the past still found in Paris.
He works in a porn shop PEEP-O-RAMA and he wants to connect with Amelie but she has deep rooted fears of connecting with anyone. Fears going back to her mom teaching her a Zeno’s Paradox – two objects can never meet. Could this be the first Freudian unmusical?
I was fearful that’s Amelie’s weak heart would be her undoing as she scampers up and about and across David Zinn lackluster set where armoires stacked high remind one of Disney – we half expect them to come to life and enliven the proceedings.
Bonne chance! Please keep in mind that no good deed goes unpunished.
Photos: Joan Marcus
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