Tuesday, April 11, 2017

Broadway Theater Review: Amélie

Music by Daniel Messé 
Lyrics by Daniel Messé  and Nathan Tysen
Directed by Pam MacKinnon
Choreography by Sam Pinkleton
Walter Kerr Theatre

By Lauren Yarger
A whimsical tale about a shy, imaginative French woman helping people in Paris is the latest attempt to make a film-to-stage jump, but even with the popular and talented Phillipa Soo in the title role, Amélie lacks "je ne sais quoi" to capture the essence of the film or our interest.

Actually, I do know what it is, because, after all, that is my job. First, there is a surprisingly poorly constructed book by Craig Lucas (An American in Paris; The Light in the Piazza). Lucas spends too many of the 100 minutes in this show creating some back story for us about Amélie and how she ends up being the shy woman who withdraws from society and lives in her own imagination. 

A young Amélie (a miscast Savvy Crawford who is not quite ready for her Broadway debut) has undemonstrative parents, Raphael and Amandine (Manoel Felciano and Alison Cimmet), and when her mother dies tragically and her father withdraws further, the young girl escapes into her imagination, depicted Peter Nigrini's projections which fill out the unimaginative sets by David Zinn, who also designs the costumes. A bunch of doors and frilly wardrobes are supposed remind us we are in France.....

Finally Amélie grows up and becomes a waitress in a Montmartre cafe. When she discovers a box of toy treasures in a hidden space in her apartment, she manages to return it to the original owner and feels a sense of purpose in her otherwise drab life. She will be an anonymous do-gooder, she decides, and be thought of like Princess Diana. She comes out of her shell, sending her father's treasured garden gnome on a world-wide tour in the hope of drawing him out as well. 

Amélie also sets up a romance for hypochondriac cafe worker Georgette (Alyse Alan Louis) and Joseph (Paul Whitty), the jealous ex-boyfriend of another cafe dweller, Gina (Maria Christina Oliveras). 

She develops a relationship with her neighbor, reclusive painter Raymond Dufayel (an endearing Tony Sheldon), and in trying to solve a mystery involving discarded, ripped images from photo booths at train stations, finds her own romance with a pornography store clerk named Nino (Adam Chandler-Berat). 

She also helps complete a love letter from a long-dead husband and bolsters the ego of a poet, but doesn't do my favorite prank from the movie by coming to the assistance of a mentally challenged boy being bullied by a shop owner. Now, I know, I shouldn't hold that against Lucas, but the scenario is set up so that fans of the movie anticipate it. We see the abuse, but then it is just forgotten and not resolved. It is very disappointing and there really is no reason to include it in the book if Amelie isn’t going to come to the rescue.

If allthis plot sounds a bit strange, it is, but it fails to charm like the movie. Attempts to bring absurdist qualities of the film to the stage, like having Amélie's gold fish and the garden gnome come to life (thanks to puppetry designed by Amanda Villalobos) -- with the latter dancing to Sam Pinlketon's choreography to a tune called "There's No Place Like Gnome" -- fail and are “incroyable” -- in the very "mal" sense of the word.

The score by Daniel Messé, pianist for New York band Hem, is pleasant, but not memorable. Lyrics by Messé and Nathan Tysen (Tuck Everlasting) might force the title of this musical to be switched to Ennui, rather than Amélie.

This is from "Stay Right Here":

"I take a step to get out, but my feet forget how. Now it’s me just me against a door. This isn’t what I thought, although I think I want some more, but not right now. Now I need to go."

And this, from a number called "Where Do We Go from Here":

"Where do we go from here now that we are sitting side by side, after all there’s more to life than we can see.  Will there be troubles? I don’t know. Will there be sweet things? I hope so. Will there be time to keep on dreaming once this dream is over?

Zzzzzz...... Pardonnez-moi. mes amis. I dozed off there.

Soo is charming and it is always a pleasure to hear her lovely voice, but she doesn't get to do much with it here. She doesn't try to replicate the character created by Audrey Tautou on the screen, but MacKinnon doesn't guide her in making Amélie truly her own, either. The production has the feel of an early run through. Interesting ideas and possibilities, but they need editing and lots work.

Amélie runs at the Walter Kerr Theatre, 219 W 48th St., NYC. ameliebroadway.com

Additional casting;
David Andino, Randy Blair, Heath Calvert, Harriett D. Foy, Emily Afton, Trey Ellett, Destinee Rea, Jacob Keith Watson

Additional credits:
Lighting Design by Jane Cox and Mark Barton; Sound Design by Kai Harada; Hair and Wig Design by Charles G. LaPointe

-- God's name taken in vain
-- Some suggestive elements

No comments:

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Our reviews are professional reviews written without a religious bias. At the end of them, you can find a listing of language, content or theological issues that Christians might want to know about when deciding which shows to see.

** Mature indicates that the show has posted an advisory because of content. Usually this means I would recommend no one under the age of 16 attend.

Theater Critic Lauren Yarger

Theater Critic Lauren Yarger

My Bio

Lauren Yarger has written, directed and produced numerous shows and special events for both secular and Christian audiences. She co-wrote a Christian musical version of “A Christmas Carol” which played to sold-out audiences of over 3,000 in Vermont and was awarded the Vermont Bessie (theater and film awards) for “People’s Choice for Theatre.” She also has written two other dinner theaters, sketches for church services and devotions for Christian artists. Her play concept, "From Reel to Real: The Jennifer O'Neill Story" was presented as part of the League of professional Theatre Women's Julia's reading Room Series in New York. Shifting from reviewing to producing, Yarger owns Gracewell Productions, which produced the Table Reading Series at the Palace Theater in Waterbury, CT. She trained for three years in the Broadway League’s Producer Development Program, completed the Commercial Theater Institute's Producing Intensive and other training and produced a one-woman musical about Mary Magdalene that toured nationally and closed with an off-Broadway run. She was a Fellow at the National Critics Institute at the O'Neill Theater Center in Waterford, CT. She wrote reviews of Broadway and Off-Broadway theater (the only ones you can find in the US with an added Christian perspective) at http://reflectionsinthelight.blogspot.com/.

She is editor of The Connecticut Arts Connection (http://ctarts.blogspot.com), an award-winning website featuring theater and arts news for the state. She was a contributing editor for BroadwayWorld.com. She previously served as theater reviewer for the Manchester Journal-Inquirer, Connecticut theater editor for CurtainUp.com and as Connecticut and New York reviewer for American Theater Web.

She is a Co-Founder of the Connecticut Chapter of the League of Professional Theatre Women. She is a former vice president and voting member of The Drama Desk.

She is a freelance writer and playwright (member Dramatists Guild of America). She is a member if the The Outer Critics Circle (producer of the annual awards ceremony) and a member of The League of Professional Theatre Women, serving as Co-Founder of the Connecticut Chapter. Yarger was a book reviewer for Publishers Weekly A former newspaper editor and graduate of the University of Missouri’s School of Journalism, Yarger also worked in arts management for the Bushnell Center for the Performing Arts, the Hartford Symphony Orchestra and served for nine years as the Executive Director of Masterwork Productions, Inc. She lives with her husband in West Granby, CT. They have two adult children.


All material is copyright 2008- 2022 by Lauren Yarger. Reviews and articles may not be reprinted without permission. Contact reflectionsinthelight@gmail.com


Key to Content Notes:

God's name taken in vain -- means God or Jesus is used in dialogue without speaking directly to or about them.

Language -- means some curse words are used. "Minor" usually means the words are not too strong or that it only occurs once or twice throughout the show.

Strong Language -- means some of the more heavy duty curse words are used.

Nudity -- means a man or woman's backside, a man's lower front or a woman's front are revealed.

Scantily clad -- means actors' private areas are technically covered, but I can see a lot of them.

Sexual Language -- means the dialogue contains sexually explicit language but there's no action.

Sexual Activity -- means a man and woman are performing sexual acts.

Adultery -- Means a married man or woman is involved sexually with someone besides their spouse. If this is depicted with sexual acts on stage, the list would include "sexual activity" as well.

Sex Outside of Marriage -- means a man and woman are involved sexually without being married. If this is depicted sexually on stage, the list would include "sexual activity" as well.

Homosexuality -- means this is in the show, but not physically depicted.

Homosexual activity -- means two persons of the same sex are embracing/kissing. If they do more than that, the list would include "sexual activity" as well.

Cross Dresser -- Means someone is dressing as the opposite sex. If they do more than that on stage the listing would include the corresponding "sexual activity" and/or "homosexual activity" as well.

Cross Gender -- A man is playing a female part or a woman is playing a man's part.

Suggestive Dancing -- means dancing contains sexually suggestive moves.

Derogatory (category added Fall 2012) Language or circumstances where women or people of a certain race are referred to or treated in a negative and demeaning manner.

Other content matters such as torture, suicide, or rape will be noted, with details revealed only as necessary in the review itself.

The term "throughout" added to any of the above means it happens many times throughout the show.

Reviewing Policy

I receive free seats to Broadway and Off-Broadway shows made available to all voting members of the Outer Critics Circle. Journalistically, I provide an unbiased review and am under no obligation to make positive statements. Sometimes shows do not make tickets available to reviewers. If these are shows my readers want to know about I will purchase a ticket. If a personal friend is involved in a production, I'll let you know, but it won't influence a review. If I feel there is a conflict, I won't review their portion of the production.

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