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A CurtainUp Review
By Elyse Sommer
It's undoubtedly a dream come true for the talented Ms. Soo to be the lead in a Broadway musical, I wish it were in as sublimely original and memorable a show as was the case with her previous major but not main player role in Hamilton . While Natasha, Pierre and the Great Comet for which she created the Natasha role Off-Broadway was an adaptation, that adaptation was a brand-new take on just a small part of the source material. Amélie, on the other hand, is yet another attempt to turn a popular straight film into a hit stage musical.
It's easy to understand why Ms. Soo with her charm and superb soprano would strike producers as a good bet to step into shoes of the 2001 film's Audrey Tatou, and that Craig Lucas, a seasoned adapter, could create a true to the source, a whimsical French fantasy.
Soo's Amélie , is certainly every bit as fresh faced as the Audrey Tautou was as the film's pixieish heroine who moves to Paris after a sad childhood hiding her own social ineptness with acts of kindness that bring cheer and joy to others, and eventually to herself. No complaints about her singing either.
Mr. Lucas's book too has a good deal to recommend it. He's managed to be true to the the film's plot and practically all of its oddball characters, and to do so in just 100 minutes instead of doubling the screen to stage length as usually happens when a non-musical film is musicalized. The problem is that the songs Nathan Tyson and Daniel Messe have given Ms. Soo to sing are not worthy of her beautiful voice. And all of Amélie's little acts of kindness that Lucas has so carefully integrated into his script are less flavorful in this more any-place than strictly French production — and welcome as the streamlined story is, it's likely to be more than a little confusing to anyone who hasn't seen the movie.
Pam MacKinnon, an experienced director but for whom this is her first outing with a musical, does keep the ensemble that populates Amélie's fantastical adventures moving along, and David Zinn's scenery and costumes make for a colorful cartoon world, though it's dizzyingly busy thanks to the constantly rolled on and off props used to establish various locations.
With the the musician's of director Kimberly Grigsby's small orchestra positioned in the boxes at each side of the stage, it's nice not to have the mega amplified sound usual in so many Broadway houses.
The actors overall do good work, with several taking on several roles, Randy Blair's most notable one being a show-stopping Elton John. Deserving a special hand is Savvy Crawford as the young Amélie ; also Tony Sheldon painter who,as befriends the elderly painter Dufayel (Tony Sheldon) who, as Amélie is stuck in her dream world, is stuck repainting the same picture year after year.
Even though Adam Chanler-Berat is deservedly credited in the program as Soo's co-star this is her show. And for all my negative comments, it's not really an awful show. In fact, my guest (an adult, not a teenager) who has never been to a Broadway musical. Her enthusiasm is a reminder that whether whether seeing a show embraced by habitual theatergoers and critics or not, going to the theater is a magical experience. That's why it's so sad to see the Trump administration's defunding the arts and education organizations that support programs geared to introducing young people to the magic of theater.
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Musical adaptation of 2001 film
Music: Dan Messé
Lyrics: Nathan Tyson
Book: Craig Lucas
Directed by Pam MacKinnon
Cast: Phillipa Soo and Adam Chanler-Berat David Andino, Randy Blair, Heath Calvert, Alison Cimmet, Savvy Crawford, Manoel Felciano, Harriett D. Foy, Alyse Alan Louis, Maria-Christina Oliveras, Paul Whitty, Emily Afton, Trey Ellett, Destinee Rea, Jacob Keith Watson and Tony Sheldon.
Scenic Design by David Zinn
Costume Design by David Zinn
Lighting Design by Jane Cox and Mark Barton
Sound Design by Kai Harada
Projection Design by Peter Nigrini
Puppet Design by Amanda Villalobos
Hair and Wig Design by Charles G. LaPointe
Running Time: 100 minutes
From 3/09/17; opening 4/03/17
Reviewed by Elyse Sommer at 4/05/17 matinee.
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