Regional Reviews: Los Angeles
Amélie, A New Musical
As a young girl, Amélie (Phillipa Soo) was mistakenly diagnosed with a heart ailment, which caused her parents to keep her at home, sheltering her from the world. As an adult, she longs for human connection but still needs to keep a distance. She solves this conundrum by aiding others covertly, from helping her friend Gina (Maria-Christina Oliveras) recover from the loss of her boyfriend to spray-painting wannabe poet Hipolito's (Randy Blair) words for all to see. But when Amélie falls for the mysterious young man Nino (Adam Chanler-Berat), she doesn't know how to fix her own life.
Soo is fine in the lead role, although she doesn't quite nail the palpable joy in helping people that Audrey Tautou radiated in the film. She also lacks any great songs for her beautiful voice, though every time she sings is lovely regardless. Savvy Crawford is terrific as Young Amélie, particularly in a number where praise for "the best mom in the world" ultimately becomes a memorial service. Chanler-Berat is given very little of interest to do in the show, and as a result his character is less vital than it should be. Tony Sheldon is good as the painter Dufayel, and Paul Whitty is charming as the goldfish named Fluffy.
Director Pam McKinnon has staged the show brilliantly, from small moments such as the depiction of a stone skipping across water to the global trip of a lucky garden gnome. Craig Lucas' book serves the project well, deftly introducing many characters and their varied plot lines, because the story of Amélie is complicated. This, sadly, is what trips up the song writers (Daniel Messé, lyrics & music, Nathan Tysen, lyrics). There is so much plot to convey that the songs spend all of their energy servicing that and never end up tuneful or distinctive on their own. It seems to me that this adaptation would have been better off as a non-musical play, which might have afforded more time to spend on the characters and situations that made the film so delightful.
Amélie, A New Musical plays at the Ahmanson Theatre through January 15, 2017. Tickets and info are available at www.CenterTheatreGroup.org.
Center Theatre Group presents Amélie, A New Musical with book by Craig Lucas, music and lyrics by Daniel Messé, lyrics by Nathan Tysen. Directed by Pam McKinnon. Lighting Designer, Jane Cox and Mark Barton; Scenic and Costume Designer, David Zinn; Sound Designer, Kai Harada; Music Direction, Kimberly Grigsby; Musical Staging and Choreography, Sam Pinkleton; Production Stage Manager, James Harker.