Phillipa Soo stars in musical adaptation of beloved French film at the Walter Kerr Theatre.
By: Patrick Christiano
The French film Amelie enchanted audiences in 2001 winning five Oscar nominations, including one for Best Foreign Language Film. And now last week a whimsical new musical adaptation, starring Tony nominee Phillipa Soo (Hamilton) in the title role, opened on Broadway directed by Pam MacKinnon with a lovely, yet bland score by Daniel Messe that features precious lyrics by Nathan Tysen.
Although the musical begins in 1975 when Amelie, played with spunk by Savvy Crawford, was just a little girl with frigid parents, most of the story about the painfully reticent, yet imaginative Amelie, who decides to dedicate herself to enriching the lives of others, is set in 1997 Paris, where the young woman is a waitress in a café with a group of oddball characters. Amelie is befriended by her reclusive neighbor, an artist played by Tony Sheldon with amusing heart, however the core of the tale is about Amelie’s attraction to an eccentric named Nino, who collects discarded photos, played by Adam Chanler-Berat. The unfolding tale concerns the hurdles each must overcome for these apparent sole mates to come together.
Based on a much-loved film, and starring one of Broadway’s most lauded new stars guided by Tony Award winner Pam MacKinnon expectations for Amelie were high, however with a book by three-time Tony nominee Craig Lucas that barely exists, a colorless score, which like the set by David Zinn, although appealing doesn’t give the slightest hint of Paris, the musical is decidedly dull relying on a unrelenting playfulness that boarders more on corny than original.
MacKinnon’s pleasant staging is imaginative enough so that the evening is painless, but nothing is truly exciting or even consistently witty. The new Broadway star Phillipa Soo sings beautifully, while inhabiting the character with a persistently lovey sweetness, but nothing really happens. She is basically the same at the beginning of the story as at the end with only the slightest hint of transformation. The musical like her journey is served with proficient flair that feels consistently saccharin.
Walter Kerr Theatre, 219 W. 48th St., NYC.
Tue—Thu, 7:30 pm; Fri—Sat, 8pm; Wed, Sat, 2 pm; Sun, 3pm.
Running time: one hour and 40 mins. with no intermission. $49.50—$169.50. (800) 745-3000. www.ticketmaster.com.
Opened April 3 for an open run. Photography: Joan Marcus