By Randy Gener
AMELIÉ, A NEW MUSICAL
Book by Craig Lucas, music by Daniel Messé and lyrics by Nathan Tysen
Directed by Tony Award winner Pam MacKinnon
Walter Kerr Theatre (219 W 48th Street)
For tickets, visit ameliebroadway.com
orCall Ticketmaster 877-250-2929
NEW YORK CITY | Broadway’s AMELIÉ, A NEW MUSICAL is a delight. The director, Tony Award winner Pam MacKinnon, managed to re-vivify the original film’s narrative content. Anybody with an ounce of sensitivity to craft can spot the virtues of the nimble book by Tony Award nominee Craig Lucas, the lovely music by Daniel Messé and the well-written lyrics by Nathan Tysen.
More, this new musical centers on the singing glories of Tony nominee Phillipa Soo, who portrays the eponymous lead role, and Adam Chanler-Berat (known elsewhere for NEXT TO NORMAL). Soo anchors this show. Does she and her beautiful voice not deserve an early theater award nomination just for being perfect for the past?
On Broadway, the quiet hope is that AMELIÉ’s quirky creative vision might bode better once the rest of the spring theater awards season gets underway. Unfortunately, for now, we’re stuck with zero. Nada. Zilch. I mean, really? Why did AMELIÉ get no love from the 2017 Outer Critics Circle Awards, which recently announced its nomination? Why? WHY?!
In the blast-your-vocal-chords culture of Broadway musicals, AMELIÉ stands out for its bountiful spirit. It unravels a viably engaging path — all quite purposeful and whimsical. It displays the style and substance of classical transcendence by exploiting what it means to be alive and in love.
The score is more sophisticated and more cunning than the critics suggest. As a musical-theater experience, this show is not about “the replication of brand extension,” as the Chicago critic Chris Jones snootily opines.
Over there at Variety, critic Marilyn Stasio sounds stuck in a lack of a sense of, well, variety. “It’s almost mandatory to have seen the movie if you hope to follow the erratic events” of AMELIÉ.
Meanwhile, the dork over there at Time Out New York (in an otherwise positive piece) apparently kept imagining wholly different shows by hankering for the “emotional breakthroughs” of Stephen Sondheim COMPANY. Writing under deadline, the critic Jeremy Gerard found glimpses of Sondheim’s SUNDAY IN THE PARK WITH GEORGE, to which he alludes.
These comparisons are specious. Let’s rehash the plot to see why the references to other shows are beside the point. Based on the beloved five-time Oscar®-nominated film, AMELIÉ, A NEW MUSICAL tells the story of an extraordinary young woman who lives quietly in the world, but loudly in her mind. The 2001 movie, about a French gamine who does good deeds in secret despite her own isolation, teetered on the edge of twee. She covertly improvises small, but surprising acts of kindness that bring joy and mayhem. But when a chance at love comes her way, Amélie realizes that to find happiness she’ll have to risk everything and say what’s in her heart.
Experience teaches us that savvier critics who know and appreciate how to truly “dance on the tightrope stretched between quirk and charm” (to borrow from Chris Jones) can get past being temporally bound in conventional genre rules.
Okay. Okay. Granted, AMELIÉ may be too built on its charms to fully blow you over. (After all, we first meet Amélie as a little girl so desperate for love from her caring but ice-cold parents that she forms an intimate relationship with a pet goldfish.)
Nevertheless: By giving no nominations to AMELIÉ, the 2017 Outer Critics Circle Awards has not done enough to do the real job — that is, to counter the commercial injustices wrought by muddled opening-night reviews. On this count alone, AMELIÉ ought not to have been ignored.
AMELIÉ, in my book, deserve greater recognition than giving zero nominations allow. And its lead star, Philippa Soo, showcases her shimmer as a performer and the strengths of her polished voice.
Ignore the naysayers and none-sayers, folks. Go see this dream of a Broadway musical.