Sunday, 21 May 2017

AMELIE, THE MUSICAL and The Misuse of the Term "Flop"

     We saw the final performance of AMELIE (Book, Craig Lucas; music, Danielle Messe; lyrics, Nathan Tyson and Daniel Messe), today. The show had twenty-seven preview performances and fifty-six performances before a closing witnessed by a thousand or so highly enthusiastic theatergoers. I heard high praise from the people around me and the stage door mob almost completely blocked Forty-eighth Street. Moreover, AMELIE is one of the best musicals of the season with a charming book by Craig Lucas (adapted from the French film) and a tuneful, delightful score, better than any Tony-nominated score except, perhaps DEAR EVAN HANSEN. The small-scale production (Directed by Pam McKinnon, musical staging Sam Pinkleton), is visually witty and perfect for the tone of the material. David Zinn's designs and gorgeous. AMELIE may not have attracted the audience it needed, but it would be highly unfair to call it a flop. It was an artistic success that didn't attract audiences. One can try to second guess the producers. Perhaps a clever title in English rather than assuming theatergoers had seen the charming French film. Perhaps realizing that Philippa Soo is not a big enough star to attract a large audience (what leading lady under thirty-five is these days?),
though she was perfect casting as was the always magnetic Adam Chanler-Berat. The show was advertised as if Soo were a big star. Perhaps, perhaps, but, thank God I'm not a producer. What I did see this afternoon is that young women--the theatre was full of them--adore the show. Surely there was a way to market it more effectively.
     AMELIE is not a easy show to explain. It is whimsical and offbeat in the manner of many successful French films. Suffice it to say that it is an eccentric love story about eccentrics, the coming together of two people who prefer to live life at a distance from other people. What was most impressive is that the production caught the offbeat quality of the film without being the least bit heavy-handed, as Broadway can often be. It respected its source material but one could certainly enjoy the show without having seen the film. I'm not sure Philippa Soo is above the title star material. She's pretty and has a decent, but not great, singing voice--some notes seem to disappear altogether even with miking. The girl who plays her younger self has more pizzazz. But Amelie is an odd star turn, a self-effacing leading character. Adam Chanler-Berat is one of those performers who seems to belong totally onstage. He gets the best songs and makes the most of them.
     I'm so glad I got to see this charming show.

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