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Amelie – The Story: Amélie is a new musical based on the French film that boasted five Oscar nominations. The story is of a shy young Parisian woman whose childhood was sheltered because her over-protective father mistakenly thought she had a heart defect. More or less cut off from the outside world, Amélie creates her own fantasy world. Her rich inner life is in conflict with her outer world, until she grows up and does one rewarding thing-returning a lost treasure to a stranger. Seeing the grateful reaction, she embarks upon a mission to help others, although it doesn’t always work out according to plan. What does work out, however, is that she finds out who she is, and embarks upon a journey to find true love.
It is most certainly difficult to transform a story that was created with movie magic into a story than can take a colorful inner world and make it explode on stage with music and scenery. Amélie began in the Berkeley Repertory Theatre, under the same direction and design as the current Broadway production, but it wasn’t until it migrated south to the Ahmanson Theatre in Los Angeles in 2016 that Phillipa Soo took over the lead role, which she now brings to Broadway.
With a book by Craig Lucas (An American in Paris), director Pam MacKinnon has set Amélie in a delicate fairytale world for grown-ups. She is aided in no small part by the fanciful scenery and costumes created by Tony Award winner David Zinn, as well as the projections by Peter Nigrini and the imaginary characters created by puppeteer Amanda Villalobos. As we travel through Amélie’s life, we are treated to cameos from the likes of Sir Elton John, Princess Diana, and a pesky garden gnome (“There’s No Place Like Gnome”). The ensemble cast gets to play everything from carousel horses to pet fish–although the puppet goldfish puts them to shame–all to the music of Daniel Messé, known for his work with the alt-country band Hem. Mercifully, there’s not a French-cliché accordion within earshot.
There is no question that Phillipa Soo owns the part of Amélie and her powerful but sweet voice rises to the occasion with ease. Soo made a big impression with her turn as Eliza Hamilton in the smash Broadway hit that is Hamilton. While her presentation here is of much lighter cloth, the loveliness of her voice cannot be denied.
Amélie is a frothy musical quite well suited for a matinee capped with ice cream sundaes or an evening performance ending with a chocolate martini in a sugar-rimmed glass. Not food for thought, but great fun, especially for young ladies of any age. You might intuit this by the line of fawning stage door Jills waiting for autographs from Miss Soo. So, get in line.
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