|Photo by Joan Marcus|
|Adam Chanler-Berat & Phillipa Soo in Amélie|
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Tony nominee Phillipa Soo has been synonymous with taking risks in her young career. She starred as Natasha in the original off-Broadway incarnations of Natasha, Pierre and the Great Comet of 1812, now a smash hit at Broadway’s Imperial Theatre, and found fame by originating the role of Eliza in Lin-Manuel Miranda’s juggernaut musical Hamilton both at the Public Theater and then on Broadway. It seems quite fitting then that she should now take on a beloved character whose emotional arc is all about taking risks in her own life to put her own pursuit of happiness centre stage and stop hiding behind the good deeds she performs for others. Indeed, it could be said that adapting the hugely adored, five-time Oscar nominated 2001 French film into a stage musical was also a huge risk for the show's producers. After pre-Broadway tryouts at the Berkeley Repertory Theatre in 2015 and at the Ahmanson Theatre in Los Angelels in 2016, Amélie finally opened on the Great White Way... The risk has sadly not paid off, as we are now forced to celebrate its final week on Broadway as our #ShowOfTheWeek. My love for this new musical, however, will live on.
Director Pam Mackinnon and scenic designer David Zinn have created a fantastically dreamy world unique to the stage. It, of course, draws inspiration from the quirky, cinematic mise en scène of the original film, but has made every effort to become its own theatrical entity. The set is highly stylised and is often reminiscent of a child’s toy cupboard, always eager to be opened to share its wonders. All you need is imagination. There are beautifully artistic touches right from the get-go, as we meet young Amélie’s childhood best friend – a goldfish affectionately named Fluffy. The effects are cartoonish and I mean that in a positive sense. Whether a young child or a young lady, Amélie retains her youthful innocence and remains daydreaming in her own world. We are gently sucked into this world, as if in a daydream ourselves.
This is aided by the softly comforting score by Daniel Messé (with lyrics by Messé and Nathan Tysen) which never strays from the playful tone of the musical. “Times Are Hard For Dreamers” is Phillipa Soo’s first number and, of course, anyone who regularly attends the theatre could be described as a dreamer. We dream of escaping the outside world for a couple of hours. We dream of journeying to strange places, embarking on quests for romance or adventure. Indeed, times are hard in our society at the moment, but we can continue to go to the theatre and dream. Amélie takes us to a magical interpretation of Paris and an array of simple, yet endearing characters, who all have a story to tell – whether they are a former circus trapeze artist, a frustrated writer, or a hypochondriac who just needs to be loved. One by one, she helps each character (whether stranger or friend) with acts of random kindness and all the while, procrastinates in opening the door to love in the form of a young suiter named Nino (charmingly played by Adam Chanler-Berat).
Read our interview with Adam Chanler-Berat HERE.
By the time Amélie and Nino’s romance starts to truly blossom, we are convinced that these two (quirks and all) undoubtedly belong together. Phillipa Soo delivers another stellar performance and certainly brings her own flavour to the role, so distinctly portrayed by Audrey Tautou on film.
There is little to shock you and you won’t be startled with unforeseen plot twists in this musical, but if you are in the mood for a dreamily tranquil evening or afternoon at the theatre, then suspend your disbelief and open your heart to Amélie.
Click here for tickets to Amélie for performances through to May 21, 2017 at Broadway's Walter Kerr Theatre.
- by Tom Millward