Interview with Amélie star Adam Chanler-Berat
Broadway alum Adam Chanler-Berat is currently starring as Nino - the leading male role - in the Broadway premiere of new musical Amélie, based on the hit 2001 French film of the same name, at the Walter Kerr Theatre.
Broadway audiences will recognise Adam from his previous appearances in the 2012 production of Peter and the Starcatcher, as well as his Broadway debut in the 2009 production of Next To Normal. Selected off-Broadway credits include the Public Theater's The Fortress of Solitude (2014), Playwrights Horizons' Fly By Night (2014) and the role of Mark in New World Stages' 2011 revival of Rent.
We caught up with Adam to talk about bringing a little romance and daydreaming to the Great White Way with Amélie...
Thomas Hayden Millward: The show’s first big musical number is called “Times are Hard for Dreamers.” We certainly know that times are hard, but we’d like to know if you consider yourself a dreamer in real life, Adam?
Adam Chanler-Berat: Oh yes! I think [Director] Pam MacKinnon has assembled a whole company of dreamers! I think a lot of people are dreamers, whether they admit it or not. It’s sort of in our nature.
THM: Well, I’ll admit I’m daydreaming constantly. It’s a miracle I haven’t been mowed down yet, whilst crossing the road! How similar are you to your character of Nino in the musical?
ACB: Well, I play a gentleman named Nino Quincampoix and he’s a visual artist, who works in a sex shop to pay the bills. His real passion is creating art from found objects. I think, much like Amélie, he has trouble connecting with the world around him. The way he connects is through the art that he makes. The art acts as a connector and as a protector for him. I think that I certainly process my world in a similar way.
THM: Why do you think that the romance between Nino and Amélie is so captivating to watch on stage?
ACB: I think they’re cut from the same “weirdo cloth.” I think that they both think about the world in a very similar way. Their hang-ups are similar as well. There is a “love at first sight” moment in our show, but it’s the kind of thing where you meet someone who you instantly just get. That’s definitely the case for Nino and Amélie.
THM: In what ways would you say the musical possibly enriches the source material of the 2001 film?
ACB: Hmmm I’d hesitate to consign the word “enrich” because I think that the film is a masterpiece in its own right. I think that when we set out to create a musical version, we wanted to create our own version of the world. They are obviously complimentary and have their roots in the same inspiration, but what we do and create every night is very theatrical. We celebrate theatrical vocabulary in the way that the movie celebrated cinema. I don’t think of them as in competition, but as complimentary in the context of the mediums they exist in.
THM: I’m looking forward to the Broadway Cast Recording to be released, as I found the score completely soothing and it would be just the type of music I’d play to relax myself whilst I’m working…
ACB: Yes! It’s so funny that you say that because when I first started workshopping this material about three years ago – and I never do this – but I found myself playing recordings of the score when I was outside of work. And this wasn’t to learn the material. This was after I had already learned it. It’s the kind of music I would listen to in my regular life outside of the theatre. Hem – the folk band that [composer] Dan Messé started – has a lot of the same sounds as our score does. It’s added more fuel to my Hem obsession!
THM: Full disclosure – I have a bit of a Paris obsession! Have you ever been to Paris?
ACB: I have when I was a kid. My Dad is actually from Belgium but moved here in his twenties. We used to go and visit his family in Europe, who are all still over there. We used to visit about once a year. That’s slowed down since I got older. I haven’t been back in many, many years. But I would love to go back and visit all the Parisian sites. One of the props we have in the show is a map of Paris and during tech rehearsals we would look at the map and point out all of the places that we mention in the show. This is really a story about a small community of people who are in the big city but live and work in a few blocks’ radius. And they never run into each other until fate has it. I think we all got a kick out of really seeing how small our story is.