Review by Casey Curtis
April 8, 2017
You may be seated.
Dear Congregation, when we go to the house of worship that is theater, we expect our cherished movies to be sacred. And so it is with a good heart that the writers of the musical version of the charming French movie Amélie went forth to seek the promised land. But they did not heed the warnings of the prophets that it can be a challenging task to reinvent (rather than reproduce) a magical movie on the stage. And so it is with Amélie. The writers were not able to capture the movie's uniqueness. It is hard to figure out just where Satan blocked them - was it the uninspired book that didn't find it's own unique angle for mischievous humor, the not-memorable lyrics that had good narrative approaches but lacked powerful hooks and were difficult to discern over the volume of the live orchestra, or the score, calm and warm but not the playful tunes that would have fit this less-good-than-the-original reproduction. Lastly there is the direction, which kept us waiting for nearly an hour before the musical picked up steam - the first hour and throughout there were admirable attempts to play with props and staging and yet the sum total never soared, it only felt adequate. Philippa Soo of Hamilton had Amélie's cute hair bob and yet I never fell under her spell and the whole show revolves around her character.
Alas, my flock, all is not lost. If you have never seen the movie, there is much to be enjoyed in this musical. There is still charm here, still musicality, still delightful performances by the ensemble, still the engaging story of a shy woman who chooses to make her life about acts of kindness and our engaged attention wondering whether this good karma will come back to her.
But overall this show is a lesson in messing with the sacred. Sometimes it works and other times - when you try to build a musical tower to the clouds where a great quirky movie resides - you end up with Babel.
"The mild-mannered musical adaptation of this movie, which opened on Monday night at the Walter Kerr Theater, is unlikely to stir similar passions...it is pleasant to look at, easy to listen to and oddly recessive. It neither offends nor enthralls."
Ben Brantley for New York Times
"“Times are hard for dreamers,” the heroine observes. The same goes for audiences dreaming that this show would transcend, or even match, the movie."
Joe Dziemianowicz for New York Daily News
"Book writer Craig Lucas and songwriters Daniel Messé and Nathan Tysen are at pains to articulate a singable emotional center of the source while staying true to its careening, cinematic narrative. The two duties ultimately cancel each other out."
David Cote for Time Out New York
"From the music to the staging to the cartoonish set design, it reeks of well-intentioned children's theatre."
Roma Torre for NY1
"This grating stage musical takes the slenderest of romances and drowns it in cartoonish quirks in place of genuine warmth or feeling. And while Phillipa Soo is a creditable stand-in for the movie's uber-gamine Audrey Tautou, as a musical comedy heroine, Amelie Poulain is a dud."
David Rooney for Hollywood Reporter
"But the star is so bland here, she's not even Phillipa Soo. More than helpful, it's almost mandatory to have seen the movie if you hope to follow the erratic events of Craig Lucas's twee book."
Marilyn Stasio for Variety
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