Thursday, May 25, 2017

Sometimes, The Show Just Doesn't Come Together

What's the point of reviewing a show that's already opened and closed?
Well, at the very least, it's instructive.
Such is the case with Amélie, the musical version of the whimsical French film that captivated hearts throughout the world in 2001.
Amélie tells the story of an innocent and naive girl in Paris with her own sense of justice. As she grows up she decides to help those around her and, along the way, discovers love.
The movie was lighthearted and romantic without being saccharine in a way that only the French seem able to concoct. The road that Amélie takes to find her true love takes many detours, some predictable, some totally surprising and some just this side of absurd. But it all worked.
Here's one of the big differences that occurred in Amélie's transformation to the stage: In the movie, Amélie was somewhat of a meddler. And that was funny and decidedly human as her idea of helping people was not necessarily what the recipients had in mind or maybe not even what they may have actually needed. But in the musical, much of this was lost and Amélie simply came across as a do-gooder. The result is another small, somewhat preachy musical about being gentle, kind and helpful.
So, the musical just sort of muddled along in its own rather false "pure-hearted" way and the characters become more like caricatures. The whole outing developed into a sort of French version of You're A Good Man, Charlie Brown. And anyone who can imagine this could see that Babar and Charlie Brown simply don't pair well. 
Still, Amelie was widely anticipated on Broadway because it starred Phillipa Soo, who had been nominated for a Tony Award last year for originating the role of Eliza in Hamilton. And the show did well during a run up to Broadway at the Ahmanson Theater in LA.
Amélie featured music by Daniel Messé, lyrics by Mr. Messé and Nathan Tysen, and a book by Craig Lucas; it was directed by Pam MacKinnon. The music was serviceable but it never really soared. And Soo seemed stuck in a tiny musical with a constricted story that never seemed to give her character a chance to become more three-dimensional.
Unlike Groundhog Day (which reinterpreted the movie on which it is based in a new way geared toward 2017 audiences and fashioned specifically for a big Broadway stage) Amélie just didn't seem to be able to make the switch. In its transition to the stage the story actually seemed to get smaller and less consequential and the characters were robbed of any depth they might have otherwise developed. Sadly, one got the impression that the whole thing was done on a shoestring.
Still, the show managed to garner some favorable snippets from the critics and it might have survived longer had it garnered some Tony nominations. But it wound up with a big, fat zero.

No comments:

Post a Comment