The Final Performance Of “Amelie” At the Walter Kerr Theatre, Sunday, May 21st, 2017 Reviewed
A couple of weeks ago, a family member asked me if I wanted to go with them to see “Amelie” -the Broadway musical version of the twee and whimsical French cult movie, and I replied that I would rather have my ears eaten by crows, or my eyes pecked by lizards -or something like that. Whatever, no, I did not want to go. And then he contacted me and said it had been cancelled anyway and he got the price of the tickets refunded. And that was that, until two weeks ago the Broadway Cast Album was released and I was surprised at how lovely it was. Following on terrible musical score after terrible music score, “Groundhog Day,” “American Psycho,” on and on. Except for “Hamilton” it seemed like unless it was Goffin-King or the Four Seasons (or Adam Guerwitz, but we haven’t heard from him in ages), the chance of a real good series of songs was minimal.
The “Amelie” cast album wasn’t great, but it was solid, tuneful, and memorable. The star was Phillipa Soo, so great as Eliza, Alexander’s wife in “Hamilton,” and she has a terrific voice, and the songs were smart, tuneful, enjoyable, Composed by Daniel Messe of the band Hem, he can write a song and slip a point across and while I am not sure if terrific songs like “Thin Air” would function out of context, “Backyard,” “Thin Air,” “Halfway” and “Times Are Hard For Dreamers” have all made their way onto my personal playlists.
It was good enough to have me talking myself into visiting the Walter Kerr and got in just under the wise, I caught the final performance. I assumed I wouldn’t much like it as a story but I would enjoy it as music. Ah yes, a story. The book was by the great Craig Lucas, who not only wrote “Prelude To A Kiss” but also the libretto for one of the great modern musicals, “The Light in the Piazza”. But what could save it from its subject matter? “Amélie is an extraordinary young woman who lives quietly in the world, but loudly in her mind. She covertly improvises small, but surprising acts of kindness that bring joy and mayhem. But when a chance at love comes her way, Amélie realizes that to find happiness she’ll have to risk everything.” Only it is more cloying than that reads, I read where somebody said it was a musical about inertia. How do you make a musical about inertia? For a “Young Adult” audience. actually, for the girls who flocked to “Wicked”. The answer is that you don’t. Yet, it was really not what you thought it would be. Yes, a little static and strange for Broadway’s younger demo, it has a solid sound and a solid heart, and, as preludes to kisses go (which is what it is), there is a sweetness there, it isn’t bellowing, loud, or stupid, it is sweet, intense, loving and kind. a very very comforting show and children upset by the Ariana Grande concert would have found solace in it. But not at all right for Broadway. Its diffidence was irritating, its star, as charming as Phillippa was as Amelie, she gave shyness whole new vistas of meaning -it is difficult to base a musical around retreats into imagination., The urge to smack her one hard across the mushhole was overwhelming as she ran away from love interest Adam Chanler-Berat as blandly as possible.
Still, with every complaint in the world, it should have worke on its target. I don’t see why people who want to be soothed and given joy, in the mildness of romance and the dream of giving, wouldn’t at least give it a coupla years on Broadway. I think its audience misread it, maybe it was too quietly enjoyable and intelligent. I bet it is revived into a hit within ten years.