Amélie the Musical Review



By Danielle Leard

Amélie is a new musical currently running previews at the Ahmanson Theater in Los Angeles. The show is based off of the French film by the same name. Currently, the production stars Phillipa Soo of Hamilton as the title character and Adam Chanler-Berat of Next to Normal as the love interest, Nino. I was privileged enough to experience the show on December 4th, its first performance at the venue. If I had to use one word to describe this show, I’d say ‘enchanting’. From the music, to the set, to the ensemble, every bit just makes the viewer feel charmed.

The story begins with a charming opening number. The blue curtain is still down, drawing the viewer’s eyes to the cast introductions taking up a bottom sector of the stage. The rest of the production unravels in a similar fashion; small, endearing steps making up mini plots, which turn into the primary structure of the musical.

While I was swept into the staged universe of Amélie immediately, I felt the production fell flat—literally. Amélie is a very evenly tempered musical. There is no clear turning point, no ballad, and no particularly melancholy or joyful song. There is no scene or track that’s principal in this musical, and this leads to a frankly forgettable production. Overall, the emotional path of the character of Amélie and its supporting moods runs flat. This aspect was disappointing, especially considering the absolutely captivating vocals Phillipa Soo is capable of. Additionally, another weakness in this story is the lack of closure. Aside from the two main characters—Amélie and Nino—most characters in this musical are left with loose ends. Every supporting character has a life of their own clearly emphasized in the story, yet, I found myself wondering what ever happened to the rest of the story.

The advantage to adapting a movie to a live production is the ability to expand the story in a new environment. I can’t say Amélie achieved this.

Every production has its strengths and weaknesses, however. Phillipa Soo’s performance as the title role was definitely a strength in this show. Her elegant, sharp, and curious voice—both in dialogue and in song—give what an English speaking and accented character Amélie demands. Adam Chanler-Berat also gives a good performance, harmonizing beautifully with Soo’s in the duets. While Chanler-Berat could perhaps learn to loosen up his character a bit, he still delivers his musical and nonmusical lines in the comedic tone his role asks for in the show. Speaking of comedy, some bits of this show nearly had me crying of laughter!

Another strength in the show is stage production. The transitions between sets seem to happen in layers, near seamlessly. Peter Nigrini uses projections in a new and refreshing way to tell the story, while David Zinn’s scenic design shines through the streets of Paris. Additionally, throughout the show, there seemed to have been an element of fourth wall breaking here and there; the world molding around Amélie as mesmerizingly as chocolate molds into its shape.

Overall, Amélie is a vibrant and colorful production, with colorful characters to match. Though there’s not technically an ensemble, the supporting characters act as such in a fitting way, truly portraying the spirit of the French film from which it originated.

While I encourage the producers of Amélie to continue making adjustments for their Broadway premiere, especially regarding the progression of the story (try establishing a turning point and tying up loose ends! Who knows? It could lead to a second act), I’m excited to see this show continues to bloom into its own.

Amélie is currently running its pre-Broadway engagement at the Ahmanson Theatre in LA through January 15, and will move to Broadway in the spring season. Purchase tickets for the LA engagement here and the Broadway engagement here.

Images courtesy of the Center Theatre Group/Ahmanson Theatre.

1 comment

  1. great review, honest and informative. love the flow. <3

    ReplyDelete