Phillipa Soo, of “Hamilton” Fame, Stars in the Title Role
On March 9, 2017, Amélie the Musical began previews at the Walter Kerr Theatre, ahead of its opening night scheduled for April 3, 2017. Based on the 2001 French comedy film Amélie, this new musical comes to Broadway after a world premiere production at Berkeley Repertory Theatre in Berkeley, California, followed by the Ahmanson Theatre in Los Angeles, California. The film captures the hearts of audiences due to its whimsical depiction of life in Paris, with Audrey Tautou dazzling audiences with her charismatic and innocent portrayal of a woman who takes it upon herself to improve the lives of those around her. For the stage adaptation, the title role is embodied by Phillipa Soo, who was nominated for a Tony Award for her role as Eliza Hamilton in the original cast of Hamilton. Since leaving Hamilton after her final performance on July 9, 2017, Soo has been focused on Amélie, which she took over at the Ahmanson production from its start on December 4, 2016 until its conclusion on January 15, 2017. The musical has a book by Craig Lucas (An American in Paris, Prelude to a Kiss, The Light in the Piazza), with music by Daniel Messé (of the band Hem), and lyrics by Messé and Nathan Tysen (Tuck Everlasting).
From the world premiere production, Amélie the Musical has been helmed by director Pam MacKinnon, whose previous Broadway credits include Clybourne Park, Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf?, A Delicate Balance, The Heidi Chronicles, and China Doll. In its earlier incarnations, the musical was positively reviewed, with Charles McNulty of the Los Angeles Times remarking on its “whimsical magic” and calling it an “offbeat musical” that is best appreciated when stumbled upon. Despite critiquing Soo’s portrayal of Amélie is a little bland, he ultimately was swept away by the fun of the musical, which relies on the serendipity of random encounters to make up the story of romance. Set in Montmartre, the story relies on the charms of the lead actress, which was achieved beautifully by Tautou in the film, as it is a tale of a shy waitress suffering from her own isolation, while going out of her way to make others’ lives a little bit better through small acts of kindness. Along the way, she develops a crush on a young man named Nino, who is portrayed by Adam Chanler-Berat of Next to Normal and Peter and the Starcatcher in the Broadway production. Most of all, it is Amélie’s mischievous nature and active imagination that keeps our attention rapt as we follow her delightful misadventure.
The Highest Grossing French Film Ever Released in the U.S.
The film of Amélie, directed by Jean-Pierre Jeunet, was released in 2001 in France, as well as French-speaking areas of Switzerland and Belgium, followed by various film festivals and then movie theatres around the world. While its theatrical release in the United States was limited, it brought in $33 million, making it the highest grossing French-language film in the U.S. to this day. It also fared very well in awards season, earning five Academy Award nominations, two BAFTA Awards, four César Awards including Best Film and Best Director, and Best Film at the European Film Awards. On Rotten Tomatoes, the film still has a remarkable 89% fresh rating, and the New York Times included it on its list of the 1,000 best films ever made. Nevertheless, the success of the film may or may not transfer to the reception of the Broadway production. While there may be a built-in audience of those who enjoyed the film so much that they will rush to the theatre on brand recognition alone, more discerning theatregoers may recognize that a great deal of the film’s success relied not just on the story, but the performance of Audrey Tautou and the direction of Jean-Pierre Jeunet. Still, the musical score by Daniel Messé, which was well reviewed, will be an added incentive for the overlapping fans of musicals and the Amélie film. The show is currently scheduled for an open-ended run.