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"Amelie", a New Musical, at the Walter Kerr Theatre
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"Amelie", a New Musical, at the Walter Kerr Theatre

- Backstage with the Playwrights

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Aaron Harnick, David Broser, Triptyk Studios, Spencer B. Ross
And Jujamcyn Theaters

A New Musical
(Amélie Website)

Book by Craig Lukas
Music by Daniel Messé
Lyrics by Nathan Tysen and Daniel Messé

Directed by Pam McKinnon
Musical Staging and Choreography: Sam Pinkleton
Music Director: Kimberly Grigsby

At the
Walter Kerr Theatre
219 West 48th Street

Phillipa Soo and Adam Chanler-Berat

And an ensemble of actors/singers/dancers

Scenic & Costume Design: David Zinn
Lighting Design: Jane Cox and Mark Barton
Sound Design: Kai Harada
Projection Design: Peter Nigrini
Puppet Design: Amanda Villalobos
Hair & Wig Design: Charles G. LaPointe
Creative Consultant: Tony Taccone
Vocal Arrangements: Kimberly Grigsby and Daniel Messé
Orchestrations: Bruce Coughlin
Music Coordinator: Dean Sharenow
Production Stage Manager: James Harker
Company Manager: Kimberly Shaw
Casting: Jim Carnahan, CSA, Stephen Kopel, CSA
General Management: Richards/Climan, Inc.
Press: Polk & Co.
Production Management: Aurora Productions
Marketing Director: Nick Pramick
Advertising & Marketing: SpotCo

Dr. Roberta E. Zlokower
April 7, 2017

The new musical by Craig Lucas (book), Daniel Messé (music), and Nathan Tysen and Daniel Messé (lyrics), called Amélie, adapted from the Jeunet and Laurant motion picture, is almost indescribably disappointing. The vague Parisian plot, with characters in full American accents, except an occasional whiff of French conversation, was insulting to the audience. As a Francophile, I prefer native French characters to sound like they’re authentic and actually from France. I see no dialect coach listed on the program. Not one. I did not see the film, as it seemed “whimsical”, a word that forebodes lackluster boredom. This staged musical might be called “whimsical”, as there’s a pet goldfish that’s thrown from the bowl and lands in fish heaven dancing on a stick, a neighbor who paints the same figures over and over, a love interest who collects and saves discarded photos from a quick photo booth, an Elton John dream figure who sings for Amélie, as she tries to morph into the deceased Princess Diana, a full-sized man pretending to be an angry gnome in a garden, and abusive parents of a child with a heart condition. And these “whimsical” elements are just the first of many that come to mind, all of which are set to song.

It’s almost impossible to follow the plot, as accents do not exist, and sometimes the characters seem to be in Soho, but the program does say Paris and surroundings. Amélie as a child is Savvy Crawford, who has a strong voice and presence. As the grown Amélie, Phillipa Soo takes over. Ms. Soo is infatuated with Nino (Adam Chanler-Berat), but they both demure on acting on impulse. Nino is the man who collects discarded photos, and Amélie finds his treasure box of personal souvenirs. They observe and circle each other, although chemistry is non-existent, and audience interest wanes. In short, almost nothing ever happens in this Parisian tale, and, when it does, it sounds like Michigan. Numerous actors/singers/dancers double and triple roles, so David Andino is a blind beggar, the garden gnome, and an anchor person, Randy Blair is the rock star (Elton John) and two other characters, and so on. Most characters were instantly forgotten in extraneous “whimsy”. Not one tune was interesting or memorable, with titles like “The Bottle Drops”, “Thin Air”, “Backyard”, “A Better Haircut”, and “There’s No Place Like Gnome”. Mon Dieu! And, Sam Pinkleton’s dance choreography was wasted on the silly, flimsy lyrics.

Kimberly Grigsby expertly led the orchestra, and it made a valiant effort to create melodies. Pam McKinnon’s direction may have been constrained by the plot, but nothing drew the eye or imagination, just shallow humor or passing “whimsy”. David Zinn has had better shows to design, but his Café des Deux Moulins set was at least a passing Parisian tug of the heart, one that made me want for so much more. Lighting by Cox and Barton and sound by Kai Harada were fine, as were Peter Nigrini’s intermittent projections. Amanda Villalobos’ puppets helped the goldfish fly and Mr. Andino look like an actual gnome. It’s no surprise that this show did away with intermission, forcing the audience to sit for almost two hours. Several attendees left the theater anyway, just walking out amidst the tunes.

For more information, contact Dr. Roberta E. Zlokower at