Whenever we are lucky enough to have a show transfer from Los Angeles to Broadway, I always confer with my number one New York theatre nerd, Miss Amy Bushwald. The girl (I am not exaggerating) sees every show on Broadway and believe me, I trust in her level of nerddom and that is not an easy thing to achieve. So when I found out Amélie was headed to Broadway, I reached out to Amy to let us know if there had been any changes since its visit to LA. Also, since Amy had never seen the film version, I was very curious to see how this interpretation of the story would land with her. Thank you Amy, and enjoy!
Isabella had the opportunity to see Amélie at the Ahmanson Theatre during the LA run. She asked me to review it once it hit Broadway to compare. As someone who has never seen the original film of Amélie, I thought that I would have an advantage going into this production not having any pre-conceived expectations. Unfortunately, this was not the case. The show starts off with a young Amélie being told that because she has an irregular heart beat (something I assume is delved into more in the film as they hardly mentioned it here) has to be taught at home and basically never leave her house or have any excitement. The result is a very shy yet incredibly imaginative little girl. Young Amélie spends a great deal on stage for the first third of the show but the scenes lacked any kind of connection. I completely agreed with Isabella that “it just seemed like there was a lot going on and not enough time to earn the moments or conclusions to each mini mystery.” Everything sped by very quickly with somewhat clunky staging, trying to get through as much exposition as possible. According to her, the multiple plot lines work very well in the film and I wish it had worked on stage as well.
Phillipa Soo plays adult Amélie pretty naturally. There is nothing wrong with her performance but it seems that everything around her isn’t matching up. Although she spends a great deal of time on stage, I walked away with the impression that she wasn’t given that much to actually do. Her songs were not that memorable (well none of the songs were if I’m being honest). The entire production seemed shallow and one dimensional. It sorely lacked any emotional depth and felt cold. One of the most disappointing aspects is that this had such a great cast but unless you were Amélie or Nino, you had a thankless role.
Like I said, I’ve never seen the movie, but I’ve heard that it is very quirky and imaginative. The disappointing factor is that this does not translate well in the stage version. The songs that included the garden gnome and Elton John were the kind of “show stopping” numbers that just bored me. There was also a lack of tension between Amélie and Nino finally meeting. I wasn’t waiting with baited breath for them to see each other. Once again I have to assume but it seemed that the secondary characters were watered down from their movie counterparts. The café characters seemed to be just stock tropes and I, again, did not feel anything towards them.
Even though the production is only 1 hour and 45 minutes long with no intermission, it felt much longer and tended to drag in a lot of places. Overall, this production was messy and unsure of itself but at least I got to see Phillipa Soo sing again.