[THEATER REVIEW] Amélie, A New Musical Brings Imagination to Life at the Ahmanson

Adam Chanler-Berat and Phillipa Soo in “Amélie, A New Musical” at Center Theatre Group/Ahmanson Theatre. “Photo by Joan Marcus.

It’s great to be able to see a Broadway-bound show before its premiere in the Big Apple. This month we have that opportunity as Amélie, A New Musical is onstage at the Ahmanson Theatre.

Based on the 5-time Academy Award nominated 2001 French film directed by Jean-Pierre Jeunet, the musical tells the tale of Amélie, a whimsical, shy young French woman who tries to make the lives of others better while retreating from finding her own story.

The musical opens in 1975 when young Amélie is diagnosed with a heart problem, causing her parents to home school her. Away from other children, her only friend is a goldfish. Her mother dies in a tragic accident and her father withdraws from life, fixating his attention on a garden gnome sculpture.

Segueing to the late 1990s, Amélie, now an adult, leaves home to discover life as a waitress in a Paris bistro in Montmartre. Living in a small apartment, she creates a world of her own imagining.

When she finds a strange box in the apartment, she decides to find its owner, creating a desire to secretly bring moments of joy for those around her including her co-workers, father, and the elderly artist who is a neighbor.

Later, the discovery of a photo album belonging to a mysterious stranger forces Amélie to face her fears and become a star in her own life.

Phillippa Soo, the Tony award nominee for her role as Eliza Hamilton in the musical Hamilton, is the perfect actress to bring the mischievous, quirky Amélie to life. She’s onstage for most of the two-hour production and infuses the set with luminous energy.

Savvy Crawford, as the young Amélie, is an amazing young actress who serves as the grown-up’s inner voice. She charms the audience with her clear voice.

Adam Chanler-Berat as Nino, the young man who becomes Amelie’s love interest, is engagingly persistent.

Most of the dialogue is sung. I found the score by Daniel Messé to be a tad monotonous although the nine-member orchestra filled the hall with music. This is not a show where you leave humming a memorable song.

The scenic design and costumes by David Zinn and lighting by Jane Cox and Mark Barton are amazing. Fanciful puppets by Amanda Villalobos create a magical aura as the story unfolds.

If you’re new to the Amélie story, I would encourage familiarizing yourself before attending the musical. I hadn’t seen the movie and initially had trouble following the storyline.

Fortunately it all came together in the end, creating an enjoyable theater experience. Amélie, A New Musical will open on Broadway in March 2017.

 

Amélie, a New Musical, Ahmanson Theatre, 135 North Grand Ave., through January 15th, Tuesdays-Fridays at 8 p.m.; Saturdays, 2 p.m. and 8 p.m.; Sundays 1 p.m. and 6:30p.m. $25-$125. www.centertheatregroup.org or 213-972-4400.

 

 

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