Amélie 😘 Theatre Review


Written by Thelonia

It's been about a few months but it feels like it's been years since I saw Amélie.

I suppose part of my delay in writing this review is that, when I went to see it, the musical was just two days out from its final performance (it only got through 56 performances once it opened on Broadway), so it all seemed like a foregone conclusion.

However, in the immediate aftermath of seeing the musical (in one go of course - no intermissions to distract from whimsy here!), I was filled with a sense of confusion - why did this all-too-cute musical get shown the door when it had only just started? Something didn't add up. I was going to think on it. Besides, that Friday, the album would be released and I could listen to the songs I had just been enchanted by as I pondered.

And yet, something strange happened.

Every time I tried listening to this simple (and yet, very long - not a lot of dialogue in the musical overall but lots and lots of songs) album, I'd get distracted. Something always grab my attention away or I'd be reminded of another musical I'd rather be listening to (hello, Waitress and Great Comet of 1812!).

Despite my near constant efforts, I just could not get through the album.

This includes not only one but two entire plane rides.
It's now been weeks and innumerable attempts at sitting through the album, and I have reached a conclusion. Maybe Amélie wasn't that great to begin with.

To admit this hurt me somewhere deep in my heart. I have a stupid affection for the movie this musical is based on, I'm not generally off-put by over the top quirkiness, and I would die for Philippa Soo, so it seems like it should be working on all cylinders. But if time has showed me one thing it's that you had to be at Amélie to really like Amélie.

(Exceptions do exist, one needs only to poke ones head in at the musical theater side of Tumblr to see a bunch of theater nerds argue nonstop about whether Amélie deserved better or not. If you come from there, just know, I love and respect your passion, please keep the discourse away from me).

Whether it was the prime-colored costumes, the wacky & often mobile set design or the sheer tweeness of the characters, something was alive onstage that clearly most audiences felt, but the critics didn't.

Thanks to Show-Score for visually representing the divide between general audiences and critics on this one.
Considering my inability to get hooked on the soundtrack, it seems logical to assume that the songs are the weakest part of the ensemble. Sure, there are parts of the show that make no sense if you've not seen the movie (why is Amélie wearing a Zorro costume???), but it's also that the musical misunderstands what made the movie so appealing. The movie has a narrator yes, but for the most part we are left in the dark as to people's internal monologues. The musical however, has Amélie talking nonstop about her feelings, and what she thinks, and what she will do. This works onstage because it is such a cacophony (in the nicest way possible) of sights, sounds, words, and visuals that these breaks in the narrative gave you a moment to breathe before launching into the next big set-piece. But in the recording, with only the songs, there's a lot more quiet that doesn't show off the show's best side.

Now, because the soundtrack came out the last week of shows, I can't blame the show's short Broadway shelf life on people listening to the soundtrack and deciding not to go. But the soundtrack does exemplify the major problems that plagued the show, and sort of explain why it did, in the end, have such a short run (as well as why it didn't really get that much love awards-wise).

Things that work well with a lot of visual stimulation don't always have a great shelf life without it.
Here's to Amélie. It was okay, could maybe have been great, but sometimes, dreams aren't enough to guarantee you a Tony. Or a chance in one of, if it wasn't vying for space in one of the most competitive performance avenues in the world.

The musical was sweet to see, and everyone did their best, but once you step away from the bright lights and sweet performances, there's just not a lot there to sink your teeth into. Like cotton candy, Amélie was a confection to be enjoyed once, leaving sticky memories but an empty pit in your stomach, leaving you looking for something more substantial to fill you up.

Amélie shut its doors May 21st, 2017, but the soundtrack is available on iTunes and other streaming services.

No comments:

Post a Comment