If you know me, you might know that two of my biggest musical theatre crushes are Samantha Barks (best known for playing Eponine in the Les Mis movie) and Phillipa Soo (who you might recognize from an obscure musical that did poorly and disappeared into oblivion called Hamilton). Sam Barks created the role at Berkeley Repertory Theatre in 2015, and Pippa Soo took over in LA in 2016 and brought the show to Broadway in 2017. Basically, I’ve had reasons to be watching the trajectory of this musical since its first production. I never did get to see it as it closed soon after it opened after receiving no Tony nominations, but from what I’ve seen it looks visually stunning. So I was excited when the album was released to experience this show.
In case you don’t know, Amélie: A New Musical is based on a 2001 French film called Amélie about an eccentric young woman who takes it on herself to do anonymous good deeds. People have been telling me to watch it for years, and the creation of this musical was the final push for me to see it.
It’s an amazing film, you guys. Like it’s on my short list of my favourite movies ever now. It’s so quaint and colourful and basically everything I like about movies.
But back to the musical and its soundtrack. As much as I loved hearing Pippa record new material, much of the music is somewhat forgettable and underwhelming. There are a couple of standouts: notably “Times Are Hard For Dreamers,” which has been the go-to song for this show. It does a great job of showing Amélie’s endless optimism and her unique view of the world. Some other favourites are Adam Chandler-Berat’s two main songs, “When the Booth Goes Bright” and “Thin Air.” You may know him as Henry from Next to Normal, a role he excelled in. His characterization of Nino in Amélie is super similar to that of Henry. He plays the sensitive, somewhat awkward love interest very well, it seems.
Translating a film like Amélie for the stage must have been a huge undertaking, as it’s such a recognizable film in terms of writing and aesthetics. It’s a story that was made for FILM. Something that dissolved in the creation of the musical was the use of a single narrative voice, which to me is emblematic of the movie. Instead, they turned the ensemble into a collective narrator, all helping to tell Amélie’s story. I had mixed feelings about this at first, but now I think it’s a very interesting and well-executed way to conserve the narration. Amélie becomes the heroine of her own life, which makes the simple story about simple people seem larger than life.
Humour is also a huge part of the show, which isn’t something we’ve really seen Pippa do yet, but she excels at it. She presents her character so playfully, which shows us a side of her that is very new to me. But underneath that humour lies the fear of being alone that is at the core of the show.
Musically, the piece isn’t mind-blowing, but it is playful enough to reflect the eccentricity of the original film, and both Pippa Soo and Adam Chandler-Berat are absolutely brilliant. It’s a good listen if you’re a fan of the movie, or have a huge crush on Pippa, or like bouncy pop scores with lots of ensemble work.
Image source: ameliebroadway.com