Susan Granger’s review of “Amelie: A New Musical” (Walter Kerr Theater)
“Amelie: A New Musical” is absolutely awful! Let me count the ways…
Based on Jean-Pierre Jeunet’s whimsical 2001 French film, starring Audrey Tatou, it’s about a young woman, Amelie Poulain, with a soaring imagination who feels compelled to do good deeds, confounding those around her.
“I can see the world I’m dreaming all around me,” sings Young Amelie (Savvy Crawford), raised in isolation by a coldly distant doctor father (Manoel Felciano), who suspects she has a heart condition, and an unloving mother (Alison Cimmmet), who’s killed by a suicidal man jumping from the top of Notre Dame Cathedral.
When she grows up, Amelie (Phillipa Soo) works in a Parisian café, surrounded by Montmartre eccentrics – plus Amelie’s nosy neighbor, Dufayel (Tony Sheldon), a fragile, elderly artist who repeatedly copies Renoir paintings.
Quirky Amelie is voyeuristically obsessed with the philanthropic nobility and tragic death of Princess Diana, which prompts a fantasy sequence as she’s serenaded by Elton John (Randy Blair).
Princess Di’s image prompts Amelie to do kind things- like returning lost ‘treasures’ and romantic match-making. Then there’s this sensitive fellow, Nino (Adam Chanler-Berat), a Pigalle porn shop clerk who collects strips of discarded snapshots from Metro station photo booths. And let’s not forget Amelie’s father’s garden gnome, who hooks up with a curvaceous stewardess and becomes a world traveler.
Ineptly adapted by Craig Lucas with charmless, derivative music by Daniel Messe and inanely rhyming lyrics by Nathan Tysen, it’s awkwardly directed by Pam McKinnon, who drenches everything with a cloying, artificial cuteness, and frenetically choreographed by Sam Pinkleton.
Waifish Phillipa Soo, who originally played Eliza in “Hamilton,” has a lovely, lilting voice; too bad it’s wasted on this drivel.
As a friend once cautioned me about a dreadful show, “Don’t even walk by the theater because it might start to rain and you’d duck in for cover” – and be trapped for an hour and 40 minutes – without an intermission. Revered New York Times critic Walter Kerr must be spinning in his grave!