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‘Amélie’ review: Despite a great cast, musical gets lost in translation to stage

Adam Chanlet-Berat and Phillipa Soo star in

Adam Chanlet-Berat and Phillipa Soo star in "Amelie" at the Walter Kerr Theatre. Photo Credit: Joan Marcus

Two years since “Hamilton” premiered off-Broadway, many of its original stars have left the stage behind (at least for now) to try their luck in movies, television and music. Not so for Phillipa Soo, who originally played Eliza Hamilton.

Soo is back on Broadway (in fact, just two blocks up from “Hamilton”), starring in the title role of “Amélie,” a new musical based on the 2001 romantic comedy, which remains one of the few French-language films to succeed commercially in the United States.

“Amélie” (book by Craig Lucas, music and lyrics by Daniel Messé and Nathan Tysen) is a faithful adaptation of the film, in which a quiet and quirky young waitress enriches the lives of the oddball characters around her through secretly-performed creative deeds, until she finally gains the courage to pursue her own happiness.

Soo, looking stunning, gives a winning, seemingly effortless performance, and there are nice supporting turns from Adam Chanler-Berat as Amélie’s sensitive crush and Tony Sheldon as her elderly neighbor.

As directed by Pam MacKinnon (who is better known for dramas), the production attempts to capture the film’s distinctive color palette and freewheeling qualities on its own relatively simple terms. With narration by the actors and makeshift costuming, you get the sense the cast is telling a fairy tale through improvisation.

You appreciate their hard work, but it doesn’t really come together. The film benefitted from incredible art direction and zooming cinematography that is lost here. The show may have been more effective in an intimate venue that could immerse the audience in this cozy and offbeat world.

The soft pop score occasionally sounds pretty but is mostly unmemorable and derivative (including a weak opening sequence). The episodic structure (going from one good deed to the next) leaves little in the way of advancing the plot.

It’s got plenty of charm, but that only goes so far.

“Amelie” plays an open run at the Walter Kerr Theatre. 219 W. 48th St., 2 stars


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