This winter break, I had the tremendous good fortune to get to see AMELIE: A NEW MUSICAL at the Ahmanson. I saw it the day before I flew back north for school–what better way to end my holiday than PHILLIPA SOO??????
Confession: I wasn’t a huge fan of the movie. I really wanted to love it, but the cinematography and quirkiness felt a bit overbearing to me and I couldn’t totally get into it. But I love the story and themes, and of course I LOVED Phillipa Soo as Eliza on the Hamilton soundtrack. I knew this was an opportunity I couldn’t miss.
Considering how popular (and Tony-nominated) Hamilton made Soo, I was kind of shocked that it was as easy as it was to get tickets. Of course this is a new musical–it had a brief run in Berkeley in 2015 starring Samantha Barks (whom I also loved in the Les Mis film), and the current production is only showing in Los Angeles for another brief run before heading off to Broadway. But there was only a small booth of merchandise, with no soundtrack albums or booklets of the show. That was pretty disappointing to me, because I definitely wanted a CD and some good quality photographs to take home.
If you’re one of the many people who loved the Audrey Tautou movie, you’ll be happy to know that the musical definitely captures the whimsy and heart of the film. It’s been several years since I watched the movie but from what I recall, it’s a pretty faithful adaptation–the montage (of sorts) of orgasms in Paris is still there, and there’s a cute shoutout to creme brûlée. I did think that the story would be a little difficult to follow if you haven’t seen the movie–my parents found it confusing, and I also had some trouble catching all the lyrics. This is one of those musicals like Les Mis where most of the dialogue is in the singing, and because so much of the magic of Amelie is in the details, you can miss a lot if you aren’t watching and listening attentively or knew the story well.
That being said, the musical is still very enjoyable. It’s a relatively small-scale musical, with a pretty small ensemble and no grand special effects, but it’s still a beautiful production. The set design was terrific, with changes in lighting, spot-on use of color, and fun props doing a really, really good job bringing the whimsical Parisian setting to life. The production design perfectly captured the enchanting fairy tale atmosphere.
As for the music…I mean, do I even really need to say more? Phillipa Soo is the star, Phillipa Soo, whose exquisite angel voice moves me to near tears just listening to the Hamilton soundtrack on Spotify. And she’s the main character! There were other memorable numbers, to the credit of the rest of the cast–the song they did for the night of Princess Diana’s death got a lot of applause, and the other women at the Cafe des 2 Moulins have a sassy number that’s a bit Schuyler Sisters/Cell Block Tango-esque–but Soo as Amelie Poulain gets most of the songs, as she well should. It was so, so good to hear her lead a show. (My mom, who hasn’t listened to Hamilton, loved her even more than I did–she said she thought her voice was even better than Barbra Streisand!)
AMELIE might not be a showstopper or instant classic like Les Miserables or Hamilton, but it was definitely worth watching. It’s easily worth it to see Soo pretty much get a show all to herself as she deserves, and the show itself is a charming production with a sweet message. I can’t wait for it to debut on Broadway, because I’m buying the soundtrack album when it comes out. If you have a chance to see it on Broadway, take it!