The main reason for seeing “Amélie,” the new musical, is Phillipa Soo, now in the title role on the heels of her success in “Hamilton.” As Amélie, a waitress in a Paris café who tries to help the lives of others and in the process finds romance for herself, Soo shows that she has a good voice, is engaging and able to energize a production. The show itself, with a book by Craig Lucas, music by Daniel Messé and Lyrics by Nathan Tysen and Messé, is pleasant but rambling without igniting the excitement needed to lift a musical to Broadway heights.
Amiable is the strongest word to describe “Amélie,” which younger audiences may enjoy as a result of the romantic elusiveness—eventually resolved—between Soo as Amélie and Adam Chanler-Berat as Nino, who also has charm and sings effectively. But getting to their ultimate embracing seems to take forever.
In reading my review of the successful French film on which the musical, which starred then 23-year-old Audrey Tautou, is based, I noted having described the movie as “frothy, kooky and funny, quickly paced and packed with….Parisian atmosphere.” This is not a description that can fit “Amélie,” the musical.
There are fleeting suggestions of Paris in the set design (by David Zinn) of the café, but the overall look is a hodgepodge of background buildings that lack a sense of locale. Nor is there much of a French suggestion in the score. This musical, directed by Pam MacKinnon with musical staging and choreography by Sam Pinkleton, could just as well be set in New York.
In the beginning we see Savvy Crawford acquitting herself well as the young Amélie, but the book labors repeated returns to Amélie the kid and her mother in the memory of the grown Amélie, a gambit that slows the show.
The supporting cast is solid, with some good vocal turns sprinkled throughout, and some may appreciate the musical for its good-natured ambiance. However, seeing Soo as a new and pleasing star is the production’s main attraction. At the Walter Kerr Theatre, 219 West 48th Street. Phone: 877-250-2929. Reviewed April 12, 2017.