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FROM THIS EPISODE

This is Anthony Byrnes Opening the Curtain on LA Theater for KCRW.

Remember that friend you had in college?

She was kind of quirky, kind of drove you nuts but was really sweet. She had a really great sense of style even though she was always wearing crazy patterns she somehow pulled them off. She had sort of hipster friends who were eccentric but fun. The two of you weren't really close, she was always bouncing around so much there was never the time to really get to know her but you felt like she was cool and . . . distracting.

That friend is the Broadway bound musical Amelie: A New Musical playing at the Ahmanson Theater.

As the title stumbles over, this is a musical based on the French film from TLU. That's the first hurdle Amelie places in our path. If you haven't seen the film, you might have some trouble getting grounded in the musical. Not that the musical is about being grounded, far from it. But if you've seen the film you at least have a sense of the territory. Without that background, songs about the journey of a fly or chronicles of world travelling gnome make you scratch your head and wonder "what does this have to do with the story?"

Worse, you might try and find meaning in mere flights of fancy.

If you're attached to the idea of story, this might not be the musical for you.

Amelie is more of a collage piece than a simple straight line narrative. At its core, it's the romance of a woman who's terrified of intimacy who ultimately finds love but . . . like the journey of the fly from the opening number, it's a circuitous, confusing journey. Frankly, the book is something of a mess. You'll listen to perfectly charming ballads with a constant kinetic energy and at the end find yourself wondering "what just happened?" But before that feeling has really sunk in, the musical is off in a completely new distracting direction. This is a musical where goldfish can come to life and Elton John impersonators appear out of nowhere -- which can be charming or meaningless, depending on your mood.

Pam MacKinnon, who directs, keeps the staging inventive and very fluid. It's clever without really ever settling into any depth. She's also cast a really charming, eclectic group of friends for Amelie. These aren't the actors you expect from a Broadway musical, they’re more like the group of artsy, hipster friends you might find in some trendy Silver Lake coffee shop. For Amelie, a character it's hard to imagine being played by anyone other than Audrey Tautou from the film, Phillipa Soo is charming doing a tightrope walk of living up to expectations while still making the character her own.

So should you go see Amélie?

If you're looking for something deep and memorable, probably not. If you're looking for something that will distract you with its charm and energy, sure.

It's a bit like that friend from college. If you want to hang out for a couple of hours she's great. If you're looking for a profound relationship, she's probably the wrong choice.

Amélie, A New Musical plays at the Ahmanson Theater downtown through January 15.

This is Anthony Byrnes Opening the Curtain on LA Theater for KCRW.


Running time: 1 hour 45 minutes without an intermission.

Photo: Phillipa Soo and Adam Chanler-Berat in Amélie, A New Musical at Center Theatre Group/Ahmanson Theatre.

CREDITS

Host:
Anthony Byrnes

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