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Phillipa Soo is the saving grace of ‘Amelie’

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Phillipa Soo is the saving grace of ‘Amelie’

Photo obtained from AmelieBroadway.com through fair use.

Photo obtained from AmelieBroadway.com through fair use.

Photo obtained from AmelieBroadway.com through fair use.

Photo obtained from AmelieBroadway.com through fair use.


Dreamers. Goldfish. Garden gnomes. Elton John. Paris, France. The unifying factor that links all of these seemingly unrelated aspects into a single Broadway musical is one woman: Phillipa Soo. Broadway’s newest musical “Amélie” stars Soo in a decidedly different role, playing the quirky titular character of do-gooder Amélie Poulain.

“Amélie” opened in previews on March 9 at the Walter Kerr Theatre. Less than a week into the musical’s preview run, I traipsed the post-blizzard streets of Times Square with high expectations of not only the “Hamilton” actress but the musical as a whole. Approximately two hours later, I left the Walter Kerr Theatre disappointed and confused.

Soo’s voice was smooth and passionate. She brought Amélie to life, personifying the unconventional ways of an avid day-dreamer who “lives quietly in the world, but loudly in her mind,” as the musical’s website describes.

Amélie’s love interest, Nino, is played by Adam Chanler-Berat. The pair’s tumultuous relationship is portrayed with comical and delightful dialogue. As the musical unfolds, the audience sees Amélie transition from a girl, content with living inside her imagination, to a woman who takes risks in love and life. Soo and Chanler-Berat’s expert representation of an awkward romance through song is enlightening.

On the other hand, the plot itself was difficult to decipher without prior knowledge of the 2001 Oscar-nominated French film “Amélie.” (This is where the miscellaneous words listed earlier come into play.) With shaky transitions between songs and scenes, I was left trying recognize how and why goldfish and garden gnomes were brought to life, played by supporting actors. It took nearly half of the show to perceive that the story was meant to be centered around the romance between Amélie and Nino. Instead, the plot was lost in a sea of insignificant small storylines.

Still, the set and costume design exemplified the childish atmosphere of the musical. With enormous marquee lights and a bridge sprawling across the stage, the Walter Kerr Theatre looked beautiful as soon as the curtain rose.

The off-kilter humor and confounding plot did not correlate with Soo’s superb singing and the chemistry between love interests. “Amélie” lives up to the musical expectations, yet lacks in substance. Still, Phillipa Soo and Adam Chanler-Berat created an adorably clumsy on-stage presence.

“Amélie” opens on April 3 at the Walter Kerr Theatre and though the plot was disjointed, just the very notion of Soo’s singing makes the experience worthwhile.

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Phillipa Soo is the saving grace of ‘Amelie’