‘Amelie’ recalls charms of the film without reaching them onstage

Early 7 p.m. Sunday, through Jan. 15. Tuesday–Friday, 2 and 8 p.m. ★★&#x2605When: 8 p.m. No performances on Christmas Day. performance New Year’s Eve.Where: Ahmanson Theatre, 135 N. Grand Ave., Los Angeles.Tickets: $25–$125.Length: Slightly under 2 hours, no intermission.Suitability: Teens and adults.Information: 213-972-4400, www.centertheatregroup.org. Saturday, 1 and 6:30 p.m. performance Christmas Eve. No 8 p.m.
And then they go nowhere.What works in a few frames of a film doesn’t land as well in a split-second bit onstage. What Jeunet could reveal with a glimpse at a face isn’t available here — though of course some of those emotions are offered via the musical’s score. Like the film, the musical starts with a housefly. Many of the film’s gentle little metaphors have become laugh-getters. Here it got a laugh while the film’s fans recalled the filmic moment. In the film, the fly symbolized the role of fate and timing in our lives.


The loneliness of Amélie’s childhood doesn’t translate here, because the friends she created out of animals and objects are played by actors. The set is textured and dimensional, and the palette, although brighter and more cartoonish than the film’s, is inviting (scenic and costume design by David Zinn). The little girl amusing herself by eating raspberries off her fingertips loses context when she’s surrounded by adults playing along with her.But there’s much to admire in the staging. The piece feels intimate, even as it uses every nook of the stage.
Its every frame is a work of art. Those who dared to take a charming little French film and turn it into a Broadway-bound musical had to know they’d be facing brickbats along with the plaudits. It focuses on an unusual young woman, possessed of one of storytelling’s most vibrant imaginations, as she learns how to open a heart sealed shut by bad parenting and bad luck. Or, as the French say, criticism is easy but art is difficult.“Amélie” is a 2001 cinematic gem. Its palette is mature, with autumnal browns and greens with accents of Amélie’s signature red. Director and co-writer Jean-Pierre Jeunet (with co-writer Guillaume Laurant) knew when to show expansive views of Paris and when to focus on a close-up.

The book is by Craig Lucas, music by Daniel Messé, and lyrics by Nathan Tysen and Messé. Old-school masks and puppetry, plied with old-school commedia chops by the ensemble, mix well with projected animation that turn mathematics and philosophy joyously visual (designed by Peter Nigrini). She started from a whimsical movie and made the work more whimsical. And though the film’s moral and many details are tucked in here, it seems to appeal to the recollections of the film’s fans instead of exposing audiences to the soul that went from frozen seed to sweetly maturing florescence.Imaginative stagingDirector Pam MacKinnon certainly used her own gifted imagination in staging this musical. Now comes “Amélie, A New Musical,” at the Ahmanson Theatre.