Whimsy took a shellacking with this week’s Tony nominations announcement. Two new musicals based on iconic film comedies – Amélie and Charlie and the Chocolate Factory – drew zero nods in the wake of reviews ranging from indifference to crime-against-art outrage. The producers of Amélie said this afternoon that the show will close May 21, concluding a disappointing run of 27 preview and 56 regular performances at the Walter Kerr Theatre. As a song from the show goes, “Times Are Hard For Dreamers.”
Charlie has a slightly better chance of surviving the snubs because kids seem to like it and it’s built for the tourist and road trade. But there’s certain to be more blood on the floor before the Tony Awards are dealt out on June 11. Already the musicals Paramour and In Transit and the play Significant Other have preceded Amélie into this season’s mortuary. (This is not counting seasonal and limited-run shows.)
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Amélie‘s producers – Aaron Harnick, David Broser, Triptyk Studios, Spencer B. Ross and Harbor Entertainment – had reason to hope for a very different outcome. Jean-Pierre Jeunet’s good-natured 2001 film was produced for an estimated $10.7 million and has grossed $132 million to date. It made a star of Audrey Tautou and helped make a trend of anonymous small-scale philanthropy.
While the score for the show is by newcomers Daniel Messé (music) and Nathan Tyusen (lyrics), the rest of the team is Broadway seasoned: the star is Hamilton‘s Tony-nominated leading lady Phillipa Soo, and the creative team boasts book writer Craig Lucas (An American In Paris, The Light In The Piazza, Prelude To A Kiss) and director Pam MacKinnon, a Tony winner for her revival of Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf? The choreography is by Sam Pinkleton, music direction by Kimberly Grigsby, sets and costumes by David Zinn and lighting by Jane Cox and Mark Barton.
Amélie had promising tryouts in Berkeley, CA and Los Angeles before arriving at the Kerr. In my mixed-to-positive Deadline review, I noted that the show had benefited from a second viewing but added that it was nonetheless likely to divide both critics and audiences.
“It has been an honor and privilege to work with the brilliant, talented team of writers, actors and creatives who have brought Amélie to life for the past two years, from Berkeley Rep, to Center Theatre Group, to Broadway,” the producers said in announcing the shuttering. “We’d like to express our gratitude to all of them, as well as the audiences who have shared the experience with them and with us.”
The Original Broadway Cast Recording for Amélie will be released by a new imprint of the Warner Music Group, and will be available digitally May 19, in stores June 9.
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