AMELIE, A New Musical”

L-R: Savvy Crawford and Phillipa Soo in “Amélie, A New Musical” at Center Theatre Group/Ahmanson Theatre. “Photo by Joan Marcus.

** 1/2
“Amélie” is a 2001 French film starring the enchanting Audrey Tautou in a hyper-fantastical tale of a sheltered young woman with a unique vision of the world.  The film is nonstop eye candy with a tender heart. AMELIE, A New Musical”, is based on the movie, and has the equally enchanting Phillipa Soo, scenery and costumes that are eye candy and a heart that begs to be loved.  And that distinction weighs negatively on the delicate nature of this sweet story.

Craig Lucas has boosted the romance in the story and lost its originality. The opening is a little too coy and in trying to recreate the whirlwind feel of the movie, it becomes only marginally coherent. Once the show hits its stride it regains intelligibility and loses its uniqueness. Amélie’s young self/ confidante feels hackneyed and the ancillary characters are underused. The music and lyrics are pleasant and could use more varied arrangements.

Phillipa Soo‘s Amélie gives Audrey Tautou a run for her money. Charismatic, bewitching and sly, she sings from her guarded, creative heart and almost makes this 1:40 minute musical worth seeing.

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Dale RaoulMichaelRubenstoneJamesLiebman

Dale Raoul, Michael Rubenstone, and James Liebman in FOREVER HOUSE at the Skylight Theatre, Written by Tony Abatemarco and Directed by Elizabeth Swain, Photo by Ed Krieger

FOREVER HOUSE is about a relationship that goes through many trials as Ben and Jack buy their first house together, try to have a family and confront their personal shortcomings.  Unfortunately, this tortured play is forced to schizophrenically jump from one style to another and the real trial is making sense of this overwrought, pedantic evening.

FOREVER HOUSE starts like a sitcom with the cast acting broadly, punching bad jokes out to the audience like “You don’t like shag carpeting?  Fags don’t like shags?” it then moves on to a ghost story complete with an apparition.  The second act goes from Family Drama to Lifetime Movie of the Week and ends on a diatribe of Pop Psychology with the lead character talking to his boyhood teddy bear as if it were his therapist.  There is no cohesion as we hurdle from style to style and the writing feels like a CliffsNotes version of dated social issues. I cringed throughout the entire show.

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(Front Row from Left) Eric Nelsen, Talisa Friedman, Asher Grodman and Jared Gertner  (Back Row) Emma Hunton and Corbin Bleu in the world premiere of “THE DODGERS” by Diana Amsterdam, directed by Dave Solomon at the HUDSON MAINSTAGE Theatre in Hollywood.  PHOTO CREDIT: Michael Lamont

I had a groovy time reminiscing about the late sixties with THE DODGERS until the reality of war set in with its loss of innocence resonating through this poignant new play.   THE DODGERS is filled with a commune of familiar hippie characters who struggle to help each other while the government starts the draft lottery.  Particularly good are Talisa Friedman as a “free love” woman, Eric Nelsen as a charming weasel and Corbin Bleu as a man torn between love and friends.  There is some wonderful storytelling and complex issues that sparked a post-show debate, but there is also a cliched twist of fate at a key moment and one shrill performance.  Still, I really enjoyed the writing and loved revisiting these flower power archetypes.

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