Theater Review: AMOUR (Art Lab and ShowTown Productions)

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by Tony Frankel on April 2, 2021

in Theater-New York,Virtual


“I wanted to write an opera-bouffe, an intimate evening with light, lyrical singing and delicate charm,” wrote composer Michel Legrand. “Marcel Aymé’s delightful story of an ordinary little man who suddenly finds himself gifted with extraordinary powers seemed to be the perfect material for such an amusement.”

Kevin Massey, Kara Lindsay, Thom Sesma, Adam Pascal, and Jennifer Sánchez

Perhaps too intimate for theatergoers expecting big splashy musicals, Amour, written by Legrand (the composer of Yentl) and Jeremy Sams (the librettist of Chitty Chitty Bang Bang), opened on Broadway on October 20, 2002, at the Music Box Theatre and closed after only 31 previews and 17 performances. (The original French libretto by Didier van Cauwelaert was adapted from Aymé’s Le Passe-Muraille.)

Kara Lindsay, Drew Gehling, and Jennifer Sánchez

Starring Malcolm Gets and Melissa Errico, this completely sung-through love story is a whimsical tale that absolutely buoys my spirits whenever I hear it on CD. There have been two “re-conceived” productions, but it looked as if Amour would forever be one of those musicals we never get to see. Until now. Streaming for three performances only, April 2 – 4 exclusively on Stellar, this absolutely delightful, immediately accessible, and shall I add charming musical comes to you with a cast that rivals the original in this virtual Broadway Revival.

Drew Gehling

Don’t miss this! The score is amazing. Academy Award-winner Legrand has always had a penchant for jazz waltzes; he is known for his haunting melodies from the film scores for Summer of ’42The Thomas Crown Affair and The Umbrellas of Cherbourg. There are plenty of lush, jazzy harmonies and passages, but there is no shortage of lovely trademark Legrandian waltzes — among the standouts in the Amour score is the sweet lament, “Other People’s Stories,” sung by the lonely wife, played to perfection by an emotionally resonant Christiani Pitts.

Drew Gehling and Christiani Pitts

Set in 1950s Paris, this sweeping, romantic, fantastical fairy tale for grownups concerns a nobody, a shy unassuming civil servant (steadfast Drew Gehling), who suddenly discovers he has the uncanny ability to walk through walls. With this magical discovery, he finally summons the courage to confess his feelings to his beautiful love-from-afar. Meanwhile, her husband Charles (Adam Pascal, whose villainy seems almost natural) has different plans for him. But how do you lock up a man who can simply slip away?

Christiani Pitts

The remaining seven members of the ensemble cast are each very strong, getting plenty of opportunities to shine. Rachel York scores heavily in finding the comedy of her role as a philosophical street whore. Vishal Vaidya makes a raucous doctor to treat Dusoleil’s malady, and Kevin Massey has one of the evening’s biggest triumphs in his portrayal of a courtroom advocate taking on his first case. Derrick Baskin, as a street painter, sings his contemplative solo soulfully.

Kevin Massey, Derrick Baskin, Kara Lindsay, Vishal Vaidya, Jennifer 
Sánchez, Thom Sesma, Christiani Pitts, Rachel York, and Adam Pascal

Amour is simply a show where almost everything works; the material and the performances integrate so well, it’s difficult to tell where one element leaves off and other begins. Especially under the direction of Meg Fofonoff and her company Art Lab, which magically went beyond a normal Zoom presentation by lovingly and precisely cutting-and-pasting the actors’ individual work from home, adding lights and backgrounds and props, and turning it into a lovely evening. (I wonder if one day, unions aside, we can do this for the hundreds of so-called flop musicals with great scores..?)

Derrick Baskin

Yes, Amour has some issues. The biggest being that it’s rather milquetoast for a musical. It’s slender in both creation, running time (about 90 minutes) and lyrics (although there are some stupendous rhyming). But online, those problems don’t seem as highlighted as they were on the stage.

Vishal Vaidya and Thom Sesma

The main attraction here is Legrand’s score, which brims over with joyfully old-school tunes: there are music box tinkly piano-led dance numbers, percussive comedy songs punctuated by the click of office typewriters, and some utterly gorgeous ballads, beautifully and emotively rendered by the cast and combo orchestra. Really a treat.

Adam Pascal

photos by Art Lab

Rachel York

Virtual Broadway Revival
Friday, April 2 at 8:00pm EST
Saturday, April 3 at 8:00pm EST
Sunday, April 4 at 5:00pm EST
for tickets ($20), visit Stellar

Rachel York, Kevin Massey, and Derrick Baskin

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