Amélie – Episode #128 – February 11, 2021
JESS: Hello I'm Jesse McAnally.
ANDREW: And I'm Andrew DeWolf.
BRIANNA: And I'm Brianna Jones.
JESS: And welcome to Musicals with Cheese, a podcast where I try to get Andrew and Bree to like musical theater. How are you doing today, Andrew?
ANDREW: Oh, I am doing phenomenal, you know, after my mom died.
JESS: Perfect. 10/10. You know what? Princess Diana died and then I found a box in the wall, and now I need to return it to its original owner. Do you want to help me do that, Andrew?
JESS: Oh. Oh.
ANDREW: Hang on, I’m just gonna fly on my lampshade up to my room. Bye.
JESS: This week, we're talking about Amélie. Cue the music, Bree.
(Times Are Hard for Dreamers plays)
ANDREW: Do you know what Amélie said when she was flying on her lampshade up to where she lives?
JESS: What she said?
ANDREW: She says what all the French say when something exciting happened. Oui!
JESS: Amélie, a new musical has music by Daniel Messé and lyrics by Daniel Messé and Nathan Tysen, with a book by Craig Lucas of Light in the Piazza. It is based on Jean-Pierre Jeunet’s Amélie, the movie from 2001. The musical opened on Broadway at the Walter Kerr theatre on March 9, 2017, and officially opened on April 3 after several previews. It only ran for 56 regular performances before closing on May 21, 2017, so big flop. Turnaround flop. It was nominated for three awards of the 2020 Laurence Olivier Awards, but it really didn't get any Tony nominations or any Tony love that year. And this was the Groundhog Day year. Amélie is an extraordinary young girl who lives quietly in the world but loudly in her mind. She covertly improvises small but surprising acts of kindness that bring joy to those around her. But when a chance at love comes her way, Amélie realizes that to find happiness, she'll have to risk everything and say what's in her heart. So - Andrew.
JESS: This is a Patreon request from Lily Ackles.
ANDREW: All right. Well, it's not - It's definitely not a Joseph Evans Green suggestion.
JESS: Yes, it is watchable. But I want to give you some framing about what the version you watched, and a little bit of that. So, I've said this many times on this podcast - I always want to give you the most fair chance to like something. I am never going to show you the bad version of something because yuks and how funny is it. I always want to give the most credit I can to the show so your opinion on it is the most fair.
JESS: I'm not going to show you the failed preview performance where the sets fall down or anything like that, but maybe you'd like that.
ANDREW: It'd be funny in like a farcical way, but -
JESS: So this show started in the UK and Samantha Barks played Amélie there, and it did respectable and then it transferred to Broadway, where Phillipa Soo - who you might know is Eliza from Hamilton - played Amélie and that was a pretty big failure. I've watched both versions in preparation for this - both of Broadway and the UK version. And then in 2019, it was revived in the UK again, with brand-new staging and a brand-new aesthetic. That is what you watched. And that is 100% the best version of the show.
JESS: So, you got the reworked, re-structured, cut down, and made better version of this. So what did you think? What is your initial thoughts?
ANDREW: Um, I liked the music for the most part. I think that the sets were pretty cool. I like the pianos as the main props.
JESS: Very minimalist.
ANDREW: Yeah, and the puppetry when there was puppetry was kind of fun, I guess. I feel like a lot of the plot is just kind of not very interesting.
JESS: Would you mind describing the plot for us?
ANDREW: Sure. It starts in her childhood - Amélie’s childhood - where her dad and mother are both awful.
ANDREW: In their own ways. The dad has a people thing going on.
JESS: He doesn't like touching her.
ANDREW: Where he doesn't want to touch her. He wants her to live in a bubble. And then, the mother is just neurotic, I guess? I'm not really even sure what, how to describe it. She has a big song number where she's just giving a - What is that philosophical thing where you can't ever actually reach a location, you can only go halfway there infinitely?
ANDREW: That's a big song number which I don't even really understand what they were going for there.
JESS: Which is basically Amélie’s philosophy throughout it - most of it.
ANDREW: Yeah. It makes sense and I like that they tie it into that. It's just like, this is such a weird thing for the mother to bring up. But that only lasts for the first couple songs, and then she leaves the parents’ home, and goes on an adventure to find the guy who dropped off a book with pictures in it. Or a box of pictures in it. I think?
JESS: No, one is a box and one is a book. So, he drops off the box in Act One and then the book becomes her quest for Act Two.
ANDREW: Yes. So, both. Kind of.
ANDREW: Because she is in love with that guy because he is like an artist type, I guess? I don't know.
JESS: It's also kind of like artsy fartsy version of love, if that makes sense. Like, this isn't the traditional true love stories where they meet and they have their meet cute. It's like she's in love with him because they made eyes and it's like, I-felt-the-butterflies-and-the-spark kind of feel, rather than an actual love story.
ANDREW: Yeah, though I don't know if falling in love with a guy that travels around at night and collects pictures of people he doesn't know is a good type of love.
JESS: It’s romantic, Andrew. What are you talking about?
ANDREW: Okay. If a guy collects pictures of people he doesn't know that he finds on the street at night - That guy might be a murderer. You don't know.
JESS: Yeah, it could be Robin Williams in One Hour Photo.
ANDREW: Yeah, I was just thinking about that. One Hour Photo is a great example where he collects pictures of people he doesn't know. And it's really creepy. I like that movie. Literally reference anything like that in this though. He is just a genuinely emotional, deep guy –
JESS: Artist. Artiste.
ANDREW: - who likes to have pictures. He's an artiste. I don't know how they say it in le French.
JESS: Artiste. Just higher pitch.
ANDREW: There’s another collection of characters but there's so many that I can't figure out who's who for most of it.
JESS: But it really is the aesthetics and the music that drives this new UK production and makes it pretty much something special.
ANDREW: It’s aesthetics-driven for sure. And it's more about the emotion of it than anything in the actual story. Like, it doesn't really matter if you know the characters. You really just need to know the one and how she interacts with them.
JESS: It's kind of like a Paddington story, where she kind of understand people's lives and affects them and she leaves them better kind of. But she's still a very flawed character, at least in the UK version.
ANDREW: And she flies up to her loft and it's interesting-looking, I don't know.
JESS: So, we're talking about visuals and aesthetics right now, which is fine. But I wanted to talk about the Broadway version in comparison to the UK version. So, what is a word you would use to describe the UK version aesthetically?
ANDREW: Like a folksy minimalist.
ANDREW: Kind of whimsy thing.
JESS: See, it was like a dark whimsy. Kind of like a dark fairy tale. It felt magical. The only comparison I can have for the Broadway version - which is decidedly not good in my opinion. I think it's a very, very bad production, despite using most of the same songs and a very good actress playing - is the aesthetics.
JESS: This is literally a comparison for how they do the two exact same scenes. I've thrown it up on the screen, only patrons can see this. So, on our right here we have a young child playing Amélie and her parents and the way that they're designed in the stage design. And on the right –
ANDREW: Yikes. It's so grounded.
JESS: Right. It's so real and gross. It looks like SpongeBob.
ANDREW: Yeah, it's very - Why are they doing it that way? I don't know. The way that they did it in the UK one that I watched, it feels like a dream almost with her as a child.
JESS: But it also frames it as if she is looking back on her childhood and sees herself as this puppet as opposed to a literal child acting out these literal things that happened.
ANDREW: Yeah, and it's more about the ideas that are coming across. Like, the scene with the mother never really feels like the mother actually teaching - Like, a real scene of the mother lecturing her daughter. It's more like this is the mother's ideology that she is forcing upon her, you know?
JESS: Yes, and the thing is, that context really does matter. And aesthetics do matter quite a bit.
ANDREW: Oh absolutely.
JESS: The American one looks like - as Ben Brantley would say - bubblegum candy. It's just so much fluorescent insanity. And it just ignores the innate Frenchness of the story and makes them all basically Americans with American accents and talking that way. And it has a pop feel. Like, all the accordion music we have in the UK version, non-existent. It is all just pop-ish versions of that.
ANDREW: I was going to say that the orchestration in this is really good.
JESS: I agree.
ANDREW: And that's like one of the best parts of the show - is how folky it sounds, and how that kind of - It gives it that earthy feel, I guess. I don't really know how to describe it. But what you're describing in the Broadway one sounds just awful?
JESS: Yeah, yeah, yeah, it is. Also, the fact in the UK production. We introduce Amélie from the outset. She is first thing there, and she's basically our narrative through her childhood and then we just kind of follow her through that. And she sees things magically, so she can do things like ride her lampshade up a wall. There's no magic in the Broadway version. And I know this is turning into a comparison, but this is what it has to be at this point –
ANDREW: It kind of sounds necessary because it sounds like the Broadway one is awful.
JESS: Yes it does. Remember the fish subplot in the very opening scene where she has a fish as her classmate and all that?
ANDREW: Yes, well yeah. And that's the mother's teaching thing as well. That's how that ends.
JESS: But it's like a darkly satiric idea of like the fish got so depressed by the mother's behavior that it tries to commit suicide.
JESS: Well, let me just show you. This is how the fish is represented in the Broadway version. It is literally a bearded man with a fish head.
ANDREW: Is that Zach Galifianakis on stage there?
JESS: Basically is. And they have a song and dance number that lasts about four or five minutes. And it doesn't feel as Guillermo del Toro-y as the new production feels as if it's a parable. It feels like goofy theater - remember Mr. Bungee from A New Brain?
ANDREW: Yeah. What is that, yeah, A New Brain. I was actually gonna mention that too. Where he's got the frog hat on or something, it's like, what is going on here?
JESS: Where it feels like the UK production - the more recent one - legitimately love the original film, Amélie. They love the idea of the dark fairy tale and kind of the weird goofy elements of the magic, where this one felt like an American parody of that.
ANDREW: I've never seen or heard of the movie. So the movie is more similar to this one?
ANDREW: I was kind of going to ask - is the movie more similar to that and they were just going with that because that's what the movie does. But apparently not. So why? Why?
JESS: I think it was just an American view of what that movie was, which was bright saturated colors, a quirky main character that is basically the ideal – what is it? You don't really see it anymore – The dream girl. Quirky –
ANDREW: Manic pixie dream girl?
JESS: That’s it. Cus she is ideally that in this movie. But, it feels less real. Like, remember like cute gnome idea where the father has a little gnome to remind him of his wife?
JESS: This will just tell you the difference between the two. I know this is an audio medium. But in the Broadway version, it's this giant flippin thing, and in the UK version –
ANDREW: It's an actual actor, it looks like, playing the gnome? Or is that just a big prop?
JESS: It's just a big prop with like gnomish – Maybe, I don't know.
ANDREW: So it's of a large gnome.
JESS: Everything is bigger, and it's to the detriment of it. So, I think the smaller, less realistic makes the surreal elements like her floating on the lampshade and the magic come alive.
ANDREW: I think what’s also very notable in - obviously we're in audio, so it's not a visual thing for everyone - But all of the screenshots I'm looking at - the American one is TV show-lighting, everything is very brightly lit. Everything in the scene is lit, you can see everything. The UK version is like almost the opposite, like there's almost no lighting, except for what really needs to be lit up.
JESS: And the shadows really add to the darkness of the world, because this is a dark world, but literally the plot is kicked off by Princess Diana's death. And it makes the more surreal parts, like Elton John literally coming out and playing a song for Amélie’s funeral as the closer of Act One - Those stand out more because the innate darkness of the world and the minimalist aesthetics. That being said, with all these positive changes in the right direction, the show still doesn't quite work.
ANDREW: No, I will agree with that actually. It's enjoyable on a very visual and audio kind of, like - The music is good. The visuals are striking and interesting, at least in the better version. But the - I don't know. The whole of it just doesn't quite work. And I don't know if I could put my finger on it. Once again, it's the same thing as all movie musicals. They just stayed a little too close to the source material, because this basically is beat-for-beat the movie. And you could do it the parody way, which is what the Broadway did, or you could do with the sincere, dark, fairytale fantasy way. But either way, it's still a movie structure where you don't have the benefit of editing and cinematography and choices and what you're using as a film. And it really doesn't do a service to the great songs and the pretty decent book that they have here. I feel like most of the comedy works. And if you want my honest opinion - calling back to our Groundhog Day episode last week - This would have been a fantastic 90-minute piece. I just feel like it drags too long. If we just skipped a little bit of the pieces that were in the movie and kind of just reeled in in to “girl nervous about meeting guy because she has his photo album.”
JESS: Would have been a really cute piece.
ANDREW: I feel like a lot of times we come back to this thought that - And a lot of times, it's adaptations. It just needs to be shorter, you know.
JESS: Yeah. I was thoroughly enjoying the first act. Like, almost all the first act, I really enjoyed. It's the second act where it's like, “Oh I can't get through this.”
ANDREW: I think the most enjoyable it was was right at the very beginning. I think all the stuff with the parents was very good. Even when she moves away, that’s pretty good as well.
JESS: In the Broadway version, it is intolerable. That entire part is intolerable. And – Oh, let me frame this. With Amélie being on stage the entire time during the parent scenes in the UK version –
JESS: It takes 22 minutes for the actress playing Amélie to step on stage in Amélie in the Broadway version. Because we're stuck –
ANDREW: Because it's all the child actor. Oh.
JESS: And it's like, “Yeah, she gets applause because - thank god, no more child actor.” The brilliant of making the child a puppet is one of the better things that this did.
ANDREW: It's brilliant in that the actress is on the stage the entire time. And the idea of her being a puppet of the parents as well - as like a thematic element. I don't know.
JESS: Yes. And they do the connection by having her and the puppet kind of be in sync with one another at elements. And her reactions coming out of the voice and the puppet just looks like a child.
JESS: Honestly, that whole part, I was like, “Man, this is gonna be pretty good.” And then she moves away from the parents, and it kind of just falls off from there, kind of loses focus.
JESS: Yes, I wish the rest of the entire show was as good as the first 20 minutes.
ANDREW: I agree. It gets to a point where it's kind of like the plot is just this vague –
JESS: Meandering. It's a vignette.
ANDREW: Trying to do something. Yeah. And it doesn't, nothing is really - Unlike something that is more like vignettes like a Mary Poppins or something where every vignette is memorable and interesting -
JESS: A narrative in and of itself.
ANDREW: Yeah. There isn't really that element to this. It's just kind of like, she goes somewhere and meet someone and, you know, it just kind of happens and it just keeps going.
JESS: But there's things that - It bothers me that I like so many elements of this so early on. And I feel like it gains the traction again at the end when she meets the guy leading up to that final number Where Do We Go From Here? is so good. I think all of that is wonderful.
ANDREW: Did they rush this out or something? It almost feels like with just more workshopping, this could have been very good. Because, I mean, how did that get onto Broadway when such a much, much better version - This wasn't even that long afterwards. Like, the UK one was a year later, is that what you said?
JESS: Three years later.
ANDREW: Three years later? And it's so much better. Like, how did that make it onto Broadway without any workshopping to improve?
JESS: Well, it started out in the UK, remember. The UK version was Samantha Barks that they fast-tracked to Broadway. But I feel like in that transition, there was too many cooks in the kitchen to try to make it palatable to a New York audience, which is never really the way to do it.
ANDREW: Yeah, it's like, “Hmm, what do New Yorkers like?” “I know, giant fish, a big gnome.”
JESS: Well, they like easy laughs. The low hanging fruit.
ANDREW: Yeah, but that stuff doesn't last. That stuff never succeeds. Like, you might get good ticket sales early on. I don't know. But it doesn't work.
JESS: But it also – Mina Moneri recently commented that we talked so much shit about UK theater with the DJ Saved My Life and Fame. But this is one of those times where the more intimate, less big, less promoted West End theatre productions are very, very good and tend to be much better than the Original Broadway productions because they respect theater and put money into theater over there in the UK much more than they do here. It is less of a materialistic commodity and more of an artistic one over there. So they can do something like Amélie, which is very, very much improved just by aesthetics and trimming and all that. You remember the song that in the original Broadway version acts as an I want song? It's the second song of the show, which is, Times Are Hard For Dreamers. Which comes most of the way through Act Two as like her like, “I'm ready to finish the story.” That is the second song in the original Broadway run. So just restructuring of things.
JESS: And every one of her relationships. She has the song World’s Best Papa in the UK version. But in the Broadway version, she had World's Best Papa, World's Best Mama, World's Best Fish, World's Best Daughter. And it made that opening drag on. And she has a little hand creature that she talks to.
ANDREW: So I gotta say one thing.
ANDREW: And I guess now is making more sense. So, I don't get a playbill or anything.
ANDREW: So sometimes I'm looking on Wikipedia to try to follow along with certain shows and this was one of them. And I was looking at it, I was like, “This is worthless to me because I'm pretty sure the version I'm watching is just completely different.”
JESS: And it is.
ANDREW: Like, okay. World's Best Papa. Okay. Where is this next one? World's Best Friend, World's Best Mom? Like, where are all these songs? So, I guess now that makes a lot more sense.
JESS: So it's interesting – And, once again, in Broadway, it's not World's Best Papa, it’s World's Best Dad.
ANDREW: Yeah World's Best Dad –
JESS: Because they had to string out every bit of Frenchness to this, any bit of Europeanness.
ANDREW: The show’s called Amélie with the - It's a French thing. I don't know.
JESS: It’s a French movie. It is the most well-received in America French film ever, basically.
JESS: But Andrew, don't take your and my words for it. We got to compare what our thoughts are to those of the New York theater critics at the time this show came out. It is time for everyone's favorite segment of the show. It's time for Breeviews.
(Breeviews theme song plays)
BRIANNA: Ben Brantley of the New York Times said, “For a cunning little bauble of an entertainment, the 2001 French film “Amélie” inspired uncommonly extreme responses. People were usually head over heels about it (“It’s so cute!”) or violently allergic to it (“But it’s so cute!”). As you have surely gathered by now, “Amélie” is aggressively cute and quirky. The film’s preciousness is balanced, to some degree, by the philosophical resignation of its unseen narrator. Even Mr. Jeunet’s inventive, cinema-infatuated mise-en-scène is steeped in a sort of “so it goes” (or “ça va”) drollery, sentimentality plus cynicism being the quintessential French equation. That delicate balance teeters when it’s rendered via swelling song and skipping dance. (The musical staging and choreography are by Sam Pinkleton.) That the show’s creators are aware of the potential dangers of cloying cuteness probably accounts for its seeming so subdued, even as frolicsome puppets (by Amanda Villalobos) take the stage.”
JESS: I also want to bring up from that - He does highlight Phillipa Soo and how good she is in it. Because she was very good, even in that bad production. It's just that he kind of meanders and talks mostly about the film as opposed to actually having a critique about the show, which means he didn't like the show.
ANDREW: Yeah, it seems like he had an opinion on the movie? Or he didn't have an opinion? He doesn't really know? He thought it was cute and quirky. He thought it was aggressively cute and quirky. Yeah, I don't know, I guess it didn't work for him. And it sounds like it didn't work for you either so I suppose you agree.
JESS: It didn’t work. Let's hear what Jesse Green of Vulture had to say, Bree.
BRIANNA: Jesse Green of Vulture says, “Which brings us to Soo. No surprise to those who know her from Hamilton or the pre-Broadway versions of Natasha, Pierre and the Great Comet of 1812, she’s effortlessly lovely and a superior singer. But traits that have helped her bring Eliza and Natasha to life — simplicity, transparency — can’t do much for Amélie, who remains, like the girl in her neighbor’s forever-unfinished Renoir, an outline of a figure at the heart of the story. All of Soo’s skill, and all the craft of the authors, have produced this final paradox: The more Amélie is revealed, the less we see. Like its title character, Amélie is a show that has very nearly willed itself into obscurity.”
JESS: Which is accurate. No one fucking liked the show, no one saw it, no one nominated it, it lasted like a month.
ANDREW: I'm surprised we got a request to talk about it.
JESS: Lily Ackles – why? I feel like they expected us to have some big opinions on this but we don't.
ANDREW: Well, maybe they thought it was really bad and we'd have some mean things –
JESS: Maybe they didn't expect me to try to play fair here, and give you the more recent UK tour, which is much better.
ANDREW: And it kind of was good enough that I don't think I can be super mean to this one.
JESS: No, this isn't something I want to be mean to is the thing. I feel like the creators and authors really put their effort into it. It just is too damn long. That’s basically the long and short of it. It's too long, there's not enough story, and the aesthetics are cool and nice but not enough.
ANDREW: Just take the first 20 minutes and chop that out, air that as a short.
JESS: You know what? I'd say even the first act. Put the ending of Act Two onto Act One, and you've got a good 90-minute show.
ANDREW: Boom. It's all set. You got your Elton John in there somewhere, I don't know.
JESS: I feel like you can cut the Elton John scene altogether, but maybe –
ANDREW: You can, but you know what? There's no reason to. It's funny.
JESS: That’s weirdly the end of Act One, when that feels like it should be the opening of Act Two.
ANDREW: Yeah, it kind of does. It's sort of irrelevant. And it's just kind of a gag. But they put it at the end of Act One for some reason.
JESS: Yeah, Act One should be the cliffhanger, “Oh, what’s gonna happen when we come back?” But here it's like, “Elton John's here to sing about Amélie.”
ANDREW: Maybe that is the cliffhanger. Maybe just people want to see more Elton John and they expect more and –
JESS: And there's no more Elton John when you come back.
ANDREW: There’s no more. There’s no more Elton John when you come back.
JESS: You want to go into a mid-show, Andrew?
ANDREW: Yeah, let's do that.
JESS: Alright, enjoy these ads, kids.
JESS: What do you think of the opening number, The Flight of the Blue Fly?
(The Flight of the Blue Fly plays)
ANDREW: I really enjoyed it. I don't really remember what the song was actually about.
JESS: It basically just set up Amélie and the idea of her and her connections to the world. In the UK version –
ANDREW: What I remember the most about it was the accordion intro, which I thought was pretty cool. And more of a setup of the visuals and what style of music it's going to do, which I suppose is the best part of it for me. I don't really know what the song was really doing, though, to introduce the characters, I guess.
JESS: But Andrew - How do you think they did it in the Broadway version?
ANDREW: I mean, it sounds like in the Broadway version, they probably had Mayor McCheese come out in a very bright spotlight and introduce child Amélie or something. That seems like –
JESS: Nope. Look at that. They actually make a Skimbleshanks train style blue fly that is a representation of the fly. They take this metaphorical song and turn it literal because you idiots.
ANDREW: Well, yeah, I mean, everything has to be literal. These are Americans. They don't understand the nuance of metaphor. I mean -
JESS: No, they definitely don't.
ANDREW: The gnome is literally a giant gnome. The fish is literally a talking fish. I mean, come on.
JESS: We all love SpongeBob the musical. That didn't come out yet, right?
ANDREW: Yeah. The fly is a literal giant blue fly. Was it giant? I don't even know.
JESS: Yeah, it was giant. Visually. I don't know if it's meant to be giant in the story narratively, but –
ANDREW: I mean, honestly, they could have just had Mayor McCheese come out and introduce her, I mean -
JESS: (As Mayor McCheese) Hello, I’m Mayor McCheese. Amélie was a sad little girl. Her father never touched her.
ANDREW: Like, honestly.
JESS: Ben Brantley is like, “Phillipa Soo’s performance undercut by the Mayor McCheese in the opening number.”
ANDREW: I mean, come on, you might as well.
JESS: Oh my god, it's SpongeBob. But it's like one of those foam head SpongeBobs from Slime Time Live or whatever.
ANDREW: I really love the music style in this. And I kind of wish we got more. Okay, not the Broadway one. I'm specifically talking about the one I watched.
JESS: The very accordion French sound.
ANDREW: Accordion. The acoustic guitar on stage with the accordion as well. Pianos. I think it’s super cool.
JESS: Bree - Can you, for this specific song right here, play a comparison of two of the same pieces from the two versions, because I feel like that'll just sum up the difference between the shows in all honesty.
(Comparison of both shows)
ANDREW: Okay, what instrumentation do they use in the Broadway?
JESS: Oh, what do you think? Like, it sounds like Next to Normal or Dear Evan Hansen.
ANDREW: It’s an electric guitar, keyboard.
ANDREW: Drum kit.
ANDREW: Because when I was watching - because I didn't know anything about this. I didn't know there was a Broadway version that was super different. I was like, “Man, that's a really interesting choice of instrumentation that they use.” I love that it's all on stage. I love that the pianos are part of the set. There's just so much cool stuff going on with that.
JESS: Changes the feel of the entire show. Say what you will about the Broadway version - It sounds like the visuals that we get.
ANDREW: Yeah, I mean it just sounds like a Broadway show, you know? I think it's kind of sad that Broadway –
JESS: Has a sound?
ANDREW: Yeah, like currently, right now, there's just a Broadway show thing. And you can almost guess like what shows were on Broadway. And I don't feel like it was always like that, but I could be wrong.
JESS: Well, take a look at the Sondheims. Sondheim has a sound, but none of them sound exactly alike. Sweeney Todd does not sound like Merrily We Roll Along.
ANDREW: Yeah and also, his sound is unique as well. He doesn't sound like every other composer, you know?
JESS: Which is why you kind of have to appreciate The Wild Parties, where those two are very different shows with very different sounds about the same subject matter.
JESS: Or even Groundhog Day, last week - that doesn't have the traditional Broadway sound in the same way that Amélie Broadway does.
ANDREW: True. I mean, I think the sound that we're all thinking of is the Dear Evan Hansen –
JESS: Next to Normal, to a certain point Legally Blonde.
ANDREW: It's just a pop rock kind of sound that just –
JESS: Thanks, Rent. You've ruined Broadway forever.
ANDREW: It doesn't even fit Rent though because Rent’s almost a pop-punk. Almost, almost. I don't think it's quite punk, but it's almost there. It's like they listened to Rent, and they're like, “This is too edgy. Let's trim it, we're gonna smooth it out. And we're just gonna make it pop-rock.” And that's kind of the current sound.
JESS: That's fair. So, really, the songs kind of blur together. The next one I really want to talk about is Halfway, which is in a very different place than in the Broadway version in the UK one. And I really like this because it really does reinterpret the mother's thesis of, “You can only make it halfway,” and explains why Amélie is so afraid to kind of take the chance and make a relationship.
ANDREW: I really like the theme of the halfway ideology, kind of how it influences her way of thinking and that coming back in her reinterpreting. That's one of the cooler parts of the show, especially thematically, which a lot of the show is just thematic, because there's really not that much plot that goes in.
JESS: No, it’s visuals, themes, and emotions.
ANDREW: Yeah and I like - It's not a very heady theme, it's not super philosophical, but I love that they brought something like that into it.
JESS: No, I agree. I like that it had a thematic arc to it.
JESS: And the weird way that it handles death in and of itself is kind of a strange way. Like, the mother dies by someone jumping off of a bridge and then landing on her?
ANDREW: Yeah, someone is trying to kill themselves, right?
JESS: And they land on her. Yeah. That’s such a charmingly dark way of handling that.
ANDREW: It's ironic, I suppose. It's like, this person wanted to die and they end up killing someone else.
JESS: Yeah. Now I guess we gotta talk about the big song that was changed in position. It used to be the I want song and now in the UK version, it's like, mostly through Act Two, and that is Times Are Hard For Dreamers.
(Times Are Hard For Dreamers plays)
ANDREW: How does this work as an I want song? Because, I guess I didn't get to see that.
JESS: It didn't. It’s just like, “I’m Amélie and I dream around the world. It's so hard to be dreamy, life’s so good, I'm a pixie girl.” Where in this one it's like, “It's hard for me to try to help people. It’s really hard and I want to help people.”
ANDREW: Well, I think it becomes more literal, where times are hard for dreamers.
JESS: Yes, it works better. As a literal title of the song. And Bree, feel free to play both versions here.
ANDREW: I think the main thing to consider is that this song is near the end of the show in the other one - in the UK one.
JESS: Yes, in the good one.
ANDREW: Yeah, in the better one. Which I guess kind of – Like, what is the I want song in the UK one?
JESS: I would actually say it's probably either World's Best Papa, because that really just shows her want to be touched and the world kind of denying her that. Like, that entire sequence I think does that pretty okay.
ANDREW: It's kind of odd though - Yeah, because it's about another character, it's a little weird.
JESS: But if we could reframe it further, it could be The Sound Of Going Round In Circles, which is just about going day to day doing the same thing every day. That's more of an ensemble number, but it still reframes Amélie’s emotions during that.
ANDREW: It's a bold choice to pick the I want song to be the song that you just are like, “No, no. That doesn't belong here. Move it to the end.”
JESS: It’s smart because it is reaffirming Amélie’s belief system in the end. And it makes more sense for her to be coming out of some trials and tribulations and being like, “Shit’s hard.”
ANDREW: I'm congratulating the show on making a bold choice –
JESS: And it working.
ANDREW: It working. It's cool.
JESS: I wish more shows would drastically change themselves after a failure on a Broadway stage. Like, Merrily’s done it, this has done it, not many other shows have.
ANDREW: I think so many shows, when they fail, they're just like, “Well, that didn't work,” and then they just go away forever.
JESS: Look at Groundhog Day.
ANDREW: Yeah, which honestly is a shame because a lot of these shows I think are –
JESS: Are so close.
ANDREW: They're close and it's just, like, man, if you just put a little effort in and somebody just has the right idea for it, it could really work. But it's not profitable, I suppose, which is just an issue with the way Broadway works and it has to make money.
JESS: Alright, I got a pitch for us.
JESS: All shows, they start in the UK, and then we send them to Broadway. Then, if they flop, we send them back to the UK and they figure it out.
ANDREW: They're like - Alright, so the UK –
JESS: “Let's go fuck this shit up.”
ANDREW: The UK is both the originator of ideas, and the dumpster for bad ideas.
JESS: And they also come up with plenty of their own bad ideas. David Hasselhoff, A DJ Saved My Life.
ANDREW: Oh come on, that was great.
JESS: Fame, the musical.
ANDREW: Okay, maybe not that one. All right. There’s not really many songs that are worth discussing.
JESS: There's one more. There's one more. And this is - Because I didn't look into this show much before Lily requested us talking about it. But this song, the final song, did come up on my recommended songs quite often. And I loved it. Just as a lil number and it's Where Do We Go From Here?
(Where Do We Go From Here? plays)
JESS: I love it.
ANDREW: I like the song a lot and I like the way it ends. It doesn't end in an upbeat or a downbeat kind of way, it just sort of - She finally meets the guy and it just kind of - it's done.
JESS: Because she had the goal of connection. That has been her goal, and then she finally gets it and she's like, “Well, shit. Now what happens?” And we're left without an answer.
ANDREW: Yeah. No, and I think it's actually a really good way to end the show. Especially a show like this where it's really not about what happens, and it's more about the –
JESS: Feeling of it.
ANDREW: The feeling of it, in the way that she goes about things, and the ideas behind all of that, and the emotions behind all of that. And not really about like literally what happens. So, it makes sense for the show to just kind of stop.
JESS: So, now that we've talked about that - Andrew, what is your overall thoughts and your cheese rating?
ANDREW: Well, again, I've only watched the UK one and I will be rating that. I will not be rating whatever the Broadway is because I didn't actually see it, so it's not fair of me to do. It is fine. I like a lot of the music, but not very much happens in it. I'm not always a super plot heavy person, but this felt a bit meandering. And it felt like it could have had more going on. So, I can't rate it super highly, but I don't think it's a bad show. Like, I wasn't actively disliking anything I was seeing. And I really liked the visuals, and I really liked the music in a lot of places.
JESS: It felt magical.
ANDREW: No, yeah. I mean, it felt like a fun little thing, you know? I kind of wish it was –
JESS: If it was a little bit shorter –
ANDREW: Yeah, I was just gonna say that. If it was a little bit shorter, it might be more enjoyable. It felt like something where you like being in the world and watching it, but you're kind of like, “Well there's not really anything happening, though,” so it's hard to really justify sitting there for two hours, you know? As far as a cheese, I'm on a list of French cheese. I'm going to pick one that sounds cool. Because it deserves a French cheese, right? How about a Livarot? Livarot? I don't know how that's pronounced. Livarot. There's no “t” in French so it's got to be that. I'm gonna give it that. That's my cheese. It's from Normandy, I guess. I don't know. That's in France.
JESS: Bree, how’d you like our discussion? What's your cheese rating there?
BRIANNA: As always, love your discussion. I was checked out for a minute because there was an issue with a Shipt order, and I don't know where my food is.
ANDREW: Uh oh.
BRIANNA: That's okay.
JESS: Was there cheese involved?
BRIANNA: No, no cheese involved. But because I have had lovely micro bangs like Amélie, I'm going to give this - My cheese rating will be Brie. Brie cheese.
JESS: That’s my girl, I love it.
BRIANNA: That’s me.
JESS: That's you. Your cheese - Brie.
BRIANNA: And that's why I was hired. Because I'm a cheese.
JESS: You are a cheese, you’re a cheesy girl. Amélie - it got better, I think is the best way to say it. I appreciate any show that wants to improve and realizes it has troubles and is willing to really dive into what's wrong with it and try to fix it. I think that's always very good when a show does that. It's still not quite there. Even the UK version, as beautiful as it looks and the sound is so, so gorgeous, the music, the orchestrations, they're there. It's just too long, too meandering, cut it down a bit, and we've got a great 90-minute show. A great one act piece.
ANDREW: Alright. One last thing because we're a little bit under time and we didn't bring it up. Have you seen the movie?
JESS: I have not seen the movie. I've seen bits of the movie.
ANDREW: I've not seen the movie either. Man, usually we at least have one of us that has seen the movie, when we talk about an adaptation like this. So, it's a shame.
JESS: Yeah, but I really kind of wanted to look at the musical alone, as a musical. I hear it's too accurate, for one, that has been a real big thing. But it looks beautiful. The movie is gorgeous. It is directed by the same guy that directed Alien Resurrection, which is just weird to think about.
ANDREW: That is extremely strange. Whoa. Okay. I hear that that's a terrible movie, the Alien Resurrection, but I've not seen it.
JESS: It's not the worst movie in the world. Joss Whedon wrote it, which is also weird. So Joss Whedon wrote a Alien film and a weird French man who directs weird French movies directed that.
JESS: So what did you think it was going to turn out like?
ANDREW: Yeah, I mean the Alien movies. After Aliens really kind of didn't work that well –