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A CurtainUp Review

Going to Amour is a bit like being invited to a dinner party that playfully skips right to the dessert, a big platter of tasty pastries. My food analogy is both a caveat and a promise.

The caveat is that Amour is not for those with meat and potato tastes and who think fairy tales are for children. The promise is that anyone who isn't too grownup to be enchanted by make believe will have their musical sweet tooth satisfied by Michel Legrand's easy listening score and Jeremy Sams' clever adaptation of Didier van Cauwelaert's libretto as delivered with piquancy and dash by its nine member cast.

The musical adaptation of Marcel Aymés short story "Le Passe-Muraille" (translated: the passer through the door) proved to be as popular with Parisians as its widely read source (it won the Prix Moliere, the French equivalent of the Tonys, as the best musical of 1997). On Broadway it's something of a novelty. Aymé is not as well known in New York than in Paris which put up a statue to the writer that figures in the musical's climax. The print version of the story, while not out of print, is not readily available in all book stores.

The whimsical story, set in post- World War II Paris, is a Walter Mitty style account of a nerdy civil servant named Dusoleil (Malcolm Gets) who spends his days in a Kafkaesque office and his nights in an apartment shared only by his cat. But the workaholic Dusoleil is also a dreamer, the object of his dreams being the beautiful Isabelle (Melissa Errico) kept under lock and key by a husband with an unsavory past. Dusoleil's sudden ability to walk through walls not only enlivens his own arid existence but that of his co-workers, Isabelle, her husband and various other Parisian locals.

As a genre, Amour, is an operetta or what the French call opera bouffe. The execution is all in song and the most obvious artistic inspirations easy to spot. The bowler hats and the blue sky with little white cloud motif are reminiscent of Legrand's famous score for The Umbrellas of Cherbourg and Magritte's paintings. The influence of Jaques Offenbach is brought to vivid life during the musical's single big, high-kicking production number. The music has an insistently familiar beat that is reminiscent of the operettas of Gilbert & Sullivan.

James Lapine has assembled an American cast, with fine voices and plenty of acting insouciance. Malcolm Gets is an ideal choice as the charmer pining to be released from his nerdy out shell. Melissa Errico as Isabelle sings beautifully and looks adorable. These two romantic leads are ably supported by seven actors taking on multiple roles. Some of the characters are formulaic, but the skilled performers and Jeremy Sams' witty couplets outwit the contrivances.

Scott Pask's fantasy-blue evocation of Montmartre and as-needed props support the story's mood and humor and so do Dona Granata's costumes. The only complaint about Jane Comfort's choreography is that her terrific can-can number begs for more.

The show's major shortcoming is that this is a short story that doesn't know quite when to stop. There are moments that feel like a climax, then go on and repeat themselves. The music relies so much on its familiar beat that it too tends to sound repetitious. To return to my initial food metaphor, why not leave a few of those pastries e on the platter and send the audience away feeling satisfied rather than stuffed?

Music by Michel Legrand; French libretto by Didier van Cauwelaert
Adapted from "Le Passe-Muraille" by Marcel Aymé
English adaptation by Jeremy Sams;
Directed by James Lapine
Choreography by Jane Comfort.
Cast: Malcolm Gets (Dusoleil), Melissa Errico (Isabelle), Nora Mae Lyng (Claire and Whore), Christopher Fitzgerald (Bertrand, News Vendor and Advocate), Lewis Cleale (Charles and Prosecutor), Sarah Litzsinger (Madeleine), Norm Lewis (Painter), John Cunningham (Policeman, Doctor and President of the Tribunal) and Bill Nolte (Policeman and Boss).
Set Design: Scott Pask
Costume Design: Dona Granata
Lighting Design: Jules Fisher and Peggy Eisenhauer
Sound Design:Dan Moses Schreier
Illusion Design: Jim Steinmeyer
Hair and Wig Design: Tom Watson
Running time: 90 Minutes, without intermission
Music Box, 239 W. 45 St. 212/239-6200
Tue - Sat @ 8PM, Wed & Sat @2PM, Sun @3PM $60-$85 Previews from 9/26/02

Reviewed by Elyse Sommer based on October 24th performance.
The hand full of enthusiastic reviews weren't enough to sustain a run. The show toes to an early grave 11/03/02.
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