Was 'Amélie' That Bad? Or Was It Just Bad Timing?

Chris Peterson

  • OnStage Founder & Editor-in-Chief

With the roll out of Tony nominations last week, it's expected that we're likely going to see some closing notices, especially shows that weren't heavily nominated. This year, the first to go is Amélie, which was shut out of Tony nods. The show closes on May 21st, after 27 previews and 56 regular performances, just seven weeks after its opening night. 

I can't say that I was surprised. The reviews weren't exactly kind and attendance hadn't been that high. In fact the night I went to see it, I was one of the few people in my row....never a good sign. 

But was it a bad show? No, but definitely in need of improvement. 

However, "needing improvement" doesn't automatically cause shows to close because there are plenty on Broadway, in no danger or closing, that could also use some tweaking. So what went wrong with Amélie

My thought? It was timing. 

Yes,  maybe the score needed some reworking, maybe some roles should have been recast and maybe Pam MacKinnon should have directed a musical before, you know, directing a musical. 

But I don't think it was any of those factors that led to its demise. In the end, it just premiered in the wrong year, in the middle of a crowded and mostly critically hailed field. When you're up against modern day masterpieces like Dear Evan Hansen and Natasha, Pierre and the Great Comet of 1812, not to mention the cynic blinding star power of Bette Midler, the Walter Kerr Theatre might have well been Mars. 

But what if producers simply waited a year? It would have given the creative team time to correct the issues that were called out way back, at its 2015 premiere. The crowded musical field of 2017 would have thinned out and many of the big name box office draws would have departed their shows. They may have lost Phillipa Soo but they might have been able to bring back original star Samantha Barks. 

They would have also been able to take advantage of what is looking like a pretty bleak year for new musicals. Aside from the mamouth Frozen, the only other material I've been hearing about for 2018,  is a musical revue of Hal Prince works and a Jimmy Buffett jukebox musical....not exactly Pulitzer level competition. 

Slide an improved Amélie in there and who knows? Maybe you've got a budgetary David vs. Goliath battle with Frozen a la 2003 with Wicked and Avenue Q. 

In the big money business that is Broadway, timing is everything. And it's frustrating to see a show close early when perhaps another six to eight months would have changed things completely. 

In any case, I'm sad to see Amélie depart so soon. It's a quirky, charming little show with more than a couple missteps, but certainly doesn't deserve to be the first one to go.