This bizarre Broadway flop is utterly beguiling in its UK debut.
I must confess, going into this my expectations were somewhat floor-level. Amour is a musical that I have never heard of, and, as it transpires, only existed on Broadway for all of two weeks back in 2002. Directed by Hannah Chissick, this production marks the professional UK debut of Amour, and it’s not tough to see why the content did not work especially well in a large Broadway theatre.
Amour tells the tale of Dusoleil (Gary Tulshaw), an ordinary man by all accounts, who suddenly develops the ability to walk through walls, an ability he uses in the service of good, by becoming a Parisian Robin Hood. In the midst of this, he is also desperate to gain the affection of Isabelle (Anna O’Byrne), who is in an abusive relationship at the hands of the Prosecutor (Alasdair Harvey).
Lots of the appeal of this production comes from the innovative staging. The musical is performed “in the round”, allowing for some thoughtful and creative blocking, as well as a lamppost that seems to traverse the entire set during two acts. The staging matches the fairytale whimsy of the storyline: the aesthetic transporting you to an atmospheric, cobbled French street. The rumble of trains as they travel past only serves to enhance this mood, though there were times where the staging renders it impossible for everybody to ascertain what is going on.
Particular highlights when it comes to staging are the various ways in which Dusoleil is shown travelling through walls, including using torches and suitcases, though it is never done in the same way twice and is always delightfully effective. Another wonderful sequence is a highly complex song in which each character is singing a different overlapping melody underneath illuminated umbrellas.
It’s Michel Legrand‘s score that really carries this production through (unsurprisingly, considering it’s a sung-through musical; you’d be somewhat lost without a decent score). Full of misty-eyed ballads, Legrand contrasts these with high energy brassy numbers. To not be affected by his music is like attempting to shield yourself from an atom bomb with a flimsy umbrella. The mellifluous score sweeps over and drags you under much like a sandcastle is decimated by the oncoming tide. It’s gentle, and it’s sedate, but it’s undeniable. The fun is only increased by the slick choreography and the delightful witty wordplay provided by Jeremy Sams – several moments are unexpectedly outrageous.
The music is carried ably by a stunningly talented cast: Claire Machin is a particular highlight, as she willingly inhabits her dual role as both the Whore and as office worker Claire. Elissa Churchill is similarly beguiling, and the duo’s number Dusoleil in Jail is simply stunning. As female lead, Anna O’Byrne‘s voice soars and tugs on the heart strings, though it is disappointing that her character has little of note to do short of a plot device, while Gary Tulshaw supports the entire show through his consistent energy and truthful performance.
Ultimately, Amour is a thoroughly diverting evening. It’s full to the brim with gorgeous songs, which are confidently delivered in an intimate and sensorily delightful setting.
Amour is running until 20th July 2019. Official tickets here.