Amelie at the Ahmanson

Le Petit Paris (a French restaurant on Spring St. downtown) had a tie-in promotion prix fixe dinner with the musical, Amelie, at the Ahmanson. Gordon had mentioned that he wanted to try the restaurant so we broke our rule of not eating before a show to take advantage of the offer. A shuttle to and from the restaurant was available but we just parked across the street. We didn’t want to have to wait for the shuttle after the show; we preferred to just go home. Besides, we’d already paid for Center Theater Parking and didn’t want to waste it. The restaurant is a re-purposing of an old hotel lobby; the original tile floor had been restored as were some gallery fixtures. I thought it was charming. The menu included a choice of steak, salmon, or asparagus as the main course. We also got options for an appetizer and dessert. Gordon got the goat cheese appetizer and I picked the duck foie gros…grao…gra…oh hell, chopped liver. Gordon liked his cheese but I thought the liver was a little bland. I think I was comparing it to the chopped liver at Art’s Deli. We both enjoyed the steak and we both preferred my napoleon to Gordon’s lava cake. My glass of cabernet was just fine and the coffee Americaine was stiff enough to keep me awake through the show. I hoped. The restaurant was a bit pricey for what we got but the food was good as was the service (we had a genuine French waiter! I was tempted to practice my schoolgirl French–I resisted, thank God). I’d go back.

We got to the theater and made pit stops before the show but didn’t have time to catch up with our neighbors or read the program. Amelie is two hours long without an intermission so I’m glad we made the stops. It could have been a LONG evening. I noticed some people in front of us crawling over knees to get out; I suspect they hadn’t taken care of business when they had a chance.

Amelie is based on a French movie that came out around 2001. I saw the movie but didn’t remember much about it although I remember liking the lead actress a lot. At least I wasn’t comparing the two. This is an American musical version of a French artistic confection. It’s about a young girl who’s been emotionally isolated by her parents. When she finally leaves home she can’t really connect to anyone because her mother pounded Zeno’s Paradox (Point A can never reach Point B because when you reach halfway the distance splits halfway to infinity) into her.  She leads a lonely life staring our her window until she discovers a box hidden in the floor boards of her apartment. She sets out to find the little boy who hid it years ago. She finds the boy (now all grown up) but can’t talk to him except by telephone with a disguised voice. But she’s finally made a human connection through a good deed. She sees herself as a heroine like Lady Di or Mother Teresa. She sets out to solve the problems of all her acquaintances. But she still can’t connect on a personal level herself  Her acquaintances who benefit from her good deeds set her up with a young man who has fallen in love with her. She tells him she can’t ever reach him so he meets her by stepping halfway. It’s all very sweet and fanciful. It reminded me of The Fantastiks without the hummable tunes. The staging was imaginative. All the actors were terrific particularly the lead, Phillipa Soo. She had just the right light touch. This show started at Berkeley Rep; I’m not sure if it’s been to Broadway or is crossing the country trying to build an audience. I liked it but I wished they’d staged it in a more intimate setting, like the Taper. The couple next to us fell asleep but Gordon stayed awake even after that huge meal so it passed my personal snore test. And that says a lot.


About Barbara Schnell

I've dedicated my life to full-time employment avoidance. I've been an actress, renovated a 1921 California Bungalow, set a cash-winning record on $25,000 Pyramid, and came in last on Jeopardy. I live in Los Angeles with my patient husband and two cats.
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