It is surprising to find that the latest musical by the prolific film composer Michel (The Windmills of Your Mind) Legrand, who died in January and was responsible for the scores of The Thomas Crown Affair, Yentl and Umbrellas of Cherbourg, should only now be receiving its belated UK premiere. The show entitled Amour (Charing Cross Theatre) and directed by Hannah Chissick, is adapted from a 1943 short story Le Passe-Muraille by Marcel Ayme and first opened on Broadway in 2002, where it was nominated for five Tony Awards including Best Musical.
We are in Montmartre, the year 1950, where we meet shy, unassuming civil servant Dusoleil, who lives alone and works diligently in a dreary office. To pass the time, he writes letters to his mother and daydreams about the beautiful Isabelle, who is kept locked away by her controlling husband. When one night during a power cut Dusoleil miraculously discovers that he can inexplicably walk through walls, he begins to lead a double life as Passepartout, a local hero comparable to Robin Hood, stealing from the rich to give the poor. With this new skill to right the wrongs of his war-impoverished Parisian neighbours, he gains the self-confidence to woo Isabelle and. just for a while, live the life he has always longed for.
This gently whimsical show is a spirited affair but does not have much depth and is always in danger of verging into caricature. Legrand and lyricist Didier van Cauwelaert composed Amour as a frothy opera-bouffe, with no spoken dialogue and a sung-through text that has been cleverly translated by Jeremy Sams, using amusingly earthy English idioms and rhyming couplets, with the most colourful characters–the prostitute, the anarchic painter, and a pair of bumbling gendarmes speaking in broad cockney.
Adrian Gee’s minimal set design manages to bring post-war Paris to life using only a dozen chairs, four pushbikes, a few torches and a lamp-post.
Gary Tushaw’s energetic performance captures the awkwardness of Dusoleil, a man stunned by his own transformation from one of life’s zeros to a hero, while a shimmering voiced Anna O’Byrne is a delight as the woman he falls in love with and a corpulent Claire Machin raises most of the laughs as an old-time prostitute.
Jordan Li-Smith’s six-strong band , perched on the balcony above the stage, does much to enhance the enjoyment of the show with their unobtrusively elegant playing.
This lightweight musical fantasy about daring to dream and the power of self-belief will send you out into the night with a smile on your face and a skip in your step!
Runs until July 20.
Box office: 08444 930650.
Photos by Scott RylanderLast modified: September 17, 2020