Friday, 10 May 2019

REVIEW: Amour at the Charing Cross Theatre

Despite closing after just two weeks on Broadway, Amour, a beautifully sweet piece, garnered several nominations at the Tony’s. Endlessly romantic, this musical adaptation of Marcel Ayme’s Le Masse-Muraille follows the tale of Dusoleil, a nobody who becomes the talk of the town when he develops the ability to walk through walls.

Amour harnesses a perfect balance of romance and comedy, with some of the funniest lyrics hidden within delicious ballads. Michel LeGrand’s score is meticulous, with constant changesof time-signature and style, and lyrics that rival that of Sondheim. It takes a while to acclimatise, but by the end of the show we are left yearning for more of its twists and turns.

The entire company is a joy, expertly assembled by Danielle Tarento. This is a real ensemble effort and Hannah Chiswick’s direction allows every cast member to shine throughout. She and choreographer Matt Cole ask a lot of their cast, cycling and climbing walls, all whilst delivering stunning vocals.

Gary Tushaw’s vibrato can be coarse at times, but his performance as Dusoleil/Passepartout is sublime. Dusoleil is shy and retiring amongst his colleagues, but in his own space, he blossoms, and Tushaw really soars when the score allows for it. His material is tricky but delivered expertly, and the audience is behind him all the way. There was a communal sigh when, finally meeting Passepartout, Isabelle (Anna O’Byrne) says “you are not what I imagined”.

Claire Machin delivers yet another wonderful turn, both as dull office-worker Claire and the Whore. Her duet with Elissa Churchill – soaring ballad and ode to the incarcerated Dusoleil packed full of double entendre – is one of the highlights of the show. Later, Machin delights with “Whore’s Lament”, swinging from a ladder whilst recalling the woes of being an older lady of the night.

Jordan Li-Smith leads the band masterfully, and special mention must go to Andrew Johnson for his sound design. So often Fringe and Off-West End productions suffer from poor balance and drowned-out vocals. Here, we need to hear every single lyric, and we absolutely do.

Everything about this production is carefully calculated, and it is abundantly
clear that this creative team are a tight unit, working in harmony to bring this hidden gem to life. The staging is a treat in itself, and we very quickly forget that this is essentially just a collection of chairs. I particularly loved the use of bunting lights, which swell as Passepartout moves through physical matter to finally be with his love. This, coupled with a gorgeous arpeggio from the band sent shivers and escalated the romance to another level. Other shows currently running in London (some with a considerably bigger budget) could learn a lot from this production.

Amour is an unexpected treasure, and it thrills from beginning to end. I implore you to see it.

Review by Ian Marshall

Rating: ★★★★★
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