Amour at the Charing Cross Theatre: Strong Performances Bolster an Empty Storyline
Saying cheerio to London and bonjour to Paris, the Charing Cross Theatre is transformed into a twinkling 1950s street of the French capital. Hannah Chissick’s direction of Amour encapsulates the magic of theatre, transporting the audience to a place of fascination.
Based on France’s best-selling short story, Marcel Aymé’s Le Passe-Muraille, the musical fantasy follows Dusoleil (Gary Tushaw), a hard-working clerk who suddenly possesses the ability to walk through walls. Using his powers to do good, our leading man steals for the poor, becoming a public hero. Amired from afar, love interest Isabelle (Anna O’Byrne) is trapped in a cold marriage to the cruel Prosecutor (Alasdair Harvey). Revealing his identity, Dusoleil attempts to capture the attention of Isabelle in the hope of their own happy ending…
Tushaw is a fantastic lead, admirably working at full effort for the show’s duration to provide us with this tragic Robin Hood-like character. However, as with many other characters, I can’t help but feel that Dusoleil is a little under-developed. This lack of character depth limits audience-sympathy and causes chemistry with Isabelle to be unbelievable. But perhaps this is reflective of their odd claim of true ‘love’ for one another in their lack-lustre romance. O’Byrne’s isolated character is played fantastically; her voice is simply gorgeous. Her ability to sit so elegantly on a suspended chair above the stage for what felt like an overly-long period of time also warrants praise.
Tushaw and O’Byrne are supported by a magnificent cast. Alistair So is tremendous in his array of diverse characters and Claire Machin is marvellously comical as the whore. The musical seems to be laden with attempts of comedy but often they seem to fall flat, furthering the plot’s lack of substance.
Beneath the arches of the train station, Adrian Gee has created a gorgeous set which is utilised splendidly by Rob Halliday’s magically subtle lighting. The interesting decision to maintain the theatre’s traverse staging works mostly well, although the audience do have to struggle at times to decipher who is singing.
Beautifully belty songs by Michel Legrand fill the intimate space captivatingly, the real source of this tale’s magic. Clever choreography from Matt Cole unites the cast of nine, with the simple addition of bicycles creating mesmerising numbers. Intelligent use of chairs and luggage throughout the production create visually pleasing scenes with consequential shadows adding perfectly to dramatic tension.
Marvellous spectacles and a delightful score support what is often an empty storyline, with a tragic end that just didn’t translate tragically enough. Jeremy Sams’ adaptation of Michel Legrand’s Amour seems to be somewhat lacking, opportunities for character and plot development have been missed. Elements of this sung-through show are outdated, and I’m left to wonder if the show has arrived too late onto London’s theatre scene.
Nevertheless, the production is a wonderful tribute to the show’s composer, Legrand, who sadly passed away in January, months before his musical had its professional debut in the UK. The cast and crew of Amour have done fantastically to create a visually enchanting and beautifully sounding musical.
Amour is at the Charing Cross Theatre until the 20th July, 2019.
Photographs: Scott Rylander