NEW YORK, Nov. 1 (UPI) -- A delectable musical confection such as French pop composer Michel Legrand's "Amour" is always welcome on Broadway, especially when a show has such winning stars as Melissa Errico and Malcolm Gets.
Legrand's new 90-minute production at The Music Box Theater has a magic all its own that no other show in town can come close to matching. The score is sprightly and sweet as would be expected from the Oscar-winning composer of "The Umbrellas of Cherbourg," "The Thomas Crown Affair," and "Yentl," and the book is inspired by a beloved story by Marcel Ayme, the eminent 20th century French author.
The production values are top quality, with an eloquently evocative set of a street scene in Paris' Montmartre that reveals the domes of the Sacre Coeur church in the background, and with amusingly designed costumes. The music is played by a chamber-size group of pit musicians so that the sound of the show is as intimate as its puppet theater-in-the park staging.
The show -- a fine example of French opera bouffe -- was a hit in Paris five seasons ago and has a good chance of being the sleeper hit of this Broadway season. It is the first French musical to reach Broadway since "Irma La Douce" in 1960 and should not be missed by anyone who appreciates light theatrical fare handled with as keen an eye for fantasy and illusion as that of Rene Magritte, whose surreal paintings are a big influence on the design of this show.
"Amour" is about a man who discovers he can walk through walls, a character created by Ayme in a 1943 short story titled "Le Passe-Muraille" (The Passer-Through Walls). The story was so popular that it was made into a film, and a statue of its hero in the form of Ayme emerging from a wall has been erected in Montmartre. The show ends with Gets, who plays the hero under the nickname Monsieur Passepartout, frozen in the pose of the sculpture and being admired by the rest of the cast.
Passepartout is a timid bachelor post office clerk who admires a girl named Isabelle, a neighbor on the street where he lives. Unfortunately Isabelle is married to a sadistic martinet of a state prosecutor who keeps her a virtual prisoner in their apartment where even the houseplants are in perpetual wilt.
When Passepartout discovers his talent for breaching walls, he takes revenge on a hated boss to the delight of his fellow workers, then becomes a cat burglar, safe robber, and popular hero who steals money for the poor, baguettes for the hungry, and a diamond necklace for a street walker down on her luck.
When Isabelle's husband is sent to prison for life for malfeasance in office, Passepartout uses his easy-access abilities to spend one night of love with her in a charming tumble of sky-blue bed sheets. But when he is "cured" of his wall-breaching, the affair with Isabelle has a bittersweet rather than a happy ending -- like all those songs sung by chanteuses of the Edith Piaf variety in Pigalle nightclubs.
Gets, an actor who played Richard in TV's "Caroline in the City" for four years, is totally beguiling as a nerdy nobody who turns into an a handsome somebody who is catnip to women. And he can sing, too, well enough to have performed with Barbara Cook in her recent "Mostly Sodheim" concerts.
Errico, one of Broadwway's finest young singing actresses with lead roles in "My Fair Lady," "Sunday in the Park With George," and "Les Miserables" to her credit, is as lovely and demure as a china doll in the role of Isabelle and sings enchantingly. Unfortunately it is not a role that allows her to display the full range of her impressive talents.
Nora Mae Lyng is impudently naughty in the nicest way as the prostitute, and Sarah Litzinger gives an amazing performance as a bespectacled nun all too willing to change habits. Norm Lewis impresses as a philosophizing painter, Christopher Fitzgerald amuses as an enthusiastic newsboy, and John Cunningham scores as a drunken doctor who gives Passepartout unexpectedly effective pills.
James Lapine, the longtime Stephen Sondheim collaborator, has directed the show with a sure feel for comedy, and the English translation by Jeremy Sams of Didier van Cauwelaert's original French libretto is wittily rhymed, fresh, and always funny.
Designer Scott Pask's all-white street scene with its unusual perspective is of Tony Award-winning caliber and all the more effective for subtle lighting effects devised by Jules Fisher and Peggy Eisenhauer. Donna Granata's costumes epitomize the show's stock figures -- policemen, nuns, whores, bewigged prosecutors and judges -- but display many original touches. Jane Comfort's choreography is minimal but appropriate to the action.