Set in the picturesque Parisian district of Montmartre shortly after World War II, Amour is a musical fantasy adapted from the 1943 short story Le Passe-Muraille by Marcel Aymé, with music by Michel Legrand, original French lyrics and libretto by Didier Van Cauwelaert, and an English book and lyrics by Jeremy Sams. It tells the surreal story of a shy unassuming clerk and dreamer named Dusoleil, who develops the magical ability to walk through walls – giving him the self-confidence to woo the beautiful Isabelle away from her unhappy marriage, to steal bread and jewels from the rich to give to the deserving bourgeoisie (in the guise of the elusive Passepartout), and to make life better for the locals, his co-workers, and himself.
In 1997, the 65-year-old Legrand – then a noted film composer and jazz musician, but a newcomer to stage musicals – brought the show to Paris under its original title Le Passe Muraille, where it won the Prix Molière for Best Musical. When the English translation premiered at the Music Box Theatre on Broadway in 2002, directed by James Lapine and presented without intermission, Amour received mostly bad reviews and closed after only seventeen performances (following 31 previews), though it was nominated for five Tony Awards, including Best Musical and Best Original Score. A “reconceived” version was produced by Goodspeed Musicals from August 11-September 4, 2005, directed by Darko Tresnjak, and a new production made its European debut at London’s Charing Cross Theatre from May 2-June 8, 2019, where it was nominated for eight Offies (Off West End Theatre Awards), winning for ‘Best New Musical and Best Costume Design at the 2020 ceremony.
On April 2, Amour makes its return to NYC with a virtual Broadway revival presented by Art Lab (Meg Fofonoff) and ShowTown Productions (Nathan Gehan, Jamison Scott), employing approximately 40 artists and arts professionals during the preparations and rehearsals. Directed by Fofonoff, the cast will feature Tony Award nominee Derrick Baskin (Ain’t Too Proud), Drew Gehling (Waitress), Kara Lindsay (Newsies), Kevin Massey (A Gentleman’s Guide to Love & Murder), Tony Award nominee Adam Pascal (Rent), Christiani Pitts (A Bronx Tale), Jennifer Sánchez (Pretty Woman), Thom Sesma (Sweeney Todd), Vishal Vaidya (Groundhog Day), and Drama Desk Award winner Rachel York (Head Over Heels). The creative team includes Jennifer Tremblay (costume designer), Mark Governor (music producer), and Sean Mayes (music director).
“I have been in love with Amour for a long time,” said Fofonoff. “It’s a beautiful show with perpetual relevance about shared humanity and valuing our true selves. While the show was not fully appreciated during its abbreviated Broadway run, my hope is that our virtual revival will make it available to many more people.”
In advance of the livestream, I had the opportunity to speak remotely with cast member Jennifer Sánchez – most recently seen on Broadway, prior to the pandemic shutdown, in Roundabout Theater Company’s 2019 revival of The Rose Tattoo – about the themes of the show, her character, and her experience in performing in the virtual production.
What is it about the show that makes it right for a revival now?
Jen: The score is amazing, and it has not been heard by enough people! I wasn’t familiar with it or the show, and most of my friends weren’t either, but a few who are real “theater nerds” not only knew it but said, “That’s my favorite score!” So it was exciting and interesting for me to work on something that was so good, and so new to me.
Who do you play and can you tell us a little about your character?
I play Claire; she is one of Dusoleil’s co-workers and an office gossip. She’s also a virgin, so she’s always trying to find excitement outside of herself! In the show, she sings that she has brought her love interest some eclairs, and so the production team had them sent to me for the scene. I’ve never eaten so many eclairs in my life, and I don’t regret a single calorie – they were sooooooo delicious!
Did the cast and team ever go into a theater or studio for rehearsals or recording, or did everyone work from home?
We all worked from home. They sent us umbrella lights and green screens and mics, and we had to learn our own tech, which was the hardest part. Everyone recorded virtually, and we did virtual costume fittings. They took our measurements, then mailed the finished costumes to us. I was getting so many huge Amazon packages every day, I’m sure my neighbors must have thought that I had developed a shopping habit to cope with the pandemic!
Have you worked with any of your castmates previously?
I have, with Derrick, and Drew, on some workshops and readings. And Adam and I did Pretty Woman together, and I happened to be on for Orfeh on his opening night, which was fun. There were people I hadn’t met in person before, like Kara, though we clicked right away, which was great because our characters are close in the show. She and I still text – even though we haven’t met in person yet! But I was truly a fan of everyone in the cast and I can’t wait to see and hear all of their work in the show.
Do you have one favorite moment or song in the show that viewers should look forward to seeing?
Yes, it’s a trio with Kara and Drew, called “Dusoleil in Jail.” In the minds of our two women characters Claire and Madeleine, it’s romantic; they have feelings for Dusoleil when they discover that he is the mysterious Passepartout. But for the audience, the song is actually comedic, and these two women are funny – so that’s my favorite.
Merci beaucoup et tout amour, Jen, for giving us an inside preview of the new incarnation of this magical musical!
Amour will be streamed exclusively on Stellar for three performances only, on Friday, April 2, at 8 pm, Saturday, April 3, at 8 pm, and Sunday, April 4, at 5 pm. For tickets, priced at $20, go online. For $129 plus shipping, viewers can also add a special limited-edition Amour wine package from Broadway Wine Club, which includes a ticket to the performance of your choice and a bottle each of Amour labeled Lawrelin Cabernet Savignon and Evening Land Vineyard’s Pinot Noir “La Source.” And you can get a first look at the show here: