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Arts and Entertainment

MSU Theatre and Dance Presents New Musical Co-Written by MSU Alum

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(Poster design courtesy Missouri State University Department of Theatre and Dance)
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The Missouri State University Theatre and Dance Department presents a new musical, "Amélie," based on the 2001 motion picture, Oct. 25-29 in Craig Hall Coger Theater, directed by Robert Westenberg. (The Thursday Oct.25th performance is already sold out, however.)

"It was a French film, came out in 2001, and it was a very popular film, nominated for Academy Awards," says director Robert Westenberg.  "I think it's the largest-grossing French film in history, actually, and an international success."  It was transformed into a musical by, among others, lyricist Nathan Tysen, a Missouri State University alum who was part of the first graduating class in the MSU Musical Theater department in 1998. "Daniel Messé co-wrote the lyrics with Nathan, and the music, with a book (script) by Craig Lucas. And that opened about a year-and-a-half ago."  Westenberg was in New York for MSU's annual Showcase, and saw "Amélie" in its preview run there.  "The next year we went to the Showcase again, and Nathan, who was actually performing in our Showcase, pulled me aside and made the suggestion of doing the first amateur production of 'Amalie' worldwide--because the professional rights were running out, and they were being released to amateur productions. So the more deeply I thought about it, the more closely I looked at the play, I thought, 'What a wonderful show for a college casting pool'--and what a wonderful opportunity to take advantage of its world-premiere status.  And so we fidgeted around with our already pre-determined season and shoehorned 'Amélie' in.

"The film is utterly delightful--you can see why it became an international success. It's about a young woman who lives vividly in her imagination as a defense mechanism against an otherwise not particularly healthy upbringing"--as the Theatre and Dance Department's publicity describes it, "emotionally distant yet overly protective parents" cause Amélie to have a "lonely childhood." "That has a profound affect on her ability to allow people into her life," says Westenberg.  So the story is about her progression to live a fuller life, to allow people into her life. And she decides she wants to devote herself to good deed-doing, and starts spreading love and kindness around the world."

Eventually Amélie reaches out to a young man named Nino. "Nino is a kindred spirit--I say this affectionately: they're both oddballs, both have eccentric personalities in a very 'French' sort of way," according to Rob Westenberg.

He calls the music "absolutely, stunningly gorgeous. And the way Nathan (Tysen)'s lyrics fit with the music, it's an incredibly integrated piece. It's unique: it has a pop sound, some rock in it, some French influence. It has a little bit of art song in it as well.  But it has its own voice that is consummately unique and distinct for the piece--and, I think, absolutely right for the world of Amélie.  Much of the show takes place in her imagination, so much of the music is going to reflect that."

Performances of 'Amélie' are Thursday, Friday, Saturday and Monday Oct. 25, 26, 27 and 29 all at 7:30pm, and Sunday the 28th at 2:30pm, all in Craig Hall Coger Theatre. There will be a panel discussion after the Sunday matinee. Tickets range from $16-$22 and are available by calling the MSU Tix number, 836-7678 or at missouristatetix.com.