Amour

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Music by Michael Legrand.

Translated from the French Libretto by Didier van Couwelaert.

by Jeremy Sams.

Stage Direction by Ed Rutherford.

Music Direction by Nick Sula.

Produced by Black Button Eyes Productions.

At the Athenaeum Theatre, Chicago.

Amour, an opera buffa, has its moments.

In a small confined space, director Ed Rutherford had a tough time staging the French comic opera Amour. There were times when the cast of nine utilized every square inch of space in this charming opera buffa. Sung completely through, Amour has a whimsical French flavor especially in Michael Legrand’s score that contains plots and character songs, rich ballads, marches, and comic numbers.

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Amour is a musical fantasy about an “ordinary guy,” Dusoleil (Brian Fimoff) a shy office clerk stuck in a post-World War II Paris office. His fellow clerks don’t take to him as he is a too-hard working clerk who out produces his fellow clerk. One  day he discovers he has the ability to walk through walls allowing him to embrace a life of romance and adventure. This ability, he believes, will allow him to appeal to his fantasy love, Isabelle (Emily Goldberg). But Fimoff’s Dusoleil never rises above the ordinary!

This one hour and forty-five minute opera has loads of humor, whimsy with enough charm to be appealing. As an opera, Amour is sung through at a brisk pace offering a challenge to the cast of nine. With a range of vocal abilities moving from ordinary to vocally tepid, Amour vocally is uneven at best. But the committed cast works hard to land the difficult score. They are best in the comic numbers and action-plot numbers. Emily Goldberg, as Isabelle, demonstrated her vocal chops in several fine ballads. Scott Gryder was a comic hoot while Kevin Webb was a deliciously evil.

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But, Amour rests on the charm and shy charisma of Dusoleil.  Unfortunately, Brian Fimoff was miscast as Dusoleil mainly due to his underwhelming vocal acumen. His low volume and lack of vocal projection hurt the production. (At the intermission, several audience members commented that they had trouble hearing and understanding him.)  He also seems a tad uncomfortable in the role. For Amour to be effective, Fimoff needs to step-up his performance by singing louder and projecting more energy, more charm and whimsy.

Hopefully, as the production moves along, the flow will be smoother, the voices will be projected better. Actually, this cast does nice work with Legrand’s tricky score. Nick Sula’s orchestra was tuneful without overwhelming the singers. Amour is a terrific opera filled with magic, humor and loads of romance using a very French story theater influence. At 105 minutes (with intermission), Amour has enough creative moments to be worthy and at $32 it is a engaging bargain. Kudos to Black Button Eyes Productions for attempting such a piece. It sure has its moments!

Recommended.

Tom Williams.

Date Reviewed: September 3, 2016.

For more info checkout the Amour page at theatreinchicago.com.

At the Athenaeum Theatre, 2936 N. Southport, Chicago, IL, call 773-935-6875, www.amourchicago.com, tickets $32, $17 students, Thursdays thru Saturdays at 7:30 pm, Sundays at 2 pm.

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