'Amelie' to Become Broadway Musical

12:40 PM PST 08/22/2013 by David Rooney

Composer Dan Messe of Brooklyn-based indie folk-rock ensemble Hem is working on the project with playwright Craig Lucas and co-lyricist Nathan Tysen.

NEW YORK – The 2001 French film that became a major worldwide box office hit, Amelie, is getting a Broadway musical makeover.

While no production timeline or even a workshop has been announced, Dan Messe, the keyboardist and composer of Brooklyn neo-folk indie ensemble Hem, revealed on the band's Facebook page that he is at work on an adaptation of the movie.

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"So not the best kept secret, but still I'm happy to announce that I've been commissioned to adapt the film Amelie for Broadway," wrote Messe, adding that the creative team includes playwright Craig Lucas and co-lyricist Nathan Tysen. "Can't wait to share it with you!"

Directed by Jean-Pierre Jeunet and starring Audrey Tautou as the title character, the film follows an innocent young waitress in a whimsical version of modern-day Paris. After leading a sheltered childhood, she emerges into adult life with a profound urge to do good deeds for the people she encounters, while quietly struggling to overcome her own emotional isolation.

Nominated for five Oscars, the film was a massive foreign-language hit for Miramax, grossing $33.2 million in the U.S. Its worldwide box office totaled $173.9 million.

In an interview with Paste Magazine, Messe discussed the challenges of creating new music for a story strongly associated with an iconic film score by Yann Tiersen.

“It’s like one of the best movie scores there is," he said. "It’s one of the reasons why I love the film. But, it’s not what I do. He’s a very different sort of composer than I am. And I’m not interested in doing Parisian music. I don’t think I’m even going to use accordion in my score. The music sounds like mine. But certainly, I’m not playing up the Americana elements either. I’m not having pedal steel and fiddle, but it’ll be hyper-romantic and playful more than anything.”

While Messe is new to Broadway musicals, he and his fellow Hem musicians Gary Maurer and Steve Curtis composed the original score and songs for the Public Theater's 2009 Shakespeare in the Park production of Twelfth Night, which starred Anne Hathaway, Audra McDonald and Raul Esparza.

Lucas was nominated for Tony Awards in 1990 for his play Prelude to a Kiss and in 2005 for his book for the musical The Light in the Piazza. More recently he wrote the book for the musical stage spectacular King Kong, which opened in Melbourne, Australia, in June and is reported to be eyeing a future Broadway berth.

Tysen wrote lyrics for the musical The Burnt Part Boys, which was produced off Broadway in 2010, and for the upcoming show Tuck Everlasting.

While no other information has been confirmed on the development of Amelie for the stage, Playbill.com has reported that Pam MacKinnon, a Tony winner this year for Who's Afraid of Virginia Woolf?, is attached to direct. 

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