Juilliard alumna Phillipa Soo is coming off a deep dive into Americana, having originated the role of Elizabeth Schuyler in "Hamilton" and performing "America the Beautiful" before the Super Bowl.
She's treading the boards again as the lead in "Amélie," the musical adaptation of the classic 2001 French film about a quirky girl who uses her imagination to cope with her loneliness. Soo spoke with Variety about relating to Amélie, and bringing a significant lyrical twist to her Super Bowl performance.
Did you see the original "Amélie" movie before you went down the musical path?
I saw it in high school and I loved it and the character of Amélie. I thought she was magical and inspiring. She made me want to do anonymous good deeds and be this quirky person. She just encompassed what a lot of young women feel, which is being curious about the world but not quite sure how to navigate it. Certainly for me, it more closely resembled my coming-of-age story, and the idea of seeing things very vividly in your imagination and letting that lead you through your life.
How different would you say the musical is from the film?
I think the writers and the creative team really wanted to use the film as a touchstone for this young woman's story. But whereas the film was a love letter to movies, we wanted to make a love letter to the theater. There are things that people remember about the movie in terms of aesthetic and how it looks, but not necessarily so much about the story. Even though the film came out in 2001, our version more specifically speaks to today's audience. Doing kind things for people seems to be even more important now, and holds even more weight, which is why I think the show is so appropriate."
Did you find yourself drawing on Audrey Tautou's original performance for the role?
Her performance gave me permission to access my inner quirks — to lead with those eccentric qualities. It's something we all have, but it's something we don't necessarily wear on our sleeve. She inspired me to access my inner clown.
For your Super Bowl performance of "America the Beautiful" alongside your "Hamilton" sisters, you added the word 'sisterhood' to the lyrics. Why the change?
It felt right for a lot of reasons. We were, of course, already playing sisters, and it was at the height of the Women's March and of inclusion. We talked to our producers, and the NFL was really great about it. We were thrilled that we were able to do that, because for us, it was our spin on everything that the Schuyler sisters stood for and also what we stand for."