I still hear Michel Legrand’s voice in my head: “Melissa! Hurry! Come!”
It was morning at the Music Box Theater, an early rehearsal during the first previews of his 2002 Broadway musical “Amour.” It was 10:01 a.m., and we were all moving slowly, nursing coffee cups in the palms of our hands. We had performed the show the night before and were still easing into the day.
Michel, the three-time Oscar-winning film composer who died on Saturday at 86, didn’t want to waste a minute. He pulled on my arm, speaking fast in heavily accented English, insisting that we must find a piano. As we scurried to the theater’s downstairs lobby, he told me he had written a new song for my character, Isabelle, and it would go into the show that evening. We flew down the gilded stairs, and I sat at his side at the piano.
What I remember most was the change in Michel’s body language as he shared his new music. Once at the piano, he slowed down and became absorbed. He would rush you as if to an American ice cream parlor on a crowded summer afternoon — and then offer you a slowly simmered French meal. I sat as he played, and marveled quietly when his hands turned the melody unexpectedly, a new minor key, a delicious twist that only he could have invented.
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