Stuart Oken, Van Kaplan, Roy Furman
By special arrangement with Elephant Eye Theatrical
& Pittsburgh CLO and Théàtre du Châtelet
An American in Paris
A New Musical
(An American in Paris Website)
Music and Lyrics by George Gershwin and Ira Gershwin
Book by Craig Lukas
Inspired by the Motion Picture
Directed and Choreographed by Christopher Wheeldon
Robert Fairchild, Leanne Cope
Veanne Cox, Jill Paice, Brandon Uranowitz, Max von Essen
And an ensemble of actors/singers/dancers
Broadway and 47th Street
Set and Costume Design: Bob Crowley
Lighting Design: Natasha Katz
Sound Design: Jon Weston
Projection Design: 59 Productions
Musical Score adapted/supervised/arranged by Rob Fisher
Press Representative: Boneau/Bryan Brown
Advertising: Serino Coyne
Company Manager: Rina L. Saltzman
Production Stage Manager: Rick Steiger
Production Supervisor: Jake Bell
Music Director: Brad Haak
Music Supervisor: Todd Ellison
Orchestrations: Christopher Austin
Dance Arrangements: Sam Davis
Music Coordinator: Seymour Red Press
Casting: Telsey + Company/Rachel Hoffman, CSA
Additional Orchestrations: Dan Sebesky/Bill Elliott
Assoc. Director: Jacquelin Barrett
Assoc. Choreographer: Dontee Kiehn
General Manager: 101 Productions, Ltd.
Dr. Roberta E. Zlokower
April 11. 2015 Matinee
What a joy to see Robert Fairchild, a Principal dancer in New York City Ballet, in the new musical, An American in Paris, at the infamous Palace Theatre, dancing, once again, to Christopher Wheeldon’s choreography. Every balletomane in New York should be thrilled. I have watched Mr. Fairchild grow, over the years, in style, technique, and charisma, and I’ve always known this particular dancer (and there are others) would be dynamite on a Broadway stage. Now, here he is, and a star is born.
Mr. Fairchild is appearing in the role of Jerry Mulligan, an ex-World War II soldier (the Gene Kelly role in the film, on which this new musical is adapted). Jerry remains in Paris after the War, to paint and follow his heart, as he’s seen a glimpse of Lise Dassin (Leanne Cope), who works in a shop at Galleries Lafayette. Ms. Cope is also a Principal ballerina, in the Royal Ballet. The plot, which luxuriously and lavishly unfolds, largely through balletic mime, with the requisite, sumptuous Gershwin melodies and lyrics, has Jerry chasing Lise (whom he calls Liza, as in the song), and Milo Davenport (a wealthy American socialite, played by Jill Paice) chasing Jerry. Milo commissions Adam Hochberg (Brandon Uranowitz), in the Oscar Levant film role, another American in Paris, a young conductor-composer, to create a ballet, for Lise to dance and Jerry to design. Of course, Jerry appears in this dream ballet, with abstract backdrops, luscious lifts, and lunges.
Woven like silvery thread, into this plot, is Henri Baurel (Max von Essen), to whom Lise has been promised (and, as extra detail, Adam is in love with Lise, as well). The Baurels had kept Lise safe from the Nazis during the War. There is an early scene, with a Parisian street attack on those wearing Nazi armbands. The War is certainly over, and Madame Baurel (Veanne Cox, husband played by Scott Willis) is looking to secure a lovely daughter-in-law for society’s approval. The plot thickens, with Henri’s repressed, gay conflict, as all he wants is to sing and dance in America. A big, brassy number, another fantasy dance within the musical, has Henri tapping and strutting with a line of chorus girls, to “I’ll Build a Stairway to Paradise”. A dozen divine numbers transport the audience, like “I Got Rhythm”, “’S Wonderful”, “Who Cares?”, and “But Not for Me”. Mr. Fairchild and Ms. Cope, both highly trained in ballet, have impressive vocals, with Ms. Cope crooning “The Man I Love” and Mr. Fairchild wooing with “Liza”. But, it’s their dancing that rivets the eye with Mr. Fairchild leaping onto and off tables, ending in tight, spinning dervish, lifting Ms. Cope in sweeping shapes, as she moves her arms and head in rapture and rhapsody. This is Mr. Wheeldon, at his best, as well, in his signature choreographic detail, that expands sensuality to high aesthetic aplomb.
Mr. von Essen has rich, vibrant vocal tones, and high kicking limbs, as well, and Ms. Paice is persuasive as the lonely lady with a deep purse. Ms. Cox and Mr. Willis morph before our eyes, with Henri’s turn of desire. Mr. Uranowitz is in a breakout role, poignant, sincere, and charismatic, as the guy with the piano, at the end of the day. Craig Lucas has eloquently adapted the 1951 film and filled it with flowing romanticism, sprinkled with humor and charm. Notably, the French characters have acquired very good accents. Rob Fisher’s music supervision keeps the tonal transitions melodic. Bob Crowley, set and costume designer, with projections by 59 Productions, give us the Parisian streetlamps, the Seine, a row boat, a luxury shop, Radio City Music Hall, the ballet backdrops, always in motion in lush lifts. This is scenery actually en pointe! Natasha Katz has lit the stage with pure warmth, and Jon Weston’s sound makes the Gershwin brothers’ music and lyrics embrace the Palace with pizzazz. Kudos to all.