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BWW Review: AN AMERICAN IN PARIS at Châtelet

BWW Review: AN AMERICAN IN PARIS at ChâteletAfter being closed for almost three years for refurbishment, the Châtelet is reopening with a return engagement of An American in Paris, following engagements throughout Asia as part of its international tour. This is a very appropriate choice, as the show was actually nurtured in Paris, the first ever Broadway musical to have a tryout in the City of Light itself. The creative process was a fascinating experience for regular visitors like me; and the Broadway hit that played London and that we now get to see in Paris is a very different show. The clever book by Greg Lucas, taking the characters from the Vicente Minnelli and Gene Kelly movie and rooting them in the post-war political context, is much tighter and less melancholic now. Some of the songs have been changed as well, but the choreography remains the same.

BWW Review: AN AMERICAN IN PARIS at ChâteletThe cast is good, though not quite on par with the original. Ryan Steele, who has been an alternate Jerry Mulligan for quite a long time, does a fine job even if he lacks the charisma of a Robert Fairchild and the mischievous charm of Ashley Day (who played the part in London and is now starring in Funny Girl as Nick Arnstein at the Théâtre Marigny). Michael Burrell doesn't quite compare to the great Max von Essen either. As for Emily Ferranti, she doesn't have the personality or phenomenal vocals of Jill Paice as Milo Davenport, the most interesting character in the book. And Julia Nagle isn't quite as funny as Veanne Cox in the role of Madame Baurel. But Zachary Prince is just as excellent as Brandon Uranowitz and delivers the best vocals of the show; his rendition of "They Can't Take That Away from Me" at the end is to cry for.BWW Review: AN AMERICAN IN PARIS at Châtelet

And of course, it's wonderful to have Leanne Cope, the original Lise Dassin, again, owning the part everywhere she plays it, be it Broadway or London, managing to keep it fresh with a waif charm so evocative of Leslie Caron in the movie.BWW Review: AN AMERICAN IN PARIS at Châtelet

Aside from the masterful work of director-choreographer Christopher Wheeldon - whose extensive ballet in the second act will never be my favorite part of the show, partly because of its lackluster costumes - the strongest points of the show are the set designs by Bob Crowley, using light projections as well as the material scenery that they replace, and the creative lighting by Natasha Katz, which remains the same.

Never has this show been as fluid and fast-paced as here. It definitely is a celebration of beauty, music, and art that can be seen over and over without ever getting tired of it. As directed by Jesse Warkentin, the thirteen-piece orchestra (bigger than on Broadway), does justice to the wonderful arrangements of Rob Fisher (and Sam Davis for the dance), enhancing the glory of the immortal music of George Gershwin, a genius gone at the age of thirty whose work will never age in any way. This musical uses so much of his symphonic work (such as the full-length poem "An American in Paris", plus bits of "Concerto in F" and "Second Rhapsody") that it sometimes seems more of a ballet with songs than a proper musical - but its two best musical numbers, "Fidgety Feet" and "I'll Build a Stairway to Paradise" with its tap-dancing chorus, might easily be the most effectively staged musical numbers in the purest Broadway tradition to be seen in the past few years.BWW Review: AN AMERICAN IN PARIS at Châtelet

Not to be missed till January 1st in the at last reopened Châtelet.

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From This Author Patrick Honoré