Fairchild recalls Kelly somewhat in his sturdy, deceptively wholesome presence. Reprising Kelly's role as Jerry Mulligan, an aspiring painter who lingers in France after serving the USA in World War II, Fairchild looks and carries himself like a college athlete. He moves so cleanly and with such ease that you may not notice at first how instinctively, and seductively, he responds to the jazz nuances in George Gershwin's glorious music.
AN AMERICAN IN PARIS Broadway Reviews
Reviews of An American in Paris on Broadway. See what all the critics had to say and see all the ratings for An American in Paris including the New York Times and More...
The breathtaking new Broadway musical inspired from Vincente Minnelli's 1951 film An American In Paris is not ballet choreographerChristopher Wheeldon's first Broadway credit, but it's his first as a director/choreographer, and one can't help thinking of the greatest work of Robbins as dramatic stage pictures and ravishing movements swiftly and effectively reveal emotions that would require pages of dialogue. It isn't just the dancing that's impressive; it's how Wheeldon places the evening in a heightened reality that embraces a people's desire to wake from a nightmare and get back to the business of artistic creation.
From the first moments of "An American Paris," two things are clear about this new Gershwin musical. First, it is far more than just another Broadway remake of a Hollywood movie. And the ballet world's choreographer Christopher Wheeldon, in his theater-directing debut, has made something special. Just how extraordinary is unspooled all evening with exuberant, sweeping innovation, dark historical understanding and a big, smart heart. This is the most thrilling dance-driven musical since Twyla Tharp's wordless "Movin' Out" in 2002. But "American in Paris," loosely inspired by the beloved 1951 movie, is also a genuine book musical starring ballet dancers -- Robert Fairchild from New York City Ballet and Leanne Cope from The Royal Ballet -- who can also act and sing.
Fresh-faced, attractive and amusing, Fairchild holds the stage in leading-man style. He acts effectively and sings remarkably well. Cope, whose dark, gamine good looks suggest the film's Leslie Caron, has perhaps less acting range, but she can sing and is thoroughly appealing. Their dancing is exhilarating, especially in the big "American in Paris" ballet, which begins and ends as a performance piece by Lise's ballet company, with a romantic middle of Lise and Jerry conveying their growing relationship.
Just about everything in this happily dance-drunk show moves with a spring in its step, as if the newly liberated Paris after World War II were an enchanted place in which the laws of gravity no longer applied. Even the elegant buildings on the grand boulevards appear to take flight... "An American in Paris" is very much a traditional Broadway musical, with a book by the playwright Craig Lucas that amplifies the movie's thin story line, mostly to witty and vivifying effect.
Now comes ballet luminary Christopher Wheeldon, taking an exhilarating leap as director-choreographer with An American in Paris, another show indelibly associated with a classic MGM movie musical. Not only is Wheeldon's nuanced command of storytelling through dance front and center, the production also foregrounds a triple-threat revelation in NYC Ballet principal Robert Fairchild, who proves himself more than capable of following in the suave footsteps of Gene Kelly.
Fairchild and Cope are trained ballet dancers, so every move they execute in this pas de deux is poised, eloquent and technically flawless. But these stars prove equally credible as all-around Broadway performers who can sing and act on a professional level, too. Throughout their last dance, American G.I. Jerry Mulligan (Fairchild) and his beloved Lise Dassin (Cope) hold each other's gaze as closely as they hold each other's body, oblivious to the rest of the world.
Lucas stresses the cultural tensions in postwar Paris, bringing up the painful stains of Nazi occupation... Though heavy-handed and drawn out, he deserves credit for trying to add depth to the film rather than simply recreating it or sanitizing it (i.e. "Gigi"). Regardless of the book, the music is glorious, the visuals are innovative and the performances are top-rate.
The exuberant new musical is helmed with panache by best director and choreographer Christopher Wheeldon. Gloriously inventive and balletic, it has an intriguing new book by Tony-nominee and Pulitzer Prize finalist Craig Lucas... Scenery and costumes by Tony-winner Bob Crowley are bold and witty, with inventive props whirling around amid the dancers, such as artfully aged mirrors to simulate a ballet studio.
Christopher Wheeldon's choreography for An American in Paris, at the Palace, is so spectacular that you have to forgive anything else wrong with the production--and believe you me, there's plenty to forgive... Featuring New York City Ballet soloist Robert Fairchild and the Royal Ballet's Leanne Cope in a thrilling pas de deux that you wish could go on forever, it's one of the highest lights of a 2014-2015 season notable for more and better dancing than has been seen for years.
Thanks to Bob Crowley's gorgeous costumes and sets, which make good use of moving scrims, as well as 59 Productions' animated projections, Paris becomes a recovering city ready to start fostering new loves - especially for Jerry and Lise.
But the reason this beautiful ballet-happy show is so richly satisfying isn't luck. It's about director and choreographer Christopher Wheeldon of London's Royal Ballet. Guiding his first musical, Wheeldon shows a vibrant vision and buckets of imagination, transforming the 1951 Gene Kelly-Leslie Caron film that inspires the show. He's also got a cast and design team at the top of their game.
Where Wheeldon falters is in pacing and storytelling. Often, the songs, dances and the book all repeat the same plot points. At times, the action stalls while the actors move. And an act 2 revelation about Lise's involvement with Henri's family is lavishly unshocking. But if you can ignore the stops and starts, there's so much to enjoy in between, not least some of the Gershwins' greatest hits: You Can't Take That Away from Me, The Man I Love, But Not for Me, I Got Rhythm.
The exhilaration is especially catching when it's being spread by the evening's leading man, Robert Fairchild, a star of the New York City Ballet who here impressively redirects his wattage to Broadway. His breakout performance suggests that his temporary shift in focus could, for musical-theater fans, be advantageously made permanent.
Had this ambitious new musical fully committed to telling its story through the love, pain, rush and insecurity of movement, especially movement that does not have to compete with digitized scenery drawing pictures of its own, and had it more overtly abandoned the usual way of musicals, then "American in Paris" would have touched the heart and soul more than currently is possible. The expanded narrative, penned by Craig Lucas for this first legitimate staging of the 1951 movie, has resulted in an overly complex and less-than-involving story, exploring the residue of the Nazi occupation of Paris.
Wheeldon's approach is sophisticated, especially his decision to cast classically trained ballet dancers for his leads, Fairchild and Cope, both making their Broadway debuts. They're competent actors and singers, but when Fairchild dances he recalls the European tradition of classical ballet - unlike Gene Kelly, who recalls the all-American tradition of being a hoofer. Someone forgot to put the American in this "Paris."
The arrival of two big musicals derived from classic 1950s movies located in the City of Light (see Gigi) indicates either a resurgent interest in the early film oeuvre of Leslie Caron or a lack of producer imagination. Or maybe it's just random, unintentionally reflected in the patchwork-if also lavish and classy-quality of An American in Paris. There's much gorgeous ballet to admire in director-choreographer Christopher Wheeldon's Broadway debut, set against attractive, painterly backdrops by Bob Crowley, but the overall effect is of a dance concert with a semiserious musical squeezed into the cracks.
Visually sumptuous and musically rapturous - and really, what more could you ask for? - the show has so many charms. And yet, like that earlier Tharp production, An American In Paris is fabulous looking but vacant. It's a dance show that features some wonderful dancing yet never takes flight.