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A CurtainUp Review
An American In Paris


The good news that still leaves some months to catch this beautiful dancical.

Another Trip to Paris

by Elyse Sommer

 An American In Paris
Garen Scribner & Leanne Cope )
When a show becomes a long-running hit, the actors creating the key roles often leave to pursue other opportunities. In the case of some juggernauts Like Wicked that play for years, the arrival of new actors to play lead roles renews interests and invigorates ticket sales. Return engagements by the original actors of super hits like Phantom of the Opera and Chicago also keep the buzz going. Lin-Manuel Miranda who originated the title role in Hamilton will turn the role over to his long-time understudy Javier Munoz next month. But don't be surprised if he returns for brief runs in the many seasons this mega-smash will remain on Broadway. More replacements for key roles are also in the offing.

There are times, of course, when the departure of actors playing the leads cause a show loses its fizz. The most famous example: the departure of Nathan Lane and Matthew Broderick from their Hamilton-like juggernaut The Producers. More recently, The King and I survived several new kings. However, when Kelli O'Hara left the kingdom and Marin Mazzie took over, the raves she received for her performance didn't translate to the box office and the show will leave Lincoln Center later this month.

Naturally, no matter what the cast situation, a long run must work extra hard to keep it fresh. That brings me to An American in Paris which has now been running for well over a year. After revisiting this beautiful dansical earlier this week, I'm happy to report that the theater goers who filled the seats of the beautiful Palace Theater are still getting their money's worth.

While the show has a new Jerry Mulligan, the rest of the original cast is still on board (with the exception Christy Morton who now plays Olga) and there isn't so much as a hint of weariness in any of them. Garen Scribner, who's taken over the role of the artist smitten with the lovely Lise from Robert Fairchild, fits right in. Like the other cast members whose background is in ballet rather than musical theater, Scribner sings and acts well. And just wait until you see him and Leanne Cope in the breathtaking title number.

Like Lise's other suitors, Scribner has dark hair but is not as tall Fairchild. In fact, being pretty the same height as von Essen's Henri and with their hair combed the same way they look enough alike to occasionally makes it a bit confusing to differentiate between them. That said, Scribner and Cope have terrific chemistry and their dance duets are gorgeous.

Naturally a musical this dance focused is enormously demanding, so Dimitri Kleioris steps in for Mr. Scribner on Wednesday and Saturday matines; an Sara Esty for Ms. Cope on Wednesday evenings.

Since, except for the single major cast change, everything I said in my original review still applies, I'm re-posting it herewith.

The Original Review
Someday He'll Come Along
the Man I Love
— Lise singing about her dream of a one and only love, surrounded by the two Americans and one Parisian who want to be that man.
 An American In Paris
Robert Fairchild & Leanne Cope (Photo: Matthew Murphy)
An American in Paris is the latest screen to stage adaptation to land on Broadway. To paraphrase from one of the many gorgeous Gershwin tunes, (some from the 1951 Oscar winning movie, some borrowed from the Gershwin canon): It's got rhythm. . .it's got music.. .and it's got superb dancers and colorful, eye-popping settings for them to strut their fleet-footed stuff.

Bottom line: It's a Wow! The book by playwright Craig Lucas is an okay attempt to add depth. Though a bit too convoluted it works fairly well. But whether it's a vast improvement on Alan Jay Lerner's screenplay doesn't matter. Even the iconic movie was really all about the dancing. And the dancing in this new An American in Paris is sublime. Add the lovely, ear-hugging Gershwin tunes (some from other Gershwin shows), the stunning stage craft and performances — and what you've got is a theatrical sweetshop filled to the brim with delectable eye and ear candy.

Set as it is in Paris and revolving around the aspiring ballerina with whom two Americans and a Parisian are smitten, it made sense to open this delicious dansical at the Théâtre du Châtelet before moving it to Broadway's Palace Theater. Though Parisians aren't exactly American musicals' biggest fans, this one garnered applaudissements galore. If the audience at the press preview I attended is any indication, there will be lots more clapping and bravos at the Palace. All well deserved!

What distinguishes this first ever stage version of the movie are ballet star Christopher Wheeldon's (here serving as director and choreographer) dazzling story telling ballet scenes, and equally dazzling design work of set and costume wizard Bob Crowley. There's also the pleasurable surprise of discovering two ballet dancers who not only float and leap with spectacular grace, but who can sing and act quite well.

Robert Fairchild seems as at home as the lead in a big Broadway musical as at the NYC Ballet where he's a principal dancer. Truly a case of a star is born! His co-star, Leanne Cope, an artist with the Royal ballet, is also a worthy successor to Leslie Caron. She even looks quite a bit like her.

The rejiggered book retains the same main characters as the film. The key characters are three young men, all smitten with the same woman: Artist Jerry Mulligan (Fairchild), composer Adam Hochberg (Brandon Ukanowitz) and entertainer Henri Baurel (Max Von Essen). The object of their affections is elfin ballerina Lise Dassin (Cope). She's now Jewish as part of the script's focus on the tensions and still painful memories of the just ended Nazi occupation. (The movie played out five years later).

Milo Davenport (Jill Paice) an American patron of the arts, was also in the movie but two characters added to support Lucas's focus on the lingering post-war traumas are Henri's parents (Veanne Cox and Scott Willis) who were responsible for Lisa to survive and follow in her mother's footsteps as a ballerina.

Like it or not, the Lucas book gave Wheeldon the means to knock our socks off with a breathtaking opening in which the French flag replaces a giant Nazi flag and we see the Company capturing the mood of Parisians joyously ready for Paris to live again as everyone's dream city but also still intent on settling scores with war time collaborators. Along with the dancers filling the stage, we see Fairchild and Cope as they spot each other for the first time. Wheeldon has smartly mounted this obvious tribute to Ballanchine's famous Slaughter on Tenth Avenue to excerpts from Gershwin's "Concerto in F."

It may seem impossible to top that thrilling opening, but the songs keep coming, and the dancing continues to soar and delight. "Fidgety Feet" from Oh, Kay is great fun. And no worries about the great title number. It's another jewel in this jewel-studded show.

The ballet dancers who can act mesh well with the actors with stage rather than ballet credentials. Max von Essen, a musical theater veteran has been given the stand-out role he deserves as Henri. He sensitively portrays the young man more interested in becoming a cabaret singer than going into the family business. The second act's "I'll Build a Staircase to Paradise" showcases his soaring vocals and puts to rest any quibbles about a missing staircase. Jill Paice, another accomplished musical theater performer" is fine in the fairly minor role of Milo but she does get one big solo, "Shall We Dance?"

Brandon Uranowitz nicely bookends the narrative as the composer who gets the girl through his music and does well in several song and dance turns. Veanne Cox, who's always managed to make the most of supporting roles, does so again as the uptight but heroic Madame Baurel, who underneath it all loves singing and dancing as much as her son.

No review of this very stage-worthy An American in Paris would be complete without acknowledging Rob Fisher's handling of the music, the projections by 59 Productions, and lighting and sound design of Natasha Katz and Jon Weston.

If Gene Kelly, the original Jerry Mulligan, could find a stairway from which to descend long enough for a look at this show, I think he'd sing "Bravo" along with the rest of us.

Musical Numbers
Act One
  • Concerto in F - Company
  • I Got Rhythm - Henri Baurel, Adam Hochberg, Jerry Mulligan and Company
  • Second Prelude - Lise Dassin and Female Ensemble
  • I've Got Beginner's Luck - Jerry Mulligan
  • The Man I Love - Lise Dassin
  • Liza - Jerry Mulligan
  • 'S Wonderful - Adam Hochberg, Henri Baurel, Jerry Mulligan and Company
  • Shall We Dance?- Milo Davenport
  • Second Rhapsody/Cuban Overture - Company
Act Two
  • Entracte -Orchestra
  • Fidgety Feet - Jerry Mulligan and Company
  • Who Cares? - Milo Davenport, Adam Hochberg and Henri Baurel
  • For You, Ffor Me, for Evermore - Lise Dassin, Henri Baurel, Jerry Mulligan and Milo Davenport
  • But Not for Me - Adam Hochberg and Milo Davenport
  • I'll Build a Stairway to Paradise - Henri Baurel, Adam Hochberg and Company
  • An American in Paris - Company
  • They Can't Take That Away From Me - Adam Hochberg, Jerry Mulligan and Henri Baurel

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An American In Paris
Music and Lyrics by George and Ira Gershwin
Book: Craig Lucs Directed And Choreographed By Christopher Wheeldon
Principal Cast Members: Robert Fairchild (Jerry Mulligan), Leanne Cope (Lise Dassin), Veanne Cox (Madame Baurel), Jill Paice (Milo Davenport), Brandon Uranowitz (Adam Hochberg), Max von Essen (Henri Baurel), Scott Willis (Monsieur Baurel, also Store Manager), Victor J. Wisehart (Mr. Z), Rebecca Eichenberger (Olga).
Sets and Costumes: Bob Crowley
Lighting: Natasha Katz
Sound: Jon Weston
Musical score adapted, arranged and supervised by Rob Fisher
Orchestrations: Christopher Austin
Musical direction: Brad Haak
Projections: 59 Productions
Dance arrangements: Sam Davis
Musical supervision: Todd Ellison
Music supervisor: Todd Ellison
Orchestrations by Christopher Austin
Dance arrangements by Sam Davis
Music coordinator, Seymour Red Press
Additional orchestrations by Don Sebesky and Bill Elliott
Stage Manager: Rick Steiger
Running Time: 2 1/2 hours with one intermission
Palace Theater 47th Street and Broadway
From 3/13/15; opening 4/12/15; open ended-changed to 1/01/17 closing
Reviewed by Elyse Sommer at April 10th press preview

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