Monday, May 4, 2015

An American in Paris ****

The just-ended Broadway season blessed dance lovers with two productions featuring dance in a central role. The season started with a wonderful revival of On the Town and ended with this stylish adaptation of the Oscar-winning 1951 film starring Gene Kelly and Leslie Caron. In his first outing as director, choreographer Christopher Wheeldon does himself proud. It doesn’t hurt that he has wonderful Gershwin music to work with, as well as a pair of talented leads. Robert Fairchild, a principal with the New York City Ballet, is simply marvelous as Jerry Mulligan, the GI who stayed in Paris to become an artist. In addition to his impeccable dance skills, he is a natural actor with matinee looks and a pleasant voice. Leanne Cope, a Caron look-alike from the Royal Ballet, would also be a triple-threat if her singing voice were more expressive. The supporting cast is strong — Brandon Uranowitz as the expat composer Adam Hochberg, Max von Essen as Henri Baurel, Lise’s somewhat ambivalent fiancĂ©, and Jill Paice as Milo Davenport, the American heiress who has her eye on Jerry. Each gets at least one chance to shine. Veanne Cox does her best with the cardboard role of Henri’s uptight mother. Bob Crowley’s costumes are excellent and his fluid set design, complimented by wonderful projections by 59 Productions, are amazing. However, the incessant motion of the sets and projections in the early scenes almost made me dizzy. The ambitious — perhaps overambitious — book by Craig Lucas moves the action back to 1945 when Paris is just emerging from the Nazi occupation. To me, the attempt to add gravitas to the plot was misguided and less than successful. My only other disappointment is that there was less Gershwin music than I hoped for. I missed “Embraceable You,” “Nice Work if You Can Get It” and “Our Love Is Here To Stay.” Despite these reservations, I had a wonderful time and highly recommend the show, especially to dance lovers. Running time: 2 hours, 35 minutes including intermission. 

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