A Beautiful Gershwin Broadway Ballet

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Wednesday, April 29, 2015

An American in Paris (Angela Sterling)

Broadway has been going to the movies for so long now that it’s almost surprising that the beloved 1951 movie-musical “An American in Paris” has only now been turned into a stage show.

The man who finally undertook the challenge of brining the Gene Kelly-Leslie Caron romance to the stage is the internationally acclaimed ballet choreographer Christopher Wheeldon. He created the dances and directs the new production, which this week earned 12 Tony Award nominations, including best new musical.

The film "An American in Paris" celebrated the City of Light, but even more so the music of George Gershwin. His songs were integrated into Alan Jay Lerner’s story about an American ex-patriate, played by Kelly, and his romance with a Parisian woman, played by Caron. The climactic dance scene was scored to the Gershwin concert work for which the picture was named. The film won seven Oscars, including an honorary one for Kelly.

Now, given Wheeldon’s presence, one might assume that this stage version is a dance-driven production. Is it a ballet on Broadway, a Broadway musical, or something in between? Wheeldon is a former principal dancer with New York City Ballet and most of the dancers come from the ballet world, too, including the leads, Robert Fairchild and Leanne Cope, who get to do something rarely required of ballet artists — they sing. The playwright Craig Lucas has adapted the original screenplay by Lerner.  

New York Times theater critic Charles Isherwood visits this week to say if the stage version swings — and sings.

Comments [2]

Ann Ilan Alter from New York, NY

The interview was very interesting, except I don't remember that Lise was a dancer in the movie. She worked in the perfume shop, but she had no specified career as far as I remember.
Also, what I found interesting about the show itself is that Wheeldon stays very close to musical dance form in the style of Gene Kelly. I wish there had been a discussion of how he choreographed the musical and whether he consciously chose to expand upon Kelly's choreographic vocabulary. The dances in the musical are more sophisticated and interesting than Kelly's from the film, yet they clearly are quoting Kelly. What was Wheeldon's intent?

May. 01 2015 05:34 PM
Les from Miami, Florida

I'm envious of all who can attend performances of "An American in Paris" that boasts of variety, sublety and intellect, which in my humble opinion, are qualities sadly lacking in most if not all of today's Broadway productions replete with amplified rock bands (at least those in the Top Ten week after week).

Apr. 29 2015 09:05 AM

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