On Broadway in New York: Beautiful Scenes and "Fidgety Feet"

An American in Paris (Review)

Dec 7, 2015 at 1:08 pm
An American In Paris
An American In Paris

Gorgeous is the word for the Broadway production of An American in Paris, a stage adaptation of the 1951 musical movie starring Gene Kelly and Leslie Caron. It’s a feast for the eyes and the ears with George Gershwin’s glorious music performed by an attractive cast wearing an ever-changing array of beautiful costumes. Bob Crowley designed the costumes and the set for the production, which debuted at Paris’ legendary Théâtre du Châtelet in 2014 before landing on Broadway. (It returns to Paris for a second engagement in February.)

Thanks to the well-known movie, the story is a familiar one, set in Paris in 1945. Jerry Mulligan (Robert Fairchild), a World War II U.S. Army vet, decides to remain in France and become a painter. He meets Lise (Leanne Cope), a young Parisian shop girl, and falls in love with her — eventually competing for her attention with two friends, sardonic composer Adam Hochberg (Brandon Uranowitz) and wealthy aristocrat Henri Baurel (Max von Essen). As it turns out, Lise is an aspiring dancer and it’s through that medium that this story is told, expressively and memorably.

Fairchild and Cope are professional dancers (he with the New York City Ballet, she with London’s Royal Ballet); both were nominated for Tonys for this show. They draw upon the performances of Kelly and Caron without simply imitating them, bringing their own energy, charisma and (in Cope’s case) innocence to their performances. An American in Paris has a big ensemble, and everyone onstage is eminently watchable, especially when they all dive into production numbers including “I Got Rhythm,” “’S Wonderful,” “I’ll Build a Stairway to Paradise” (a mind-boggling tap number) and the amusing “Fidgety Feet,” when Jerry can’t contain himself during slow-moving art auction. Before long he has the staid crowd up and joining him in a riotous dance number.

There’s not a lot of substance in this show — but the stage pictures and swirling motion are more than enough to satisfy theatergoers for almost three hours.

I attended a performance on Saturday, Nov. 14, just 24 hours after the horrific terrorist attacks in Paris that left 130 people dead. That made for a rather surreal experience — bags were carefully scrutinized as the audience streamed into Broadway’s Palace Theatre after fighting through throngs of tourists in Times Square. The beauty of the show momentarily mitigated the horror seen on TV screens across the city the night before, but in an emotional post-curtain speech, actor Uranowitz reminded the audience of a line from the show: “Love is more important than art.” The performers had spent considerable time in the French capital as they readied the show’s debut for audiences there. With his colleagues nodding their approval, Uranowitz encouraged all present to inject some love into the world. He closed with a reference to Gershwin’s classic tune and the show’s closing number, “They Can’t Take That Away From Me.”

AN AMERICAN IN PARIS is now onstage at The Palace Theatre in New York. More info: AnAmericanInParisBroadway.com.