Friday, June 12, 2015
Why 'An American in Paris' Triumphs
Every once in awhile something wonderful happens on Broadway.
And, no we don't mean this year's Tony award for best musical. That wasn't wonderful, that was just political.
No, we mean something wonderful like when a really "best musical" comes along -- something so beautiful, so melodic, so inspiring and so splendidly mounted and perfectly performed that it sets your spirits soaring and you leave the theater feeling like you've seen something truly transcendent.
When it happens, you know it.
And that's what happens with An American in Paris now gracing the confines of the legendary Palace Theater on Broadway.
In a crass and vulgar world (and amidst a Broadway littered with four-letter words and prurient obsessions) An American in Paris is elegant, sophisticated, wonderfully rich and lushly romantic.
Whether you know the story or not (or whether you've seen the movie or not) makes no difference. Because this is a whole new book and an entirely new concept with the finest dancing, the most inventive scenic design, the most evocative costumes, the best lighting, a magnificent cast of 33 and a 20 piece orchestra.
The romantic post World War II story of a young American soldier, a beautiful French girl and an indomitable European city are at the heart of this breathtakingly beautiful musical. Three men vie for the attentions of this winsome French beauty: Jerry Mulligan (perfectly portrayed by Robert Fairchild), Max Von Essen (Henri Baurel) and Brandon Uranowitz (Adam Hochberg). Mulligan is an artist; Baurel is destined to take over his family's textile business but really wants to be a song-and-dance man and Uranowitz is a musical composer. Lise Dassin (Leanne Cope) is the object of their affections and she is a dream-come-true heroine with a secret past. These four propel the story forward with intoxicating music by the Gershwins and choreographed turns, slides, leaps and pirouettes that you simply will not believe in a syncopated celebration of pop, jazz and modern dance with a bit of the ballet thrown in just for good measure (we are in France, after all).
Fairchild, Cope, Baurel and Hochberg are simply heaven together and you can't help but feel sorry for the two guys who will be left out when Lise finally makes her choice.
Fairchild is marvelously angular, unabashedly romantic and a bit brash. Hochberg is the tortured intellectual with a keen eye and natural talent. Baurel is the repressed only child who harbors neon dreams within a delicate, sensitive shell. And Cope is the lithe and enchanting Parisian who is wise beyond her years. All four of them have been scarred in one way or another by the horrors of World War II.
Christopher Wheeldon's direction and choreography are nothing less than miraculous. Bob Crowley's sets (featuring dreamy projections) and costumes (flattering the mid-century New Look) are a joy. Craig Lucas' book is daringly relevant without being preachy.
And, the entire production is laced with that great music: I've Got Rhythm, The Man I Love, Liza, Fidgety Feet, Who Cares?, But Not For Me, I've Got Beginner's Luck, 'S Wonderful, I'll Build A Stairway to Paradise, They Can't Take That Away From Me and An American in Paris.
It's all absolutely astonishing!
Trust us: You miss this one at your own peril. Don't deprive yourself. Get your tickets now!