Friday, April 17, 2015

An American in Paris: Who Could Ask for Anything More?

     At the close of their curtain call, the cast of An American in Paris sang one line from the show, “Who could ask for anything more?” Who could, indeed?  I certainly couldn’t have. This new stage incarnation of the 1951 Oscar-winning film is absolute perfection. The only thing more I could ask for is to see it again.

     Directed and choreographed by Christopher Wheeldon, artistic associate of the Royal Ballet, the show brings to the Palace Theatre two stars of the New York City Ballet, Robert Fairchild and Leanne Cope, making their Broadway debuts with breathtaking performances. As ballet principals they are unaccustomed to doing eight shows a week but one would never know it.  Whether dancing classic ballet, jazz or ballroom, they are mesmerizing.  They and the entire cast well deserved the rousing standing ovation they received.

     A second element of the greatness of this show can be captured in one name — Gershwin.  George and Ira’a score, adapted, arranged and supervised by Rob Fisher, includes such classics as “I Got Rhythm,” “The Man I Love,” “Liza,” “S’Wonderful, “But Not for Me,” “An American in Paris” and “They Can’t Take That Away from Me.”   The musical’s book is by playwright Craig Lucas. 

     And the story is charming.  Jerry Mulligan (Fairchild), an American ex-soldier, has decided to stay on in post-World War II Paris to paint and live the artist’s life.  Of course boy has to meet girl, and he does, falling hard for a Parisian ballerina, Lise Dassin (Cope). She struggles to resist her attraction to him because she is expected to marry Henri Baurel (Max von Essen), a Frenchman whose family is sending him — and they hope her — to America to run one of their textile factories.  We find out in the second act why Lise feels obligated to marry Henri.

     To complicate matters, but only slightly, another America also is captivated by Lise, Adam Hochberg, played with delightful comic flare by Brandon Uranowitz. Adam composes the music for Lise’s ballet while Jerry creates the designs. 

     And speaking of designs, Bob Crowley’s sets, along with 59 Productions’ projections, are multidimensional feats of creativity, combining the realistic and abstract, brought to life by Natasha Katz’s lighting.  I sighed with delight with their scene beside the Seine, with two boats floating on the bright blue river. It was lovely, and a perfect setting for Jerry to woo Lise with “Liza.”  Ahh, so romantic.

     Crowley also did the exquisite costumes.  I loved the full-skirted sherbet-colored dresses in the Galleries Lafayette scene, a lively number in which Jerry goes to the famed department store to court Lise, a shopgirl there, and  shoppers and clerks end up dancing in the aisles and atop the counters.  S'Wonderful! 

     An American in Paris had its world premiere in Paris in December.  How blessed we are now to have it in New York.    

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