This Week in New York Insider's Guide to Arts & Culture in New York City Since 2001

8May/15

AN AMERICAN IN PARIS

(photo © 2015 Matthew Murphy)

AN AMERICAN IN PARIS smells sweet in Broadway premiere (photo by Angela Sterling)

Palace Theatre
1564 Broadway at 47th St.
Tuesday - Sunday through November 22, $57-$147
www.anamericaninparisbroadway.com

Tony nominee and Pulitzer Prize finalist Craig Lucas and Royal Ballet artistic associate Christopher Wheeldon don’t merely translate Vincente Minnelli’s 1951 Oscar-winning film, An American in Paris, to the stage, they transform it. This first-ever theatrical production of the Gershwin musical is set in Paris at the end of WWII, as former GI Jerry Mulligan (New York City Ballet principal dancer Robert Fairchild) decides to stay in France and explore his art — as well as Lise Dassin (Royal Ballet dancer Leanne Cope), a shy young woman who works in a parfumerie but dreams of becoming a ballerina. Jerry soon finds a friend in Adam Hochberg (Brandon Uranowitz), a sarcastic composer and pianist who is training Henri Baurel (Max von Essen) for a cabaret act, a secret Henri keeps from his stern German parents (Veanne Cox and Scott Willis). Meanwhile, wealthy arts patron Milo Davenport (Jill Paice) has taken Jerry under her wing, introducing him to high society — and perhaps into her boudoir. But Jerry has fallen head-over-heels for Lise, who has some secrets of her own — and is also being wooed at the same time by Adam and Henri.

Ballet dancers Robert Fairchild and Leanne Cope dazzle in their Broadway debuts (photo © 2015 Matthew Murphy)

Ballet dancers Robert Fairchild and Leanne Cope dazzle in their Broadway debuts (photo by Marie-Noëlle Robert)

Lucas (Prelude to a Kiss, The Light in the Piazza) has cleverly expanded on Alan Jay Lerner’s original screenplay, not only making Lise a ballerina but adding references to Nazism and anti-Semitism, while Wheeldon (Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland, The Winter’s Tale) does a spectacular job bringing ballet to Broadway, creating scintillating ballet numbers that are fresh and vibrant. The score, with music by George Gershwin and lyrics by Ira, features such memorable treats as “I Got Rhythm,” “’S Wonderful,” “But Not for Me,” “The Man I Love,” and “They Can’t Take That Away from Me,” in addition to the instrumentals “Concerto in F” and “Second Prelude,” all adapted and arranged beautifully by Rob Fisher. Two of the film’s highlights, the dreamlike “American in Paris” sequence and “I’ll Build a Stairway to Paradise,” get the deluxe treatment, showing off Natasha Katz’s lighting and Bob Crowley’s gorgeous costumes and dazzling sets, which were inspired by Mondrian and the moving mirrors from the film. Fairchild and Cope are excellent in their Broadway debuts, dancing, singing, and acting with equal aplomb. And Lucas even leaves in Lerner’s Oscar Levant joke. Sure, “Fidgety Feet” is frivolous and the discussions of artistic integrity unnecessary, but everything else about An American in Paris on Broadway is, well, magnifique.

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