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Gorgeous “An American in Paris” tour (review) November 16, 2017

Posted by ronannarbor in Broadway Musicals, Broadway Tour.
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The current tour of “An American in Paris” is now at The Wharton Center in East Lansing, and it is gorgeous from top to bottom. I have previously raved about this musical when I saw it in NYC, and many know my thoughts on the travesty that was awarding “Fun Home” Best Musical 2015 instead of Paris. It’s simply one of the best new musicals out there, and this tour is scrumptious. In some ways it is better than the Broadway incarnation.

You might be familiar with the Gene Kelly movie that won the Academy Award for Best Picture in 1951 – and if not, you really should be. Then came a Paris-based production of this musical with its international design team and tour-de-force direction and choreography by Christopher Wheeldon and its eventual transfer to Broadway with most of that cast and production team intact.

To put it simply, just don’t miss this Gershwin-laced, ballet-infused mega-hit. It’s the best dance musical since the original 42nd Street, and it will lift you out of your seat and into musical theater heaven for a few hours.

McGee Maddox dances a wonderful Jerry, and his singing is stronger than that of Bobby Fairchild on Broadway. Also magnificent is Allison Walsh as Lise who dances, sings, and acts beautifully. Matthew Scott is terrific as Adam, as is Ben Michael as Henri and Kirsten Scott as Milo. Bravo, Brava, and all that rot…or Merde as they wish you in France.

The entire supporting ensemble cast is superb, and once the musical launches into its many production numbers, the energy and talent is stratospheric. It is remarkable work by very talented ballet-based dancers.

But its also an evening in which all the scene changes are also choreographed and the set and costume design by Bob Crowley is beautiful (some of the best you will ever see) as is the projection design by 59 Productions, This is a work of art from both a performance as well as a technical design point of view.

Finally, let me mention Christopher Wheeldon again — this isn’t simple stage choreography; this is masterful ballet and it soars in its solos, duets, ensemble intertwining, and every moment of this musical moves – and it will move you or you have a heart of stone. His direction is superior – he knows not only how to move the production along at high energy levels, but guarantees that the audience is looking exactly where he wants you to look. In a full-stage ensemble number, watch how cleverly he manipulates bodies, arms, and legs, so that the audience eye goes directly to some small detail that he wants you to see in the midst of the cast. You won’t miss papa Baurel burst into spontaneous dance, nor mama Baurel do the same and instantly gather herself in repose. Magnificent.

Very Highest Recommendation.

An American in Paris continues at The Wharton Center through November 19th. It returns to Detroit’s Fisher Theatre November 28th through December 10th.

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Visually stunning ballet-based “An American in Paris” arrives in NYC (preview review) March 15, 2015

Posted by ronannarbor in Broadway Musicals, musical theater, Musicals.
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I had the opportunity to see the new “An American in Paris” in preview last night in NYC. It already feels finished (the show ran for several months in Paris, with the exact same cast, crew, and designers) where it received raves. Its going to be the talk of the town once it opens, and apparently already is — the audience last night was filled with a virtual who’s-who of New York ballet and Broadway dance professionals.

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Ballet choreographer Christopher Wheeldon (and if you don’t know who he is, you better do a quick Google search, he’s a name every dance aficionado instantly recognizes) directs and choreographs his first Broadway musical (or Broadway-Franco musical as the case may be) and this production is all about the dance.

Craig Lucas expands upon the original movie script with background stories for each of our leads, and its a well-written book. The musical score is pure Gershwin. There are some great vocals — in particular the work of Max von Essen as Jerry’s friend Henri. But that is not why people will flock to this musical — here, its about the visually stunning scenic design and the dance. Its all about the dance — even the sets dance — things float, cross, move, flutter, sometimes all at the same time.

In general, backgrounds incorporate projections of chalk then watercolor sketches that depict familiar Parisian landmarks — and its all sort of like one watercolor painting spilling into another from scene to scene — with a bit of late 40s avant-garde thrown in for good measure. Stunning work by Bob Crowley, 59 Productions, and Natasha Katz.

But its all about dance here — big, huge, ballet-informed dance. This is not your typical Broadway musical — this is ballet set upon a Broadway stage, and it is simply remarkable.

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Robert Fairchild plays Jerry (Gene Kelly) and Leanne Cope plays Lise (Leslie Caron). Both are lead dancers at the New York Ballet — and their fans will turn out in droves to see them here. While both have good singing voices, and charisma to spare, nobody will mistake their work for acting genius — this is about their Dance — and dance they do — for almost three hours. When was the last time you saw a Broadway musical and wanted the songs to stop but the dance to go on? That is what you get here — in gorgeous, mesmerizing moves both big and small. Fairchild leaps and bounds about the Palace Theatre, and tosses Cope about like a ragdoll — but she is no ragdoll — her dance is precise, emotional, and highly athletic. Late in the final dance sequence, Fairchild does his famous vertical leap — and you hold your breath and wonder, what was that ten feet? 12 feet?

Come for the musical — stay for the ballet — and absolutely get tickets to this stunner of a show. I did not want it to end. I am already planning a trip back to see it again.

Very highly recommended.  An American in Paris, Palace Theatre, New York.