Rating: 4.5/5 stars
Just thinking about this show makes me want to put my hand on my heart and sigh. I attended the fourth and final best musical nominee this past Wednesday. You may be thinking wait, isn't this a revival? It hasn't been on Broadway before? Surprisingly no. And the music is even by the Gershwins! It is based on the 1951 movie starring the dashing Gene Kelly and Leslie Caron. I figured I would enjoy it but that it would just feel like the movie. I wasn't ready when it took my breath away.
This show has quite a lot of interesting aspects and I commend the producers on taking some big risks. The book (what you call the storyline and dialogue of a musical) was completely overhauled from the movie. Craig Lucas set this new story right after WWII to show Paris rebuilding and added a love triangle (or love diamond really). The director and choreographer, Christopher Wheeldon, is from the ballet world and it was his first time directing. The two leads, Robert Fairchild and Leanne Cope, are from the NYCB and Royal Ballet respectively, and had their Broadway debuts. What this could have been was a beautiful ballet...and a terrible Broadway show. Turns out Robert and Leanne can sing and act and Christopher's direction and vision was stunning. Oh and they did an out-of-town run in Paris! How cool!
The story follows Jerry (Robert), an American deciding to stay in Paris after the war to pursue his career as a painter. He quickly becomes friends with the smart-ass composer Adam (Brandon Uranowitz) and the French man Henri (Max von Essen) who secretly wants to become a jazz singer (and is also in the closet for other things). The love diamond arises when Jerry keeps bumping into Lise (Leanne Cope), Adam composes for her ballet, and Henri proposes to her due to family wishes. And none of them know that they've all met her. Lise struggles with doing what she feels she should for Henri's family and falling deeply in love with Jerry. Robert plays the "I know you're in love with me and I'm not taking no for an answer" cheeky version of Jerry and he's absolutely adorable. And Robert doesn't have the typical musical theatre voice which is really refreshing. Leanne was so graceful and you could tell she was a damaged by what happened in her past. There's a scene where Jerry is trying to convince Lise to visit him every day at the same time and same place and says "you can be Liza here and you can leave everything else behind." When times are tough, don't we all just want someone to give us that escape from ourselves?
There were two things that really touched me and why I so loved this show. Adam, the composer, is trying to write the music for Lise's ballet but it keeps sounding so dark and depressing, which he says is how life is. But he has an epiphany in act two where he realizes "life can be so dark, but if you have the gift to bring people happiness, why would you withhold that?" YES! THAT! That my friends, family, and strangers is why I left engineering, why I love theatre with all my heart, and why I want to work in this business the rest of my life. If theatre can bring joy to people and make the world a little less dark, why would we ever stop and why would I not want to be a part of that? The other thing was Adam was explaining to the audience (he was the narrator of the show) that love is what matters the most. "That love is even more important than art." It was like someone threw cold water in my face. I'm used to hearing love matters more than money, than your job, than material things. But more than art? I closely associate love and art, but I think I forgot along the way that they are two distinct things. None of it matters, none of it means anything, if you don't have love in your life.
For just a quick criticism paragraph, it wasn't a perfect show. There were definitely numbers where people were dancing and I didn't know why and felt like the plot was completely dropped. I think Adam was a great narrator, but as a character was left out to dry. It didn't make sense that he was in love with Lise and he seemed to be in the way a lot of the time.
Thank you Christopher Wheeldon for doing this show. The choreography was something otherworldly and it was apparent instantly. I do believe Robert and Leanne are some of the best dancers in the world and to be able to see them in this musical is a gift not to be taken lightly. I don't care if you don't like ballet. You may not be able to see something this beautiful again. Their 14 minute ballet at the end had me in tears with clenched toes. And thank you to the Gershwins? The producers? Craig Lucas? Christopher Wheeldon? Robert and Leanne? I'm not sure, maybe a combination, but thank you to all for making me fall in love with love again. I certainly don't consider myself a romantic, but why shouldn't I be? Why shouldn't we all?
Who should see this show:
- Certainly if you enjoy ballet, but also if you just love beautiful movement (So You Think You Can Dance fans)
- If you're a fan of the old-timey romantic movies/musicals
- If you love Gershwin music
How to get tickets:
- I would get yours ASAP, it may win best musical and it's already starting to sell out
- $47 balcony seats on ticketmaster: http://www.ticketmaster.com/An-American-In-Paris-NY-tickets/artist/2047652?tm_link=edp_Artist_Name
- $59 mezz seats: http://www.playbill.com/club/offer_detail/an-american-in-paris