May 16, 2015

An American in Paris

Palace Theatre
May 9, 2015 matinee

This past weekend, I saw a performance of An American in Paris, which was nominated for a whopping twelve Tony Awards this season. Based on the 1951 musical film starring Gene Kelly and Leslie Caron, An American in Paris is comprised of the musical works of George and Ira Gershwin. The storyline follows an American World War II veteran named Jerry Mulligan as he falls for a young Parisian dancer, Lise Dassin. However, Lise is inconveniently betrothed to the French singer, Henri Baurel, who is conveniently questioning his sexuality as he pursues a career as a performer. Though it seems complicated from a superficial perspective, the storyline is actually quite simple- perhaps too simple. Fortunately, the production abounds with exquisite choreography that adds layer and depth to the rather unambiguous plot. 

As I was sitting in the Palace Theatre, I felt as though I had been transported to another era, not just to 1940’s Paris, but to another era of theatre. The dearth of flashy, extravagant sets and the simplicity of the orchestrations and lighting were refreshing in the setting of modern day theatre. When old musicals are revived on Broadway, very often they are incongruous with the original conception or idea: some revivals are bold and ostentatious in comparison with the original production. This production exudes an authentic energy. 

I was also taken with the effortless flow of the production, a credit to director and choreographer, Christopher Wheeldon. The best word to describe the production as a whole is: fluid. The choreography was absolutely ethereal, led by Leanne Cope (of the Royal Ballet) and Robert Fairchild (of the NYC Ballet) who were both nominated for Tony Awards this season. Although dancers by trade, both could sing and act fairly well, with the most dramatic acting emerging from their expressive dancing. 

Certainly, the choreography and direction of this musical are the predominant strengths, which undoubtedly contributed to its twelve Tony Award nominations. Because I appreciate acting and singing more than dancing, I would have enjoyed more character and plot development through dialogue and song. If you are anticipating a show with a complex storyline or an abundant score, this musical is not likely to fulfill your expectations. However, the production is quite beautiful and authentic, like traveling in a time machine to a 1950’s Broadway theatre. For the consummate Broadway theatre-goer, this show is not to be missed. An American in Paris is a unique theatre experience.  

1 comment:

  1. Great blog, I do want to see this...I have the movie and love it!