By Nora Dominick ‘17/Emertainment Monthly Assistant Stage Editor
S’Wonderful. S’Marvelous. An American in Paris has danced its way onto Broadway and is taking it by storm. With its amazing music, breathtaking ballet routines coupled with monumental set and projection design, An American in Paris is currently playing at the Palace Theatre in NYC and is redefining dance on Broadway.
An American in Paris tells the story of World War II veteran, Jerry Mulligan, who begins his new life as a painter in Paris after the war. He soon meets a high-society woman, Milo Davenport, who wishes to donate to the ballet. When she sees some of Jerry’s paintings on the side of a street they become fast friends. Jerry’s life soon becomes much more complicated when he spots Lise, a young French girl with her share of secrets. Jerry soon begins to fall madly in love with Lise, however when his close friends, Adam and Henri, begin to vie for Lise’s love, Jerry must do everything he can to prove he is the right choice for her.
Based on the 1951 Academy Award winning musical film, An American in Paris is a film beloved by multiple generations. The film was inspired by the 1928 orchestral composition by George Gershwin and the film featured a stunning cast of beloved actors and extraordinary dancers lead by Gene Kelly as Jerry Mulligan and Leslie Caron as Lise. The story of the film is interspersed with breathtaking dance numbers choreographed by Gene Kelly and set to Gershwin’s music. Songs in the film include “I Got Rhythm”, “I’ll Build a Stairway to Paradise”, “S’Wonderful” and many others. The real breathtaking moment comes at the climax of the film with a 16-minute ballet dance featuring Kelly and Caron set to Gershwin’s incomparable “An American in Paris.”
With a book by Craig Lucas (The Light in the Piazza) and music and lyrics by the great George and Ira Gershwin, the musical adaptation of An American in Paris has taken Broadway by storm, and a large part of this is thanks to the outstanding principal cast and as well as the ensemble. The astonishing set and projection design are also remarkable. Leading off this amazing cast is 2015 Drama Desk Award winner Robert Fairchild as Jerry Mulligan. Prior to his Broadway debut this season, Fairchild was known for his dazzling work in the New York City Ballet Company. He slowly worked his way up through the company and became a principal dancer in 2009. With Fairchild’s extensive dance background he perfectly suits the role Gene Kelly made so iconic. He moves around the stage with such grace and ease it’s hard to take your eyes off of him. Every small movement becomes an intricate dance with Fairchild, and he proves why he’s the best male dancer on Broadway in recent years. His well-deserved Drama Desk Award win this year was no doubt because of his extensive ballet background. Fairchild is awing audiences’ night after night and is one of the main reasons ballet is leaving its mark on Broadway in An American in Paris.
Joining Fairchild is 2015 Tony Award nominee Leanne Cope as the exquisite Lise. Cope is also making her Broadway debut. She comes from an extensive background in the Royal Ballet in London and became a First Dancer for the company in 2009. Her irresistible ballet style has audiences’ in awe as she moves around the stage opposite Fairchild. From the moment she dances on stage her breathtaking, awe-inducing ballet training shines as she steals the spotlight in An American in Paris. In the long-awaited dance sequence “An American in Paris,” Cope and Fairchild move as one unit as they recreate the dance number that made the film so iconic. Cope’s impeccable dance skills will surely influence all little girls in the audience to become a ballerina like her when they grow up. She is the face of the ballerina on Broadway and her role as Lise is career defining. Cope and Fairchild have unmatchable chemistry and new and old fans of An American in Paris are falling head-over-heels in love with this new duo.
Max Von Essen as Henri and Brandon Uranowitz as Adam also have outstanding moments throughout An American in Paris and continuously prove why they both received Tony Award nominations this year for Best Featured Actor in a Musical. Essen and Uranowitz shine in the musical number, “I’ll Build a Stairway to Paradise.” The duo creates some of the funniest moments in An American in Paris while Adam helps Henri become a vaudeville superstar. Essen has the extraordinary ability to go from moments of pure happiness, when he’s performing with Adam, to moments of heartbreak, when he spies Jerry and Lise together. Both actors are truly incredible and are creating career-defining roles as Henri and Adam. Not only are the principal actors forces to be reckoned with, but also the entire ensemble creates moments of pure-bliss on stage. The authentic and simply stunning ballet choreography by 2015 Tony Award winner Christopher Wheeldon is nothing without its fantastic ensemble, who just won the Actors Equity Award for Outstanding Broadway Chorus.
Not only does the cast shine in An American in Paris, but the amazing choreography they gracefully execute would be nothing without the breathtaking scenic and lighting design by 2015 Tony Award winners Bob Crowley and Natasha Katz respectively. The City of Lights comes to life as fans are effortlessly transported directly into a newly liberated Paris. The projections and lighting design will define what can be done on Broadway by modern technology as chalk-drawings of the Paris streets are projected onto the scenery and then turn into beautiful, watercolor paintings. Crowley and Katz combine their extraordinary talents and make Paris come alive at the Palace Theatre.
An American in Paris utilizes every aspect of the musical genre to create one of the most exquisite, inventive and wonderful new musicals on Broadway today. Fairchild, Cope, Essen and Uranowitz come alive alongside the award-winning ensemble as they dance their way through the streets of Paris that appear out of nowhere. Ballet on Broadway has never looked so beautiful.