I have been excited for An American in Paris to open in New York since seeing it at the end of December in Paris. There was a true thrill about seeing the show there, but wow - what a night to see it on Broadway the same day it received 12 Tony Award nominations. The cast was on fire tonight and sitting in the front row of the mezz, I was able to fully appreciate all of Bob Crowley and 59 Productions incredible sets and intricate projections that 'draw' constantly in the background to mimic the drawing talents of the main character.
What a tough year to pick a favorite musical on Broadway, but this is definitely at the top of that short list for me. The movie musical has never been on stage before and it is thrilling the moment you start to hear the Gershwin tunes. Craig Lucas has altered the book from the original film (and the group I was with also swear there have been some changes since Paris which tighten the story even more) and set it at the end of WWII during the liberation of Paris. Jerry Mulligan is returning from war, stays in Paris to be inspired as an artist, and falls in love with a budding dancer.
Let's just stop and say that Robert Fairchild deserves every single nice thing being said about him. He is the epitome of a leading man in this lush and beautiful musical. He is charming, mesmerizing, charismatic and you completely forget about the film from which this musical is based. He is matched by his leading lady Leanne Cope in beauty, talent, and an aura about her that one understands why so many men on this stage fall for her. You can't help it in the audience either. When the two dance together, there is an electricity that you can feel in the house…and the audience doesn't mind when that dance goes on and on.
Christopher Wheeldon has given Broadway a gift directing and choreographing this mix of musical theater and ballet. Dance is used in such an integral way in this piece that you feel as if you're witnessing certain elements for the very first time. The way that these actors use their bodies (often instead of words) to tell the story is wonderful to see. You may believe going in you are seeing an 'old fashioned musical', but you are getting so much more with this show by seeing masters of their craft working in a Broadway house.
The Tony nominated featured performers of Brandon Uranowitz and Max von Essen round out our three musketeers and both bring such joy to their roles, I love every time they are on stage. Max von Essen has a voice that can bounce off the rafters and Uranowitz gets some of the more subtle moments that pull at your heartstring and yet he also has great comic chops. Rounding out the other leads are Jill Paice as an American with a big pocket book and her eyes on our leading man and the always delightful and entertaining Veanne Cox as a very uptight Parisian.
This show caused me to leave the Palace Theatre thrilled that such an exquisite musical is on the great white way - one that makes you grin from ear to ear for the sheer joy of what you believe a Broadway show is supposed to be. I can't believe I was ever concerned that perhaps I had only loved it so much the first time because we were witnessing it in the city of lights. It was a gift we gave ourselves then and it is a fantastic gift to give yourselves now when you visit New York. You'll be saying it's 'S Wonderful & Marvelous too!