Friday, May 8, 2015

Broadway Theater Review: An American in Paris -- TOP PICK

An Old Fashioned, Wowser of a Musical With a Modern Flare
By Lauren Yarger
I wasn't expecting much more than getting to hear excellent Gershwin tunes. I came away thinking I had just experienced one of the best musicals I ever have seen on a Broadway stage.

An American in Paris, based on the 1951 motion picture starring Gene Kelly and Leslie Caron, brings a fresh, modern feel to the glorious old-fashioned musical and has the audience saying, "Oooh, la la!"

Christopher Wheeldon, artistic associate at England's Royal Ballet, makes his Broadway directing debut and also choreographs this breathtaking show, which looks like a works of art. Within 10 minutes, I knew I was watching the likely Tony Award winner for choreography (and it is, of course, nominated). Dance is storytelling here. Whole scenes, wordless, are communicated through dance and movement which can include something as complicated as ballet or as simple as someone dancing a prop onto the stage. It's amazingly staged and blew me away -- and with all of the excellent theater I see, that usually is a sign that something is VERY, VERY good indeed. Wheeldon;s direction is genius as well as he takes unconnected scenes happening simultaneously on stage and somehow connects the participants. It's exciting and riveting stage craft.

Craig Lucas (The Light in the Piazza) gets the task of writing the book and does an outstanding job of translating the light movie plot into a solid story that is propelled by the elements around it. Three men, artist Jerry Mulligan (Robert Fairchild, a principal dancer with the NYC Ballet, making his Broadway debut), singer Henri Baurel (Broadway vet Max von Essen) and a composer, Adam Hochberg (Brandon Uranowitz) become fast friends in post World War II Paris -- then, without realizing it, they all fall in love with the same girl, ballerina Lise Dassin (Leanne Cope, a Royal Ballet School grad also making a sensational Broadway debut).

As you might  guess, complications abound. Henri already is engaged to Lise, the choice of his parents, Madame and Monsieur Baurel (Veanne Cox and Scott Willis), who have protected the girl during the war and made it possible for her to follow in her famous ballerina mother's toe shoes. The heir to the family's textile business, Henri hides his true desire to be a musical entertainer (with a hidden reference to his homosexuality) from his parents.

Jerry forms an alliance with wealthy American, Milo Davenport (Jill Paice), who becomes a supporter of his artwork and who wants a little more than paintings in exchange for her patronage. Adam, meanwhile, is unable to express his love for the beautiful Lise, who is hiding a secret of her own, except through his music.

Ah, and then there are the George and Ira Gershwin lyrics and music adapted, arranged and supervised by Rob Fisher. “I Got Rhythm,” “‘S Wonderful,” “But Not For Me,” “Stairway to Paradise,” “Our Love Is Here To Stay," “They Can’t Take That Away” and orchestral music including “Concerto in F,” “2nd Prelude,” “2nd Rhapsody” and “An American In Paris" all sound as though they were written just for this story (with excellent orchestrations under the direction of Christopher Austin). The action plays out on fabulous sets designed by Bob Crowley (who also does the meticulously created costumes) that appear -- with the help of projections (designed by 59 Projections) and lighting (designed by the always excellent Natasha Katz) --  to be sketches and paintings leaping off Jerry's sketch pad or on exhibit in a museum.

Fairchild and Cope dance magically and lend decent singing voices as well.

It's S Wonderful, and absolutely delightful in every way.  It's the "don't miss" of the season. An American in Paris has been nominated for 12 Tony Awards, including Best Musical. Other nominations, besides choreography are: direction, book, scenic design, costumes, orchestrations and the performances by Cope. Fairchild, Uranowitz and von Essen.

An American in Paris mesmerizes at the Palace Theatre, 1564 Broadway, NYC. Performances are Tuesday and Thursday at 7 pm; Wednesday at 2 and 8 pm; Friday at 8 pm; Saturday at 2 and 8 pm; Sunday at 3 pm. Tickets are $47 - $147. http://www.americaninparisonbroadway.com.

Christians might also like to know:
-- God's name taken in vain (in a joking context). Really don't let this keep you away.

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Our reviews are professional reviews written without a religious bias. At the end of them, you can find a listing of language, content or theological issues that Christians might want to know about when deciding which shows to see.

** Mature indicates that the show has posted an advisory because of content. Usually this means I would recommend no one under the age of 16 attend.

Theater Critic Lauren Yarger

Theater Critic Lauren Yarger

My Bio

Lauren Yarger has written, directed and produced numerous shows and special events for both secular and Christian audiences. She co-wrote a Christian musical version of “A Christmas Carol” which played to sold-out audiences of over 3,000 in Vermont and was awarded the 2000 Vermont Bessie (theater and film awards) for “People’s Choice for Theatre.” She also has written two other dinner theaters, sketches for church services and devotions for Christian artists.

Yarger trained for three years in the Broadway League’s Producer Development Program, completed the Commercial Theater Institute's Producing Three-Day Training and produced a one-woman musical about Mary Magdalene that toured nationally and closed with an off-Broadway run.

She was a Fellow at the National Critics Institute at the O'Neill Theater Center in Waterford, CT. She writes reviews of Broadway and off-Broadway theater (the only ones you can find in the US with an added Christian perspective) at http://reflectionsinthelight.blogspot.com/.

She is editor of The Connecticut Arts Connection (http://ctarts.blogspot.com), an award-winning website featuring theater and arts news for the state. She is a contributing editor for BroadwayWorld.com and is a theater reviewer for the Manchester Journal-Inquirer. She previously served as Connecticut theater editor for CurtainUp.com and as Connecticut and New York reviewer for American Theater Web.

Yarger is a book reviewer for Publishers Weekly and freelances for other sites. She is a member of the National Book Critics Circle.

She is a freelance writer and playwright and member of The Drama Desk, The Outer Critics Circle, The American Theater Critics Association and The League of Professional Theatre Women. She served as a judge for the SDX Awards presented by the Society of Professional Journalists. She also is a member of the Connecticut Critics Circle and the CT Press Club.

A former newspaper editor and graduate of the University of Missouri’s School of Journalism, Yarger also worked in arts management for the Bushnell Center for the Performing Arts, the Hartford Symphony Orchestra and served for nine years as the Executive Director of Masterwork Productions, Inc. She lives with her husband in West Granby, CT. They have two adult children.

Copyright

All material is copyright 2008- 2017 by Lauren Yarger. Reviews and articles may not be reprinted without permission. Contact reflectionsinthelight@gmail.com

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Key to Content Notes:

God's name taken in vain -- means God or Jesus is used in dialogue without speaking directly to or about them.

Language -- means some curse words are used. "Minor" usually means the words are not too strong or that it only occurs once or twice throughout the show.

Strong Language -- means some of the more heavy duty curse words are used.

Nudity -- means a man or woman's backside, a man's lower front or a woman's front are revealed.

Scantily clad -- means actors' private areas are technically covered, but I can see a lot of them.

Sexual Language -- means the dialogue contains sexually explicit language but there's no action.

Sexual Activity -- means a man and woman are performing sexual acts.

Adultery -- Means a married man or woman is involved sexually with someone besides their spouse. If this is depicted with sexual acts on stage, the list would include "sexual activity" as well.

Sex Outside of Marriage -- means a man and woman are involved sexually without being married. If this is depicted sexually on stage, the list would include "sexual activity" as well.

Homosexuality -- means this is in the show, but not physically depicted.

Homosexual activity -- means two persons of the same sex are embracing/kissing. If they do more than that, the list would include "sexual activity" as well.

Cross Dresser -- Means someone is dressing as the opposite sex. If they do more than that on stage the listing would include the corresponding "sexual activity" and/or "homosexual activity" as well.

Cross Gender -- A man is playing a female part or a woman is playing a man's part.

Suggestive Dancing -- means dancing contains sexually suggestive moves.

Derogatory (category added Fall 2012) Language or circumstances where women are referred to or treated in a negative and demeaning manner.

Other content matters such as torture, suicide or rape will be noted, with details revealed only as necessary in the review itself.

The term "throughout" added to any of the above means it happens many times throughout the show.

Reviewing Policy

I receive free seats to Broadway and Off-Broadway shows made available to all voting members of the Outer Critics Circle and The Drama Desk, the two professional critics organizations with journalists covering NY theater. Journalistically, I provide an unbiased review and am under no obligation to make positive statements. Sometimes shows do not make tickets available to reviewers. If these are shows my readers want to know about (I review all Broadway shows and pertinent Off-Broadway shows), I will purchase a ticket. If a personal friend is involved in a production, I'll let you know, but it won't influence a review. If I feel there is a conflict, I won't review their portion of the production.

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