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Wednesday, June 10, 2015

Broadway's 'An American in Paris': oui! oui!

Leanne Cope and Robert Fairchild in An American in Paris, Palace Theatre, New York

This show is so good it's worth a second trip on the Gold Bus to New York to see it again.


Mais non.

At the Tony awards Sunday night, An American in Paris won four of 12 nominations:  for Choreography (Christopher Wheeldon), Orchestrations (Christopher Austin, Don Sebesky, and Bill Elliott), Scenic Design of a Musical (Bob Crowley and 59 Productions) and Lighting Design of a Musical (Natasha Katz). 

The stars are ballet dancers who can sing (!), Robert Fairchild and Leanne Cope, both nominated in their respective categories, both making their Broadway debuts, and they are outstanding.  But, it's New York where the competition is fierce, and many on stage are outstanding.
Whatever!  The fun!  The music!  The dancing!  The 1940s costumes and set changes!  Oh, la, la!  Your head will spin as it tries to keep up with the action on all sides.

You like dancing?

And Gershwin?

You're in for a smashing night about an American soldier who stays in Paris after World War II and strikes up a romance with a French gal who is pursued by two others.  'S marvelous.  It's a different story from the 1951 film version which starred Gene Kelly (Fairchild's idol).

The big Gershwin hits are here:  "I Got Rhythm," "'S Wonderful, “But Not for Me,” “Stairway to Paradise,” “They Can’t Take That Away From Me,” "The Man I Love," "Shall We Dance?" and George Gershwin's orchestral music including “Concerto in F,” “Second Prelude,” and “Second Rhapsody.”

Mr. Fairchild, dancing, leaping, twirling while he breaks out in beautiful song, and yet, never relinquishing his dashing smile, dominates the performance, and Ms. Cope becomes a star in his sun's orbit, but their movements and timing show off their years of training plus...they can sing.

One of the most preposterous scenes are the jumps and skips from one department store cosmetic counter to another as the counters (and dancers) move in sync with the music, and everyone keeps singing.  You just hold your breath, hoping no one will fall in what seems like an Olympics ice skating competition.
An American in Paris, Palace Theatre, New York

In the audience, those to the right of me, those to the left of me at the preview (the week before it officially opened on April 12) came not for the music (tourists from Australia and Latin America who had never heard of George Gershwin (!)), but for the title, I suppose, and they got a treat off the street at the box office.

Maybe the play is 15 or 20 minutes too long, and maybe there are too many boyfriends (one whose role seems especially superfluous), but these are minor blemishes on this big and beautiful stage.

I think the show will last a long time on Broadway and on tour, likely much longer than the opening stars will dance it. 

Christopher Wheeldon's directorial debut and creation of this ballet musical is one unforgettable event. 
At last count, the Washington Post was weighing in with three (update:  four) glowing stories about the play. 

What:  An American in Paris

When:  Tuesday and Thursday at 7 p.m.; Wednesday, Friday, and Saturday at 8 p.m.; Wednesday and Saturday at 2 p.m.; Sunday at 3 p.m. Dark Mondays.  Through April 3, 2016

Where:  Palace Theatre, 1564 Broadway, New York, New York 10036

How much:  Tickets start at $57 ($65.75 with fee) at Ticketmaster (877-250-2929 or, or skip the fee and buy at the box office, Monday through Saturday, 10 a.m. - 8 p.m., Sunday, 12 - 6 p.m.  Do not make my mistake and buy through a ticket or "vacation" broker which tacked on big fees for horrible seats (first row with the orchestra pit in your throat; ditto at The Lion King) until the people beside me and I complained to the AIP house manager who promptly gave us better seats with the tourists who had bought their tickets moments earlier at the box office!

Rush tickets:  A limited number are available every day.  Cash only.  Two per person/maximum.

Age recommendation:  6 and up

Duration:  Two  hours and 40 minutes with one 15-minute intermission

For more information:  212-730-8200

For more reviews of An American in Paris and other plays, go to DC Metro Theater Arts.

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