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AN AMERICAN IN PARIS builds a stairway to paradise on Broadway

Roy Berko

(Member, American Theatre Critics Association, Cleveland Critics Circle)

The 1951 film AN AMERICAN IN PARIS, with music by George Gershwin and lyrics by Ira Gershwin, is considered by many to be one of the  most successful movie musicals ever made.  It starred Gene Kelly, Leslie Caron and Oscar Levant.  The winner of six Academy Awards, including Best Picture, it was designated in 1993 for presentation in the United States National Film Registry as being “culturally, historically and aesthetically significant.”

In 2014, a stage version, written by Craig Lucas, directed and choreographed by Christopher Wheeldon, opened in Paris for a two-month run.

In April of 2015 a somewhat reconceived version opened on Broadway for what should be a long, long run!

In many ways, AMERICAN IN PARIS is a traditional old fashioned Broadway musical.  Boy meets girl, boy falls in love, girl falls in love, problems cause them to be separated, they come together, and, of course, they will live happily ever after.  But few, if any, traditional musicals, to date, have resulted in such an elegant mélange of the music, dance and concept as this show.

The somewhat contrived story basically follows the plot of the film, centering on an American soldier (Jerry Mulligan), who, following World War II, decides to ply his artistic skills in Paris.  He falls in love with a girl (Lise Dassin) who he encounters on the street.  With the assistance of a fellow ex-pat, a talented musician (Adam Hochberg),  he reconnects with Lise.  He finds out she is already engaged to a Parisian aristocrat (Henri Baurel), but that doesn’t thwart Jerry’s quest for her.  Lisa, who has a secret to hide, and her trio of suitors, under-go a series of dance and song experiences that eventually wend their way to a happy ending.

AN AMERICAN IN PARIS: A New Musical, is a gorgeous symphony of dance, song, sets and graphics.  From its opening expository dance sequence, to the enveloping concluding ballet, it seamlessly unfolds as a visually compelling production that is breathtaking to watch.

Director/choreographer Christopher Wheeldon, a noted luminary of the ballet world, has so well conceived the production that even the grand boulevards of Paris, a  combination of projections by 59 Productions, Natasha Katz’s lighting designs, and Bob Crowley’s attractively painted backdrops, virtually dance. Added to this, Rob Fisher has adapted and arranged the original music and the film’s score with incomparable finesse.

Wheeldon has created a dance-driven style of story telling that grabs, holds and induces emotional wonder.  He creatively uses modern and classical dance moves to create fine story telling.  He molds together the use of techniques such as “jazz hands” with ballet point grace to create a new style of stage movement.

The cast are all triple threat performers.  Many are well known ballet dancers who can sing and act with amazing skill.

New York Ballet principal, Robert Fairchild, who is Broadway leading-man handsome, commands the stage in every way.  He doesn’t perform that role of Jerry, he is Jerry.  He has charisma and believability.  He has a physical and emotional connection with Leanne Cope (Lise) that translates into their being believable lovers.  His vocalizations of “I’ve Got Beginner’s Luck” and “Liza” are dazzling.  His “Fidgety Feet” make sitting calmly in a seat without tapping your toes impossible.

Broadway newcomer, Leanne Cope, with her Leslie Caron adorableness, creates a charming Lise.  Trained at the Royal Ballet School, she is not only a brilliant dancer but her singing voice is wonderful.  Her “The Man I Love” is note-on.

Brandon Uranowitz has a wonderful sense of comic timing and acting skills that make Adam into an accessible and often sympathetic soul.  He has a fine singing voice.

Jill Paice effectively creates Milo as a sophisticated, yet emotionally fragile wealthy woman who tries to buy what she wants.  Her versions of “Shall We Dance” and duets such as “Who Cares?,” and “But Not For Me” are well sung.

Max von Essen is believable as Henri, Lise’s fiancée, who knows that she is Jewish and was hidden by his family during the war while he secretly was in the resistance.  He has a fine singing voice.

Capsule judgement:  AN AMERICAN IN PARIS, A New Musical, is a visual, dance-driven Broadway story-telling creation that is gorgeous, enchanting, seamless and sophisticated.   It is a tribute not only to the music of George and Ira Gershwin, but to the genius of director Christopher Wheeldon, and the performance abilities of a stellar cast.

AN AMERICAN IN PARIS:  A New Musical, is being performed in an open run, at The Palace Theatre, Broadway and 487th Street, New York.  Tickets are for sale at various sites including or 877-250-2929.  For information about the show go to: