Falling In Love On Broadway (Stage Thoughts: An American In Paris, The Palace Theater)

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Sometimes, everything just gels. That happens at The Palace every night in “An American In Paris,”  Christopher Wheeldon’s production which is an adaptation on stage of the 1951 film of the same title.  The idea itself is a tough act to follow: Gene Kelly, Leslie Caron, Vicente Minnelli. But Wheeldon infuses this production with some of the most gorgeous dancing in recent Broadway history that for that reason you will be enchanted by this show.  The ballet is threaded seamlessly with the show that it the story is told in three ways : by Craig Lucas’ book, by Gershwin’s music, and by Wheedon’s choreography. Everything matches, everything fits, everything radiates with wit, effervescence, and elegance. Lucas’ book has just enough ham for it to be charming, and matches the piece perfectly. And what else is there to say about the Gershwin melodies? I found myself laughing at “Fidgety Feet,” wistful in Jill Paice’s brilliant singing in “But Not For me,” and Max Von Essen (the best voice on that stage) makes “Stairway To Paradise” soar higher than I ever thought it would. And speaking of, I thought the performances were all top notnh: all well-deserved Tony nominations for Robert Fairchild, Leanne Cope, and Max Von Essen. There’s a youthfulness in Fairchild’s performace that differs it from kelly’s so after two minutes, I have all but forgotten Kelly’s ghosts. And Cope has surprising layers in her acting – those doe-eyed glance showing hope, hopelessness, and vulnerability. And I think I would cry if Von Essen loses on Tony night: I loved his performance so much I found myself rooting for his Henri to end up with Liza. Above all, “an American In Paris” has that kind of rare thing that’s hard to find in today’s musicals: romance. Just plain old-fashioned romance. It made me want to go out on 47th looking for someone to kiss. Even on Broadway, love is hard to find.

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