Buddy

Christopher Wheeldon Takes On Gene Kelly and Leslie Caron

317 posts in this topic

His approach to the music didn't seem to be from counts or beats, but rather from some internal relationship he had with the band.

That's nicely put, mimsyb.

. No, it’s not what I would strongly and literally associate with Gene Kelly, but that doesn’t mean that it couldn’t be very successful

True, Buddy, and in that respect a literal side-by-side comparison isn't necessarily helpful. But I don't think anyone expects Fairchild to replicate Kelly's style literally. I hope that Fairchild will make his own kind of impact. He has a boyish openness that's already quite different from Kelly. It is, to me, interesting to observe how Fairchild's classical training lends new accents and emphases to a different kind of choreography.

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A question -- I've always looked at American in Paris as a specifically post-war film -- beyond the details of the plot, the characters were all tempered by that global experience. Any thoughts about how Fairchild will look in that context?

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Fairchild is young but he's not too young to be a veteran. I don't see it as a problem (?)

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I'm not thinking of it specifically as an age thing (though he does look younger to me than Kelly did in the film) but more of a physical thing -- Fairchild seems a bit more slight to me than Kelly.

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I'm not thinking of it specifically as an age thing (though he does look younger to me than Kelly did in the film) but more of a physical thing -- Fairchild seems a bit more slight to me than Kelly.

Fairchild is less "beefy" and compact than Kelly was. I think Kelly will be hard to compare to, in terms of dancing style, but I think Fairchild could do a commendable job. I can't wait to see it.

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I've already got four tickets to see it in two stints in Paris. I love to see how these things grow into themselves ... and grateful not to have to fly to New York to see the wonderful Mr. Fairchild.

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More preview articles are appearing. This is from one of them.

“With the movie as a "launching point", the original Gershwin score, a big dose of Gene Kelly inspiration and brand new choreography and scenography, "An American in Paris" hopes to get a whole new generation of audiences tapping along.

"Gene Kelly embodied that kind of style, that jazz style and the tap... and the sort of combination of those with ballet and with my more contemporary vision of ballet kind of blends lots of ingredients in making a new cake." [Christopher Wheeldon]

“Wheeldon said he wanted to evoke a sense of "the city after the war, after the occupation, rebuilding. I wanted it to feel like Paris... we spent a lot of time in making the neighbourhood.””

http://www.thelocal.fr/20141117/an-american-in-paris-musical-to-premiere-in-paris

(thanks to BalletcoForum)

Added:

This is an article by Gene Kelly's wife and biographer giving some very interesting insight into the making of the movie and expressing her desire that Gene Kelly be given proper recognition.

“As Leslie Caron confirmed when asked to comment about Minnelli's role shooting the picture, "Oh, no, it was Gene Kelly behind the camera!””

http://www.huffingtonpost.com/patricia-ward-kelly/an-american-in-paris-without-gene-kelly_b_6155522.html

(thanks again to BalletcoForum)

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Thank you for those links, Buddy. I am glad to see Mrs. Kelly fighting her husband's corner, although I note that she isn't his biographer just yet - she's been promising that book for years, and it is long overdue. I don't doubt that Kelly was a dominating presence behind the camera for An American in Paris, but the movie also reflects Minnelli's visual style. Nice to see Kelly giving credit to Alan Jay Lerner's screenplay.

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I was there at opening night. This is my first chance to post anything.

It’s a fine and very sympathetic production. There’s a lot to like here. Some parts are absolutely outstanding.
My sentimental favorite has to be Leanne Cope as Lise. She radiates Leslie Caron. She is lovable, precious and highly talented. She sings beautifully. She’s in three songs including a solo and a duet. Her acting (with a French accent) is first rate. Her dancing, of course, is excellent. Interestingly, Sara Esty, whom I like very much, formerly Miami City Ballet, is her understudy backup.
Robert Fairchild sings fine, much better than I was expecting. He’s in five songs, including one duet. His acting is also fine. If he doesn’t project quite as much as the theatrical professionals alongside, it might actually add to the reserved, somewhat innocent charm of his character. And his dancing, naturally, is the best.
The play seems evenly balanced between song and dance, drama and ballet. It’s a Broadway musical comedy. Much, if not all, of the supporting cast seems to be from Broadway and the main supporting actors/actresses do a lot to solidify everything. They include Brandon Uranowitz (Adam Hochberg), Max von Essen (Henri Baurel) and Jill Pace (Milo Davenport). The Livret by Craig Lucas works fine. Not all the songs are from the movie, but they’re all Gershwin.
The scenery (with lots of projected imagery), created by Bob Crowly, is perhaps the most artistically outstanding element of the production. It’s great !
My favorite part is when Leanne Cope is seen dancing, through projection, in several large mirrors. She appears in one and then another as a silvery image. Each sequence is brief, very 21st century and captivating. It all lasts about five minute and is probably meant to reflect the movie scene where Henri is describing Lise and she appears in different costumes and settings. The staging here is absolutely brilliant !
The movie’s seventeen minute dance sequence is reinterpreted very well by Christopher Wheeldon. All the play’s ballet dancing has fine moments of Wheeldon creativity. Sam Davis is given credit for “Dance Arrangements” in four of the song and dance numbers.
If someone were to ask for suggestions, they might consider slightly streamlining the first act. Also highlighting more and spiffying up the Christopher Wheeldon choreography would be nice, but maybe this isn’t the emphasis that they want. Still, it could make it one of a kind very special.
The audience seemed to enjoy it greatly. It runs for about three hours including one intermission. Everything was translated into french by an overhead printout as at an opera. I believe that there were four enthusiastic curtain calls.
This is a sincere, highly professional and first class effort by everyone. With a bit of time and some tweaking it could be a classic. It grows more dear in my mind with each recollection.
Added:
"Sous le charme d' ['Under the spell of....'] "Un Americain a Paris"...."
There are two preview video clips included.
(thanks to Dansomanie)
Correction made to post: Jill Pace is the actress and Milo Davenport is her character, not the reverse.

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Here is something that you might enjoy.

Robert Fairchild: (Nov 22. Opening night)

“ Did that really happen??? Omg. Words fail. Ok let's do it again!!!!!! “

And apparently there was an invited dress rehearsal Friday night.

Leanne Michelle Cope:

“ I had the time of my life tonight and this is just the beginning. ”

Max von Essen

“ Joy, thrill, relief & everything in between. We did it!! Merci. I will NEVER forget this night! “

https://twitter.com/robbiefairchild

Sara Esty

“ Final dress tonight and first preview tomorrow. Not even a hashtag can explain the excitement!!!! “

https://twitter.com/estygrl

And who could this be ?

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Sorry, I can't resist this one.

There's an excellent program that I bought in french. Hopefully it’ll be reproduced in english. It has about 100 pages of text among other things.

Perhaps the most insightful remark comes from Leslie Caron’s mother when her daughter, only eighteen years old, was considering moving from France to LA to be in the film.

“ And, whatever you do, don’t marry Mickey Rooney ! “

If you’re up in heaven somewhere, please forgive me, Mickey. flowers.gif

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Nice two minute video clip posted by the company.

“The cast talks characters, and we get a glimpse of previews in Paris!”

Robert Fairchild — “I’m on Cloud Nine, I really am.”

Christopher Wheeldon — “I’m elated actually.”

By the way, that’s me, 0:19, second balcony, front row, second bay from the right, sitting down and looking through my trusty theater glasses. Always wanted to be a part of a great Broadway production.

https://twitter.com/AmericanInParis

and

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Something that is made quite apparent in “The cast talks characters” video clip is that the artists see their roles as developing. My feeling after viewing the first performance is that it should not be set in stone, perhaps never. In fact the Paris series is officially called A Preview.

The foundations are excellent. The scenery is an artistic masterpiece, probably best left alone. The fine professionalism of the backup actors/actresses reinforces everything. The choreographic brilliance of Christopher Wheeldon is a gold mine of possibilities that’s always worth ongoing exploration, expansion, transformation, and finally, development in presentation.

The two star performers are a fascinating choice. They come from the world of ballet and that's their strength. Their dancing stands out as something very special in the overall progression. Yet, Leanne Cope may have already proven herself to be an actress, singer and theatrical phenomenon of huge ability, perhaps not very different in background and promise from Leslie Caron herself. Robert Fairchild did much better as an actor and a singer than I would have hoped for. I think that not only can he grow even more, but that his essence is endearing and almost enough in itself.

The creative 'support team' has succeeded impressively. This includes staging, story, music, costumes, specialized choreography and everything else.

The fact that someone entrusted Christopher Wheeldon, with no previous experience as a theatrical director, to oversee such a considerable project speaks for itself. Not only does he seem to have succeeded admirably, but he’s also integrated his choreographic prowess into the artistic mix.

From my first viewing, the choreography, alone, is worth great attention and respect. It’s subtlety infused throughout and at critical points, the center of everything. It’s a world in itself as well as a world within a world.

So I’ll be fascinated to see where this all goes. I read in a recent interview, that the New York critics, for one, tend to only review the opening and not comment after that. I think that a presentation such as this is definitely worth returning to, as I hope to within a year, for possibly new and rewardingly different discovery. Most important, perhaps, is that it’s off to a very fine start and has already made the Paris audience very happy in the process.

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Nice two minute video clip posted by the company.

“The cast talks characters, and we get a glimpse of previews in Paris!”

Robert Fairchild — “I’m on Cloud Nine, I really am.”

Christopher Wheeldon — “I’m elated actually.”

By the way, that’s me, 0:19, second balcony, front row, second bay from the right, sitting down and looking through my trusty theater glasses. Always wanted to be a part of a great Broadway production.

https://twitter.com/AmericanInParis

and

A brief but compelling performance

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Hey, forget them! How did you like my two second Broadway debut?

thanks.GIFthanks.GIF

And forget that girl on the counter. She's dangerous.

Yes, they do perform wonderfully and are a breath of fresh air as well.

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For anyone who might be interested.

Musical Numbers and Ballets

Act I

Love Is Here to Stay (entire company)

Concerto in F for piano and orchestra (ballet)

I Got Rhythm* (Henri, Adam, Jerry and Ensemble)

Second Prelude for piano

Beginner’s Luck* (Jerry and Ensemble)

The Man I Love (Lise)

Liza* (Jerry and Lise)

’S Wonderful (Adam, Henri, Jerry and Ensemble)

Soon (Milo)

Second Rhapsody for piano and orchestra (ballet)

Act II

Fidgety Feet* (Jerry, Adam and Ensemble)

Who Cares (Milo, Adam, and Henri)

For You, For Me, For Evermore (Lise, Henri, Jerry and Milo)

But Not For Me (Adam and Milo)

I’ll Build A Stairway To Paradise* (Henri, Adam, and Ensemble)

An American in Paris (ballet)

Love is Here to Stay (entire company)

They Can’t Take That Away From Me (Adam)

Epilogue Ballet

* Dance Arrangements by Sam Davis

Also in Dance Times, December

Gerald Dowler interviews The Royal Ballet’s Leanne Cope and choreographer Christopher Wheeldon about his new stage version of An American in Paris:

Wheeldon: “Certainly working on narrative dance, exploring text and character development has been a great way in to learning how to shape the book for American and direct the actors. I think it goes both ways though. We staged American last year as a studio workshop right before I started working on The Winter’s Tale and I definitely found myself approaching the process differently, probing much deeper into character and how to build movement that feels like it is naturally emerging from text. This has been an incredible learning experience that will inform how I work from here on…”

A digital copy can be purchased here.

http://www.dancing-times.co.uk/news/item/1679-december_2014

In one of the video clips posted above (3 minutes approx) the comments are dubbed over in french. If you want to hear them in uninterrupted english start here at 3:20.

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Leanne Cope Interview

What do you see as your biggest challenge to come?

LC: How I see myself — Leanne the ballet dancer or Leanne the actress?

[Once again very much like Leslie Caron. According to her autobiographical excerpt in the Paris program Leslie Caron was not at all interested in Gene Kelly’s offer. She wanted to stay a ballet dancer. Only to satisfy her mother’s insistence that it would be a more secure future did she audition. She then went on to make 70 movies. Leanne Cope is now 30 with 11years at the Royal Ballet. Leslie Caron was only 18. Still….]

LC: ….it is the opportunity of lifetime, I can’t wait. I am so excited.

http://www.dancing-times.co.uk/news/item/1679-december_2014

If some of you, like myself, were wondering how Christopher Wheeldon became a theatrical director and to what extent he actually involves himself, this gives us some idea.

“So, when producers approached him after the premiere of his Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland for the Royal Ballet in 2011, the prospect of a reworked version was too tempting to pass up.

“The team wanted An American in Paris to be the vision of a single director-choreographer but Wheeldon initially resisted the offer to direct. “At the beginning I felt so far out of my comfort zone that I couldn’t even see it,” he says of directing actors as well as dancers. “Talk about a learning curve – it’s been like a vertical climb.”

“I’ve fine-tuned pretty much every penny on the show, down to what kind of paint goes on the sets.”

“For the time being, however, Wheeldon is content with being a “lucky visitor” in musical theatre. “I hope they’ll let me stay,” he says with a laugh.”

He also credits Natasha Katz, along with Bob Crowly, for the Outstanding(!) “designs.”

http://www.ft.com/intl/cms/s/0/05880bde-6e6b-11e4-afe5-00144feabdc0.html?siteedition=intl#axzz3KRp5pg00

“Musical theater has been borrowing from the ballet world lately, and Wall Street Journal critic Robert Greskovic joins the Let’s Talk Arts podcast to discuss.” [ Some of us here might have heard of him wink1.gif ]

One thing that he mentions is that, although Megan Fairchild only has a limited role in On The Town, her dancing has real substance. The moderator adds that in the past ballet’s use in musical productions has been essentially limited to dream sequences.

And in answer to Abatt’s question from Oct. 19, 2013, yes, Leanne Cope is indeed the Royal Ballet’s Jonathan Cope’s daughter, according to Robert Greskovic.

http://blogs.wsj.com/metropolis/2014/11/26/lets-talk-arts-little-dancer-at-the-kennedy-center/

This is certainly an interesting topic that is worth watching for carefully in the new American In Paris production.

[Thanks to dirac for posting most of these sources]

[it appears from a post further on that Leanne Cope may not be Jonathan Cope's daughter]

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Thank you, Buddy, for your review and comments on the production.

“For the time being, however, Wheeldon is content with being a “lucky visitor” in musical theatre. “I hope they’ll let me stay,” he says with a laugh.”

He might well mean that.

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Thanks, dirac. He might want to take Leanne Cope with him. She’s special cargo which should be handled lovingly. Robert Fairchild, being a Principal at NYCB, may want to stay there for awhile, although later on, an acting/dancing career could be a great move.

Roslyn Sulcas has been retweated:

Fun to talk to @robbiefairchild and Leanne Cope during American in Paris rehearsals on Thursday. Tantalising glimpses of the show.

Maybe we’ll see some sort of NY Times article soon. I haven’t found anything yet from the press. I have noticed a picture of Leanne Cope on the cover of Dance Magazine, perhaps next issue.

[spelling correction made]

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And in answer to Abatt’s question from Oct. 19, 2013, yes, Leanne Cope is indeed the Royal Ballet’s Jonathan Cope’s daughter, according to Robert Greskovic.

http://blogs.wsj.com/metropolis/2014/11/26/lets-talk-arts-little-dancer-at-the-kennedy-center/

I think Robert Greskovic needs to check his facts. Jonathan and Leanne Cope might share a name but he is not her father and, as far as I know, they are not even related to each other.

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Thanks, Bella 12. I'll notify Ballet Strategic Reconnaissance London immediately. I assure you that no stone will remain unturned until we get to the bottom of this. flowers.gif

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And some quick insight into the musical choices.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=8p6dE-Jj80A

Again from the Leslie Caron autobiographical excerpt in the program:

One thing that sustained me throughout this intense first time experience: the passion that the syncopated music of George Gershwin inspired in me….the orchestration fascinated me: what sophistication and what humor. And then to learn modern jazz dance was great fun.

Added:

This is a brief interview in french with Christopher Wheeldon in Paris Match magazine. He says that at first the American producers just wanted him as a choreographer. Somewhere along the line they changed their mind and wanted him to direct the entire production. He said that he'd never directed actors. They responded that he indeed had in his Cinderella and Alice ballets. He is later asked in the interview if there isn't a great difference between directing ballet dancers and musical comedy performers. His response in essence -- 'Not really.'

http://www.parismatch.com/Culture/Art/Christopher-Wheeldon-enchante-le-Chatelet-An-American-in-Paris-652658

Et Voilà ! Bravo !

The Mayor of Paris liked it a lot ! -- "It’s very, very beautiful, I’m very proud, proud of the Chatelet….and Bravo to it’s Director and all the cast."

http://www.dailymotion.com/video/x2bh96b_an-american-in-paris-anne-hidalgo_music

So let's dance !

http://www.dailymotion.com/video/x2b3qd4_extrait-un-ame-ricain-a-paris-au-theatre-du-chatelet_news

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Here’s the December Dance Magazine article about the entire production with Leanne Cope on the cover and being the subject of about a third of the article.

"Asking Fairchild to audition for Jerry was an obvious move.

"Some surprises are pleasant ones. [Christopher Wheeldon quote] “Working on a book was something that I’d never done before,” he says. “I’ve only adapted synopses of ballets. But after working with Craig Lucas, who’s been amazing and supportive and patient with me, it’s become something I’ve really enjoyed, creating an outline and then working on structure and storytelling, fine-tuning and making the characters more focused.”

"Her [Leanne Cope] transition from ballet to musical theater isn’t the stretch it might seem. She’d had dreams of dancing on Broadway since before she entered at The Royal’s lower school, White Lodge. So throughout her training, she took voice lessons, and even won the school’s singing competition two years running. (“It’s my claim to fame!” Cope laughs.)"

http://dancemagazine.com/issues/December-2014/A-brit-an-american-paris

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Billboard Times Square

http://instagram.com/p/wH1Yr2RWq0/

The reason that I keep posting this sort of thing is that I think that this production has so much going for it and does deserve all the support that it’s receiving. Another nice thing is that those involved are very likable and enthusiastic (as well as talented). Look in on their tweets with their photo instagrams ( Leanne Cope, Robert Fairchild, Sara Esty, Christopher Wheeldon2….) They brighten up my day. This adds considerably to the aura and the reality of the entire production. We shouldn’t forget that it’s as much about enjoyment as it is about artistry.

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