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Christopher Wheeldon Takes On Gene Kelly and Leslie Caron"An American in Paris" - new Broadway production


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#61 pherank

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Posted 15 July 2013 - 11:51 AM

An aside -- pherank's comment above, that Astaire "liked to do his own choreography" got me curious about that process, so I did a tiny bit of digging.  According to IMDB, Astaire danced in about 30 films, but got screen credit for some kind of staging or choreography for 5 of them (and did some kind of "uncredited" choreography or staging for another four)  Hermes Pan (who doesn't get nearly enough recognition for his work) was credited in one fashion or another for 14 of those films, and mentioned for uncredited work several times as well.  Eugene Loring gets credited four times; and Robert Alton and Alex Romero get three credits.

 

Astaire must have been responsible for the bulk of his personal material -- it has a stylistic consistency over the span of his film work that would be very hard to imagine if he were dancing numbers totally created by a number of other people.  But it's fascinating to realize that, as far as film credits are concerned, he was only minimally involved in creating the sequences he danced.

 

Hi Sandik,

 

What you say about Astaire not receiving mention for choreography was often true, but there are countless instances of cast members and dance partners saying, "but Fred put together all that…" And in his Broadway days, Astaire devised countless routines. Under Hollywood's star system, project assignments (and thus credits) were assigned before a project had even begun, so we do see some situations where credits go to persons who had next to nothing to do with a project. Hollywood was (and is) all about power politics, and who you know. Not so much a meritocracy.

Absolutely recommended reading: The Astaires: Fred & Adele (look for it on Amazon.com using the Ballet Alert Amazon Search). You'll learn all about the 'fabulous' Adele Astaire who was perhaps the most recognized star of her generation - now mostly forgotten due to the lack of film evidence of her work. She's been reduced to a rumor. There are very interesting parallels between the Astaire parents (especially Mom) and Suzanne Farrell's parents and numerous other "stage parents" you may have read about. I see a pattern forming...

 

[Edit] I just ran across this page on Wiki that attempts to list all of Astaire's solo and partner FILM dances, and there's this interesting quote:

 

Astaire nearly always collaborated with other choreographers, and except for the choreography of choruses which Astaire avoided, it is generally not possible to determine with any certainty the extent of Astaire's contribution vs that of his collaborators. This is particularly true in the case of his principal collaborator, Hermes Pan, where the seamless nature of the collaboration has been described by Astaire's rehearsal pianist Hal Borne, the only independent witness present throughout the entire process of dance creation of the Astaire-Rogers films: "It was hard to figure who contributed what to the choreography". Borne also describes the working atmosphere of such collaborations: "It was always pleasant. Never a hint of unpleasantness."

 

http://en.wikipedia....artnered_dances

 

So I may have to concede on this point: Astaire worked with Hermes Pan mainly on his film musical projects. And that explains also why Astaire is able to keep "stylistic consistency" throughout these projects. The Broadway work of the Astaires was a different matter though.



#62 dirac

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Posted 15 July 2013 - 01:50 PM

Astaire rarely took credits but he worked intensively on all his own choreography, usually with a collaborator. Kelly, too.

 

Fred Astaire, on the other hand, preferred one camera and one camera angle, if I'm not mistaken, although he used plenty on 'tricks' such as appearing to be dancing on the walls and ceiling.

 

 

Astaire liked to have the dancing presented in full and insisted on it as soon as he was in a position to do so. When he arrived in Hollywood, dances were often interrupted with reaction shots, examples of which can be seen in very early Astaire pictures like Flying Down to Rio, and often the dancers' bodies were cut off at the midriff or the legs. Astaire preferred longer takes, showing dancer and dance to best advantage  - and highest exposure. The camera moved, but it moved at the service of the dance (resulting in the invention of the "Astaire dolly," which allowed the camera to move forward and back with the dancers).

 

As you note, Buddy, he did make use of special effects, in the "dancing on the ceiling" number in Royal Wedding and elsewhere. As far as I'm concerned Astaire is a perfectly special effect on his own, but I do like the "Shoes with Wings On" number from The Barkleys of Broadway.



#63 dirac

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Posted 15 July 2013 - 01:58 PM

In re: the new "An American in Paris," it will be interesting to see what use, if any, is made of Alan Jay Lerner's original screenplay.



#64 Buddy

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Posted 15 July 2013 - 03:23 PM

.... he [Fred Astaire] did make use of special effects, in the "dancing on the ceiling" number in Royal Wedding and elsewhere. As far as I'm concerned Astaire is a perfectly special effect on his own, but I do like the "Shoes with Wings On" number from The Barkleys of Broadway.

 

 

The few special effects that I know of, Dirac, were pretty 'primitive' by today's high tech standards, but still interesting for a current stage production. The dancing on the walls and ceiling was done with a small room size rotating box and Fred Astaire would have to dance from one surface to the other. If anyone saw one of this year's episodes of Glee, the glee club teacher and his fiancee did a dance number where they're all over the walls and ceiling, purely technical film editing, it would seem.

 

Thanks everyone for the additional Fred Astaire information, which is always interesting when considering any dance-acting production. Fred Astaire is of particular interest to us because we are trying to guess what format Christopher Wheeldon's 'adaptation' might take and what skills might be required. Fred Astaire is of particular interest historically and here because he was a dancer with wonderful ballet sensitivity, who wasn't a ballet dancer. He is also a performer who I feel could dance with more grace possibly than his female partners and still remain totally masculine -- quite one of a kind !

 

Gene Kelly was another matter. He was totally 'masculine' and athletic, yet he championed the delicate grace of ballet, without actually going completely into the technique. Both men were very interesting, which gives us some room for our imaginations in trying to guess what form this new production will take and who might perform it.



#65 abatt

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Posted 17 October 2013 - 01:02 PM

It looks like the American In Paris revival is taking shape, with Wheeldon at the helm as choreographer and director.  The show will premiere in Paris, with hopes of a Broadway transfer in 2015.  Robbie Fairchild is in the workshop in the lead male role.  Leann Cope of Royal Ballet will workshop the Caron role.  I'm not familiar with Cope, but Robbie Fairchild seems like the PERFECT choice for this project as far as the dancing goes.  My only other candidate for the role would be Woetzel, but I suspect that he is now too old for this role.  Robbie can certainly dance the role, but I have no idea whether he can act.  It seems like for a big budget musical on Broadway, they would need someone who is a "triple threat".

 

http://artsbeat.blog...adway/?ref=arts



#66 Buddy

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Posted 18 October 2013 - 03:08 AM

Thanks, abatt. So they are using ballet dancers. Should be very interesting to see. I still have Marcelo Gomes front and center in my brain, but it looks fascinating in any case. Perhaps this is going to be a lot more about dance than acting and singing. 

 

Added quote from article:

 

"Among the film’s standout scenes is a roughly 16-minute ballet by Kelly’s character and his love interest, played by Leslie Caron, set to George Gershwin’s 1928 orchestral composition “An American in Paris.” The musical will have its own lengthy ballet sequence, completely reconceived by the show’s director and choreographer, Christopher Wheeldon...."

 

Correction:

 

I wrote (since deleted), "I've only seen Leanne Cope once, but she could be excellent for the Leslie Caron part."

 

It was probably retired Principal, Leanne Benjamin that I saw. 



#67 abatt

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Posted 18 October 2013 - 05:44 AM

Is Leanne Cope related to Jonathan Cope?



#68 ABT Fan

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Posted 18 October 2013 - 09:04 AM

It looks like the American In Paris revival is taking shape, with Wheeldon at the helm as choreographer and director.  The show will premiere in Paris, with hopes of a Broadway transfer in 2015.  Robbie Fairchild is in the workshop in the lead male role.  Leann Cope of Royal Ballet will workshop the Caron role.  I'm not familiar with Cope, but Robbie Fairchild seems like the PERFECT choice for this project as far as the dancing goes.  My only other candidate for the role would be Woetzel, but I suspect that he is now too old for this role.  Robbie can certainly dance the role, but I have no idea whether he can act.  It seems like for a big budget musical on Broadway, they would need someone who is a "triple threat".

 

http://artsbeat.blog...adway/?ref=arts

 

Thanks abatt.  I agree that Fairchild is an excellent choice for this role.  Besides his dancing, he has that charming charisma that Gene Kelly had which is perfect.  I guess this would take him out of NYCB for a season (or 1/2 a season depending on how long he commits to the role in NYC).  But, I think this musical would be fantastic on Broadway.  I'm there!



#69 dirac

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Posted 18 October 2013 - 10:13 AM

Fairchild and Cope are cast for the workshop only. No guarantees for the future. The ability to sing and act as well as dance are  minimum requirements for the role of Jerry. (I don't remember Lise singing.)

 

I note that Chris Fosse is bringing in Bartlett Sher for "guidance and consultation." Probably a good move.



#70 abatt

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Posted 18 October 2013 - 10:31 AM

Yes, definitely a good move to enlist Sher  Wheeldon is certainly an accomplished choreographer, but directing a musical is an entirely different thing as to which he has no experience.  Not a great idea to cut your teeth as a director on a multi million dollar musical. 



#71 Buddy

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Posted 19 October 2013 - 01:14 PM

A nice article and some insight into Leanne Cope from Point Magazine.
 
"Thanks to Liam Scarlett, The Royal’s Leanne Cope alternates nights in the corps with leading roles.
 
"Her rank hasn’t stopped Scarlett from casting Cope in nearly every work he has created on the company. “Leanne is the type of dancer who makes choreographers do what they do,” he explains. “What draws me to her is the one thing I can never explain. She has a presence like no other on stage. Her face and eyes are just captivating.”
 
"In the studio, Scarlett constantly pushes her to do more, explaining: “There are many roles waiting to be created for her, in my eyes; she will always be the first considered for any part.
"
 
 
 
Added:
Abatt, I didn't see any mention of Jonathan Cope in the article.
 
Added, added:
 
And the kind of remark that makes you like a person from Leanne, 9 years in the corps.
 
"Many dancers in her situation would find the daily corps work a grind, but Cope relishes it. “I don’t think I’ll ever be frustrated in the corps de ballet, simply because I never thought I’d be here,” she explains."
 


#72 sidwich

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Posted 19 October 2013 - 02:55 PM

I'm sorry to come late to the topic, but just some random thoughts on some things in this thread:

 

1.  My choice for Jerry probably would have been Adam Cooper: dances well, can sing, has the experience of doing 8 shows a week, has charisma onstage.  I adored the little I saw of Robbie Fairchild in the Carousel concert, but wonder how he's going to come across onstage.  To me, he just seems to read a little young to play Jerry, the ex-GI.

 

2.  I'm very curious has to how An American in Paris is going to be adapted to the stage.  The centerpiece of the film is the 20 minute long ballet at the climax, and I am skeptical as to how that can be adapted to stage for 8 performances a week. 

 

3.  Generally, no, Broadway musicals do not use alternating casts, but it does happen sometimes.  The closest case would probably be Twyla Tharp's Movin' Out which used 2 casts of 4 performances each, and I think two casts were also used for her Frank Sinatra piece as well.  Otherwise, well, Sarah Brightman (aka Mrs. Andrew Lloyd Webber at the time) only performed 6 times a week and had an alternate for matinees when she did Phantom of the Opera and every Christine since then has had the same.  The most recent Evita production had the same for Elena Roger.  Wicked probably should do the same for the Elphabas but doesn't because the actresses tend to be young and eager with little bargaining power.

 

The other times I can remember there being multiple casts involve children, in particular, under British labor laws on the West End.

 

4.  Yes, Astaire did choreograph his own material, although was rarely if ever officially credited.  The one outright collaboration I can remember off the top of my head is his work with Eleanor Powell on The Broadway Melody of 1940.  Powell also choreographed her own material and spoke about the joint nature of that partnership when Astaire received his AFI award.

 

I think Caron also spoke about the challenges of Astaire trying to fit in his own persona and style into Roland Petit's vision of the Daddy Long Legs ballet in that film.



#73 Buddy

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Posted 20 October 2013 - 02:47 AM

Thanks very much for your thoughts, sidwich. The fact that two ballet dancers are being used for the "workshop" still makes me wonder if this might not be a more dance oriented interpretation. Christopher Wheeldon remains the Director as well as the choreographer.

 

Added:

 
Two quotes from the article do make me wonder somewhat about my supposition.
 
"….the stage version is relatively faithful to the film…."
 
"(Casting for the musical itself has not been made.)"
 
Added added:
 
Also, as mentioned here, the bringing in of Bartlett Sher "as creative consultant to provide guidance and feedback on the musical" is interesting. To what extent will he be involved?
 
"He [Bartlett Sher] received both the 2008 Tony Award and the Drama Desk Award for his direction of the Broadway revival of South Pacific. The New York Times has described him as "one of the most original and exciting directors, not only in the American theater but also in the international world of opera".
 
 
Still, for the acting and singing, could this be finessed somewhat, like Rex Harrison's 'talked-singing' in "My Fair Lady" in favor of more dancing? Both Gene Kelly and Fred Astaire may have been greatest as 'dancers' and 'personality performers,' rather than as actors and singers.
 
Also: ( yes, happy.png
 
I don't recall Leslie Caron singing at all in this, but I could be wrong.
 
[changed wording in paragraph just above the smiley from "personalities" to "personality performers."]
 
 


#74 sandik

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Posted 20 October 2013 - 02:50 PM

Sher was a part of the development team that made A Light in the Piazza, when it was first created in Seattle at the Intiman Theater.  He absolutely knows his way around a musical in process.



#75 dirac

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Posted 20 October 2013 - 04:07 PM

Astaire did choreograph his own material (not the chorus dances, perhaps it should be noted) and usually worked in collaboration - his most famous collaborator being Hermes Pan. I think the only picture where Astaire worked entirely alone was "The Sky's the Limit" (one of his lesser-known titles, but a good movie and not only in respect to the dancing).

 

Still, for the acting and singing, could this be finessed somewhat, like Rex Harrison's 'talked-singing' in "My Fair Lady" in favor of more dancing? Both Gene Kelly and Fred Astaire may have been greatest as 'dancers' and 'personality performers,' rather than as actors and singers.

 

Lerner & Loewe were writing with a non-singer in mind, however. The Gershwin songs were written for real singers. As sidwich observes, Buddy, you have to take into consideration the long haul of a Broadway run. Only so much dancing you can put in without pooping out the cast, assuming you don't alternate. Kelly and Astaire wouldn't have made it as singers only, but both had pleasing voices, Astaire's being highly regarded by many of the composers he worked with. Kelly was a good actor and regularly performed dramatic and comedic roles.




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