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


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#121 sidwich

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Posted 09 August 2014 - 01:11 PM

It's a charming homage to Kelly, but besides the obvious challenges by his different body type, I think Fairchild lacks the crispness in his phrasing necessary to make a piece like sing.  In order to make a jazz-influenced piece like this work, it takes a real consciousness of the groove of the music, and Fairchild doesn't quite have a firm grasp on it, so the accents aren't really landing with real impact.  It makes me wonder how he'll do on the tap pieces in An American in Paris.

 

In case anyone wants to compare, here in Gene Kelly in Ballin' the Jack:

 



#122 Buddy

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Posted 09 August 2014 - 03:51 PM

 

None of this may make much difference in the new version of "An American in Paris," which will be staged by a ballet choreographer and danced by two ballet dancers, which may shift the show's balance decisively toward ballet.

 

 

This is a very good and highly interesting point, dirac. I’m intrigued by this possibility of bringing an increased ballet aesthetic and sensitivity to the ‘broadway stage.’ 

 

Sidwich, thanks for Gene Kelly’s original version. In this particular work I actually see a lot less difference than I would have expected between the feel what Gene Kelly did and what Robert Fairchild is doing . I’m rather fond of the grace and fineness of Robert Fairchild’s take. 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.



#123 mimsyb

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Posted 09 August 2014 - 04:22 PM

It’s also interesting to see how Fairchild’s intense classical training lends a different accent to his (charming) rendering of Kelly’s choreography (as staged by Woetzel).  His feet are distinctly pointed when it’s not really called for, his turns and poses just a shade too precise when they should look tossed off. He could also work on prop use – the hat could play a bigger role here.

I have to agree with these observations.  Fairchild is indeed, a fine technician, but as of now doesn't possess that extraordinary improvised look to the dancing that Kelly brought to everything he did.  Yes, Kelly was "choreographed" also, but somehow it did always look "tossed off".  As if he just decided that moment to "dance".  That was his "joy".  His smile told it all!  His legs weren't always straight, his toes weren't pointed like ballet dancers tend to do.  His upper body at times looked like he drove a truck rather than danced piroettes.  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.  And yes, the hat needs work!  Notice how Kelly has his down over his eyes at a steep angle, almost hiding his face. Except for that smile!   I'm hoping more research and rehearsal will help Fairchild in one way, but in another, I hope he just forgets all he knows about dance and just  lets it happen.



#124 sandik

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Posted 10 August 2014 - 12:36 PM

Thanks for making the compare/contrast easy with these clips.

My initial response is that the thing both dancers share is a deep 'likeability' -- they're essentially personable and engaging. Fairchild has a more finished style (no surprise here) with cleaner attention paid to shape, especially in his limbs. Kelly has a slightly stronger and more free sense of attack, with less concern about shape, but they're both very sunny performers here -- I think that's the element that really stands out.

#125 vipa

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Posted 10 August 2014 - 02:38 PM

Thanks for making the compare/contrast easy with these clips.My initial response is that the thing both dancers share is a deep 'likeability' -- they're essentially personable and engaging. Fairchild has a more finished style (no surprise here) with cleaner attention paid to shape, especially in his limbs. Kelly has a slightly stronger and more free sense of attack, with less concern about shape, but they're both very sunny performers here -- I think that's the
element that really stands out.


I agree Sandik, the likeabilty factor is strong in both. Fairchild will have to make the role his own if it is going to work. Kelly was dancing in a different era. The key imo for Fairchild will be bringing a feeling of spontainaity to it.

#126 dirac

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Posted 11 August 2014 - 07:12 AM

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.



#127 sandik

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Posted 11 August 2014 - 09:04 AM

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?



#128 dirac

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Posted 17 August 2014 - 10:14 PM

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



#129 sandik

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Posted 17 August 2014 - 10:48 PM

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.



#130 ABT Fan

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Posted 18 August 2014 - 08:39 AM

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.



#131 meunier fan

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Posted 18 August 2014 - 09:05 AM

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.  



#132 Buddy

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Posted 11 November 2014 - 03:23 AM

http://www.vanityfai...=social_retweet

(thanks to BalletcoForum)

 

I’ve got my ticket for opening night. I’m excited.

 

(​I might not have internet access, but I'll try to post something within a few days.)



#133 Buddy

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Posted 17 November 2014 - 01:54 AM

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....emiere-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.huffingto..._b_6155522.html

(thanks again to BalletcoForum)



#134 dirac

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Posted 17 November 2014 - 10:20 AM

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.



#135 Buddy

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Posted 25 November 2014 - 06:34 AM

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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