Jump to content
This Site Uses Cookies. If You Want to Disable Cookies, Please See Your Browser Documentation. ×

An American in Paris: Christopher Wheeldon Takes On Gene Kelly and Leslie Caron


Recommended Posts

The Drama Desk awards were announced yesterday. Unfortunately, American in Paris lost out to Hamilton for Best Musical. The good news is that Hamilton is not eligible for this year's Tony Award. Other good news is that R. Fairchild won for best actor in a musical, and Wheeldon won for best choreography. Bob Crowley won for set designs of AIP

http://www.playbill.com/news/article/drama-desk-award-winners-announced-hamilton-wins-seven-awards-350267

Link to post

A short but telling video vignette on the AiP artists/design:

Thanks, meunier fan. My feeling after seeing the Paris opening was that I loved Leanne Cope, the choreography and script had great potential, but that the sets were masterpieces. I would have wanted the production to have succeeded if only for her and for those. This is a brief but very interesting look.

Here is someone else that you might want to add to the artists involved.

“Andrea Selby is an artist who has observed the life of An American in Paris from its early stages. Her sketches cover the show from rehearsals to Broadway and are used for merchandise, marketing and internal purposes. Here, she talks about the process of drawing from the complex and inventive Christopher Wheeldon choreography.”

http://www.playbill.com/multimedia/video/exclusive-sketch-artist-andrea-selby-documents-an-american-in-paris-349621

Thanks, abatt, for the latest update. My sense from what I’ve read and seen on video clips since Paris is that there’s been considerable tweaking for the good. In addition an entire half hour was eliminated. The man sitting next to me in Paris said that the first act seemed a bit long. I somewhat agreed with him and would have parred back some of the post war heaviness. I, for one, really enjoyed the movie's 'innocence.'

This production seems to be riding a wave of popular enthusiasm that may have translated into the work itself. Christopher Wheeldon commented in a video clip right after the Paris opening that he was overjoyed with the audience response because you can never tell which way these things will go. Many of the artists have expressed a similar feeling and this hopefully has encouraged the best performances and the best production possible. My peripheral response is quite positive, but I’ll get an actual look in the middle of June. As I’ve felt all along, this effort has so much going for it that I have to wish it all the best.

Link to post

An interview with L. Cope (AiP/RB) and R. Fairchild (AiP/NYCB) about surviving Broadway's awards season and other matters:



http://www.theaterma...aris_73128.html



"Leanne: I think it's very important for all dancers to take acting lessons, actually. The miming can just look like steps. Unless it comes from a real place of understanding what you're trying to say, and it's not just "put your arm out here," it's saying something. I think it would help all dancers."


Link to post

I saw the show about a week ago, and maybe I shouldn't say this two days before the show wins several Tonys, but I was underwhelmed. The story seemed contrived and derivative. The whole thing felt like a cliche, or even a cliche of a cliche -- unlike, say, Fun Home, which I also saw recently and which felt very true to life. Fairchild should stick to dancing (where I love him). There wasn't a whole lot for Leanne Cope to do, and I found her not much more than a cute haircut. To me Jill Paice (the older benefactress) was the most compelling actress, and character.

Link to post

I actually found Max von Essen the best all-around performer. He could sing, he could dance, and he made his character more than it was. In the first act his character was the constant target of gay jokes, and in the second act he became a kind of Schindler's List type (in one of the dumbest plot contrivances I've ever seen in any show) but Max von Essen made the character attractive, believable as a romantic rival, and he was a great dancer.

Link to post

I agree that the AiP book is oft irregular and sometimes awkward (at least it was in Paris where the production was half an hour longer and where I don't myself remember any pointed 'gay jokes' at Henri's expense). Moreover I too felt that von Essen and Paice were the stand outs in terms of fully fronted vocal artists within the pieces dramatic throughline.

What I do think is the prime positive benefit emanating from this production is that it brings ballet back as a potent form of focus on Broadway; i.e., as a prime motivational alone. The fact that such (in AiP's regard) is now such a noted commercial force is more than encouraging I think for both NYCB and ABT. May AiP bring new audiences into both the Koch and Met portals and - crucially - help to build a slice of interest that will prevail for some time in terms of the art form much as shows such as Chorus Line did in the past.

I myself wonder - if the commercial potency should prove similarly ripe from both a US/national and international basis in AiP's regard - if ultimately a film under AiP's banner will be (re-)made in favour of Wheeldon's particular take. That would surely benefit from bringing in screenwriters to embellish and assist Lucas' theatrical hand under Wheeldon's filmic charge. Would such an entity thrive? Would it bring new audiences into the doors of mainstream ballet outlets? It might just be an exception that proves the rule much as the theatrical entity appears to have done. Time will - as always - tell. Surely fingers can be but crossed.

Link to post

I couldn't tell what was supposed to be going on with Henri. Did his "interests lie beyond the fairer sex" or not? It was set up numerous times, so that you expected some big "coming out" scene that never transpired, and in the end it wasn't even clear if he was gay, or just an awkward and inhibited guy. Despite the "Schindler's List" angle, he was presented a laughingstock for being someone who couldn't acknowledge he was gay... but again, by the end the implications that he was gay were just dropped. Very poor characterization.

Link to post

Would it bring new audiences into the doors of mainstream ballet outlets?

I dunno. Did Matthew Bourne's Swan Lake do that? Did Darren Aronofsky's Black Swan? While the latter certainly seemed to have put a few more butts in seats for performances of Swan Lake itself, did it really to much to generate a new audience for ballet overall? I haven't seen Wheeldon's American in Paris, but would someone who enjoyed that show be happy at a performance of, say, La Bayadère? I can Imagine someone showing up at The Theatre Formerly Known as State just to see Robert Fairchild, chancing on him in Namouna or Le Baiser de la Fée, and walking out disappointed and befuddled, never to return.

Link to post

I dunno. Did Matthew Bourne's Swan Lake do that? Did Darren Aronofsky's Black Swan? While the latter certainly seemed to have put a few more butts in seats for performances of Swan Lake itself, did it really to much to generate a new audience for ballet overall? I haven't seen Wheeldon's American in Paris, but would someone who enjoyed that show be happy at a performance of, say, La Bayadère? I can Imagine someone showing up at The Theatre Formerly Known as State just to see Robert Fairchild, chancing on him in Namouna or Le Baiser de la Fée, and walking out disappointed and befuddled, never to return.

Well, one lives in hope. Perhaps they might be enthused .... smile.png The cheering audiences after the major ballet portion (in Paris at least) - itself a fine 17 minute (as opposed to the 13 minute on Broadway) abstract work - would hopefully suggest that they might be intrigued by Bayadere - were it to be the Nureyev (Paris) or Makarova (NYC / London, etc.) production.

I vividly remember after the last time I saw AiP at the Chatalet (at the last matinee - where the audience seemed not to want to let the Company go) one (obviously Parisian) woman turned to her husband and - in French - said 'This is a reason to love New York'. NYCB here they come .... I can well imagine that she and hers might well be at the three week NYCB season next summer at the same address. (I know I will be .... but that has, true, little to do with AiP. I would have been there anyway. Still, AiP didn't hurt.)

Link to post
Did Darren Aronofsky's Black Swan? While the latter certainly seemed to have put a few more butts in seats for performances of Swan Lake itself, did it really to much to generate a new audience for ballet overall?

It did put quite a few more butts in seats, in seats some of those butts had never before occupied, I believe. Generating a whole new audience for ballet is probably not something any movie could do these days, but the success of Black Swan did a fair amount to raise ballet's profile as a possible subject of mass interest - without it TV shows like Breaking Pointe and the new Starz series probably don't happen.

With regard to AAiP, I question whether it will have any such larger effect, although perhaps NYCB might see more interest in performances featuring Fairchild, particularly if he wins the Tony(?)

Link to post

sandik reminded me recently that PNB senior corps member Jessika Anspach called the "Nutcracker" an entry drug. Whether audiences who see "An American in Paris" go to NYCB, like what they see, and keep going could depend greatly on the rep they see, and with three ballets in most programs, there's a chance that something might grab them and be that drug, much more than waiting through three acts of "Swan Lake" to see the Black Swan part. "Fancy Free" "Slaughter on Tenth Avenue," or Stroman works could be a good bridge from "An American in Paris," and a little farther away, but not completely out of range could be "In G Minor," "Vienna Waltzes," "Western Symphony," "Who Cares?," or "Stars and Stripes."

Link to post

There are two parts to the crossover problem. The easy part is enticing someone into a theater to get another glimpse of a star, or a story, or a form that excited their imaginations in a more familiar genre or setting. The hard part is the conversion experience. I suspect that Peter Martins' version of Swan Lake isn't going to be the road to Damascus for someone over the moon for Aronofsky's Black Swan.

Link to post

I think many people attend musicals for grand spectacle of scenery, costumes and so on. Most of the NYCB rep has no scenery and minimal costumes. I actually think that the musical theater audience member looking to try out a ballet would be more drawn to a full length costume/scenery driven ballet of grand spectacle classic like SL or SB.

Link to post

I think many people attend musicals for grand spectacle of scenery, costumes and so on. Most of the NYCB rep has no scenery and minimal costumes. I actually think that the musical theater audience member looking to try out a ballet would be more drawn to a full length costume/scenery driven ballet of grand spectacle classic like SL or SB.

Yes indeed. ABT's Swan Lake has its problems, but it is most definitely a show.

Link to post

As indeed one should! I've just come to suspect that the crossover effect isn't particularly potent when it comes to ballet and that Black Swan is to dance what Pachelbel's Canon was to classical music.

And even so, the Canon has served to introduce some listeners to classical music. Black Swan is a good movie, though, and was never intended purely as a dance film.

cobweb writes:

I saw the show about a week ago, and maybe I shouldn't say this two days before the show wins several Tonys, but I was underwhelmed. The story seemed contrived and derivative. The whole thing felt like a cliche, or even a cliche of a cliche -- unlike, say, Fun Home, which I also saw recently and which felt very true to life. Fairchild should stick to dancing (where I love him). There wasn't a whole lot for Leanne Cope to do, and I found her not much more than a cute haircut. To me Jill Paice (the older benefactress) was the most compelling actress, and character.

Thanks for putting in your two cents, cobweb. It is good to get all opinions, and you're not alone.

From an article in the LA Times:

"There's a perception that it kind of holds up as a film," Oken says, "but it doesn't. It's a Hollywood backlot movie that lacked a reason for existing other than to celebrate the Gershwin songbook. You read the stories about when the movie was made, and it was 'the ballet cost more than the film, the ballet was this, the ballet was that.'"

The producers must be feeling pretty cocky. At least formerly the show's connections took care to pay lip service to the film. Patricia Ward Kelly should step in and kick this guy's butt.

Link to post

What I meant is this: Pachelbel's Canon and Black Swan are each in their way entirely legible to a sensibility informed by pop. (And let me hasten to add that I yield to no one in my admiration for really good pop; it's both hard to do and genuinely delightful when it works.) People wanted to hear Pachelbel's Canon over and over again the same way they wanted to hear a pop tune with a great hook over and over again: it was a gateway drug to itself rather than an invitation to explore more art music. Because Black Swan draws explicit (and I would argue completely wrong-headed) parallels between the movie's plot and the ballet itself -- indeed going so far as to suggest that a ballerina must literally contain within herself both Odette and Odile if she is to perform the role well -- I can easily imagine someone going to Swan Lake with the expectation that it is somehow going to replicate their experience of the movie, and being sorely disappointed. Whereas someone whose gateway drug is The Nutcracker goes to Swan Lake to see more ballet, not imbibe more nostalgic Christmas cheer.

Link to post

I quite agree that going to Black Swan is nothing like your parents taking you to The Nutcracker; it's a different kind of experience and two different works in different art forms. Black Swan has roots in art film as well as pop; many of The Nutcracker's tunes have passed into Muzak ubiquity, which doubtless helps newcomers to the ballet get their footing. It isn't for me to pass judgment on how individuals experienced the Canon; no doubt many enjoyed it in the way you described back when it was ubiquitous, but I do have knowledge of some very bright people who were led to classical music through listening to it, for whatever that is worth.

Pretty much any movie has the potential to leave the wrong impression on viewers not familiar with ballet. Back in '77 Arlene Croce was wringing her hands about the misleading aspects of the plot of The Turning Point. No doubt some more literal-minded people went to see Swan Lake after Black Swan, were puzzled when the ballerina didn't sprout feathers, and came away disappointed. But perhaps some of those new people came back for more, and even if they didn't their mere presence was a box office boost for many companies. I would think it's also possible to use real performances of "Swan Lake" as teachable moments; this is what you saw in the movie, let us show you how the real thing is different and wonderful.

I don't want to make any great claims here, and I'm not disagreeing with you on the nuttier aspects of Black Swan. I do think that Black Swan has been generally a Good Thing in getting ballet back into mainstream view (and I also think it is a better picture than many here give it credit for being).

Link to post

FWIW, it was The Turning Point that got me interested in ballet. Back when I was 13, I thought it was a masterpiece. I had no previous exposure to ballet at all, but as soon as I saw the movie I got my mother to sign me up for ballet lessons. I studied intensively for a few years as a teenager, and although I had neither the talent, discipline, nor feet to make a career of it, it became an enduring passion.

Link to post

Dirac, I have to agree with the sentiment of your post about the American in Paris movie. I think that the movie is a classic and deserves a great deal of respect. No matter what claims others might make, the stage production is based almost completely on its entirety.

Added comment: Even without the historic inclusion and exceptional nature of the choreography, the movie is a meaningful, charming and right hearted work of art.

Link to post

Funny moment while we anxiously await the Tony awards.

If you go to page 17 and click on the video of Andrea Selby with her sketchbook and go to 1:43 you will see a drawing of the lead couple dancing. And who does the lead male resemble? Rolando Sarabia.

Go back to page one to find out more about him in our determined search for the best possible cast. He was one of my favorites. Vipa of course wins the prize with

“Robert Fairchild - he was terrific in Who Cares!" (page one, posted July 8, 2013)

Now that a roadshow has been announced we can resurrect all this all over again. — Rolando are you available? Do you sing? Do you act?

Link to post
If you go to page 17 and click on the video of Andrea Selby with her sketchbook and go to 1:43 you will see a drawing of the lead couple dancing. And who does the lead male resemble? Rolando Sarabia.

I did and I think you're right.

No matter what claims others might make, the stage production is based almost completely on its entirety.

Indeed. I was particularly bothered by the seeming implication that the movie is just a studio-bound piece of hack work. How lucky that Mr. Oken and his collaborators have redeemed this terrible source material! AAiP is not my favorite musical, but it deserves much better than that.

Link to post

FWIW, it was The Turning Point that got me interested in ballet. Back when I was 13, I thought it was a masterpiece. I had no previous exposure to ballet at all, but as soon as I saw the movie I got my mother to sign me up for ballet lessons. I studied intensively for a few years as a teenager, and although I had neither the talent, discipline, nor feet to make a career of it, it became an enduring passion.

I think The Turning Point did that for a lot of people, cobweb. God knows it's no masterpiece, but it's certainly watchable and it did present a lot of dance in well-chosen and well-shot sequences. The array of talent on display is just stupefying.

Link to post
"There's a perception that it kind of holds up as a film," Oken says, "but it doesn't. It's a Hollywood backlot movie that lacked a reason for existing other than to celebrate the Gershwin songbook."

A funny thing happened to me on my way to the Best Musical Tony. The ghost of Gene Kelly is not mocked......

Link to post
  • Recently Browsing   0 members

    No registered users viewing this page.

×
×
  • Create New...