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


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So I guess we should open a discussion of Fun House somewhere.

I'm of course disappointed that Leanne Cope, Robert Fairchild, the entire production, etc. didn’t get awards. The sets did and with this I totally agree.

Dirac, as you pointed out, some humbleness and respect by at least one involved, although it probably didn’t effect the voting, does have its place. Almost all the comments from those involved have been of a very positive and appreciative nature.

As for Fun House, this is a work that I probably may never see but I’ve read some very sympathetic comments about it and it’s apparently a fine and very heart touching production. My reason for favoring something like An American in Paris is that it’s 'cheerfully' uplifting and in this sometimes ‘very serious’ world this is what I appreciate in ‘entertainment’ and art. I know that this is a view wide open to debate.

I think that the movie and the subsequent stage adaptation of An American in Paris have a lot of value. They are a story about the rightness and success of true love. They also feature the idea of art superseding and trying to heal the wrongs of human behavior.

So I hope that when I see the NYC production that it lives up to the great potential that I saw in Paris. Apparently Leanne Cope and Robert Fairchild’s, along with other cast members’, TV performances were received very well at the Tony awards broadcast and such wide media exposer should certainly help. Wishing the company all the best.

Added:

This is the video of the Tony performance. In regard to the previous discussion about such productions increasing interest in ballet this should certainly help. (7 million Tony Awards viewers last year).

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=pqbwpUlDOvE

(thanks to Janet McNutty at Balletco. for finding this)

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Wait - so American in Paris didn't 'sweep' the musical Tony awards? Just one award for designs? Phooey!

I'm currently in Brazil and couldn't watch the show on hotel TV. I was hoping for happier news here.

(Edited to add: Yahoo News reports that American won four Tonys, out of 12 nominations. At least Wheeldon won for best choreography!)

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I was surprised, but it's clear art won out over commerce last night. Fun Home is the little show that could. It's not going to appeal to many people, especially the tourist crowd looking for a big spectacle. In all of the lesser competitions lleading up to the Tony's, it never competed with AiP because it already ran off Broadway about 2 years ago, when it swept most of the theater awards. This was the first head to head competion between the two shows. Nothing against Fairchild, but Cerveris TOTALLY deserved that award. His performance is heartbreaking.

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Robbie Fairchild looked absolutely stunned (imo) when his name wasn't called. I'm a HUGE fan of his but in this case I think that when up against Cerveris you've got extremely tough competition.

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As for Fun House, this is a work that I probably may never see but I’ve read some very sympathetic comments about it and it’s apparently a fine and very heart touching production. My reason for favoring something like An American in Paris is that it’s 'cheerfully' uplifting and in this sometimes ‘very serious’ world this is what I appreciate in ‘entertainment’ and art. I know that this is a view wide open to debate.

Buddy, Fun Home is not at all a downer. And while it has serious themes, it's also hilarious. The subtitle of Bechdel's memoir is "A Family Tragicomic." At the play, once the kids popped out of the casket and started doing a disco number, I turned to my partner and whispered, "they're going for the comic aspect of tragicomic." The audience was extremely enthusiastic, and I don't think it was because it's an "art" piece. It's just very funny and very true to life (even if you didn't grow up in a funeral home).

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SPOILER SPOILER ALERT re Fun HOme

Although's it's dealt with in a humorous fashion, this musical deals, in part, with a broken marriage due to Alison's closeted homosexual father, and the suicide of her father. I think a lot of people would find this subject matter a downer.

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Thanks very much, cobweb. I'll definitely try to give Fun House a more thorough look.

Since I'm back, two thoughts come to mind from what posters have written. Art vs.popular (or commercialism?) George Balanchine didn't seem to consider that to be a meaningful barrier.

Fun House was true art. There's plenty of 'true art' also in An American in Paris. The level of the principals' dancing for one.

And thanks, Abatt. I just saw your comment after posting.

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As for Fun House, this is a work that I probably may never see but I’ve read some very sympathetic comments about it and it’s apparently a fine and very heart touching production. My reason for favoring something like An American in Paris is that it’s 'cheerfully' uplifting and in this sometimes ‘very serious’ world this is what I appreciate in ‘entertainment’ and art. I know that this is a view wide open to debate.

Also, Buddy, "An American in Paris" has pretty strong "art" credentials, and in spite of the well-received Paris production it wasn't necessarily clear at the outset that the show would be a big box-office draw, with its heavy dance emphasis and a couple of ballet dancers as the stars. From what I gather, AAiP would have been the "safer" choice for Best Musical, but a respectable one artistically as well.

(Edited to add: Yahoo News reports that American won four Tonys, out of 12 nominations. At least Wheeldon won for best choreography!)

He did, Natalia, but unfortunately for Wheeldon (and any choreographers who don't also direct), Best Choreography is one of the awards that the broadcast now offloads during commercial breaks. This year they did show snippets of the acceptance speeches, but it's still ridiculous treatment.

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Also, Buddy, "An American in Paris" has pretty strong "art" credentials, and in spite of the well-received Paris production it wasn't necessarily clear at the outset that the show would be a big box-office draw, with its heavy dance emphasis and a couple of ballet dancers as the stars. From what I gather, AAiP would have been the "safer" choice for Best Musical, but a respectable one artistically as well.

This is the same chance that Gene Kelly took with his 17 minute dance finale. Despite a non humble comment the producers of the stage version took this position from the beginning and should be commended for it along with the movie studio's final acceptance. Chris Wheeldon did say though that he had to stick to his determination to finally accomplish this.

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Also, Buddy, "An American in Paris" has pretty strong "art" credentials, and in spite of the well-received Paris production it wasn't necessarily clear at the outset that the show would be a big box-office draw, with its heavy dance emphasis and a couple of ballet dancers as the stars. From what I gather, AAiP would have been the "safer" choice for Best Musical, but a respectable one artistically as well.

He did, Natalia, but unfortunately for Wheeldon (and any choreographers who don't also direct), Best Choreography is one of the awards that the broadcast now offloads during commercial breaks. This year they did show snippets of the acceptance speeches, but it's still ridiculous treatment.

Interestingly, the Best Musical nominees were pretty "arty" bunch this year. Besides An American in Paris and Fun Home, the other nominees were Something Rotten a musical set in 1500s with Shakespeare as one of the main characters and Kander & Ebb's The Visit based on the Durenmatt play. Among the four of them, AAIP was by far the most commercial. Based on touring power alone, I thought it had a very strong chance of winning.

Having not seen the other three yet and having had mixed feelings about AAIP, I didn't have strong feelings about any of them winning. (I totally thought that Jill Paice's character was much stronger, smarter, and interesting than Leanne Cope's, and hoped that she would get the guy. But alas!)

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I Loved It !

Almost unrecognizable except for the general outlines from what I recall at opening night in Paris, because of streamlining, additions, complete overhauls and all sorts of other changes, it all came together remarkably well.

If I were to go back tomorrow, and I would, Leanne Cope would be the first reason. This Leslie Caron ‘reinvented’ should have a wonderful future in acting, especially in dance-musical theater, if given the material that she deserves. This An American in Paris is certainly the right material. I’m sure that others who see this production will have their own favorites, but she is probably mine.

Robert Fairchild’s excellent dancing and dance partnering is certainly another major factor. That he, Leanne Cope and the others can sustain such a high level of activity and excellence eight shows a week with such a sense of pleasure is another outstanding accomplishment.

The entire production most impressed me, not only for its highlights, which are many, but for being able to tie so much diversity together so well. There was art and entertainment. There were professional dancers and professional actors reinforcing each other. There was humor and there was message.

For instance when the ultra serious Baurel parents break into the lead of a very enjoyable and highly competent tap dance routine I rollicked inside with delight. When one of the background actor-dancers tread milled his legs merrily into the air in an early show of dance bravura I was equally delighted. This sort of thing was happening throughout. The acting-singing professionals stepping in at just the right moment and the dancing Leanne Cope and Robert Fairchild carrying the play’s ultimate momentum to hugely successful conclusions.

The dance routines that I liked very much and that can be seen partially on various internet clips are the I’ve Got Biginner’s Luck dance and the final duet both of which feature Robert Fairchild and Leanne Cope. The masked ball dance (end of Act I) and the 15 minute(?) dance finale (Act II) carried things to highly successful dramatic and artistic closing statements.

I’m not really familiar with the Broadway norm these days, but another one of the major accomplishments was the artistic edge to this work. It was Broadway style enjoyment, but with strong elements of art. Yet there wasn’t so much ‘artistic’ attempt that it would lose an audience out to have a purely entertaining several hours.

Although I’ve seen other theatrical works with exceptional levels of artistry and enchantment, it’s the beauty, enjoyment and love permeating this entire work and ultimately prevailing that would make me want to come back to this one especially.

Added comment:

Not to be forgotten by any means are the outstanding sets and stage elements by Bob Crowley, projection by 59 Productions and lighting by Natasha Katz. This outstanding art blended in so well that it was almost unnoticeable at times, but it is brilliant! One brief segment featured a dancer (Leanne Cope?) projected on several mirrors. For me it was a reference to the movie scene where Leslie Caron dances several different versions of herself. The mirror sequence was extremely brief and I wish that much more could have been made of it, but this was consistent with the use of the set designs. One stroke of brilliance after another simply appeared and disappeared without a second thought. Simply background. Simply remarkable!

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It has now been confirmed that Leanne Cope will take a second year's sabbatical from the Royal Ballet in favour of An American in Paris on Broadway.

It would be grand if perhaps a London production could open with her as Lise in 2016. That would allow her to (i) originate the role in London as she had on Broadway and in Paris before (ii) going back to the RB with a fresh gaggle of British media and an adoring new (musical theatre) audience in avid tow. It would be grand too if Mr. Fairchild could briefly open a London production, understanding of course that his creative commitment to NYCB is paramount for both his own and ballet's sake.

Source: http://www.roh.org.uk/news/promotions-joiners-and-leavers-at-the-royal-ballet-for-201516

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Robbie Fairchild, 4th grade.

“My Special Place"

“My special place is on Broadway. I would really like to be on Broadway because there was this person named Gene Kelly that went on Broadway and I’m doing a report on him. He’s a dancer just like me and I want to be like him. I really want to go on Broadway because it would be just so fun.

“I also want to be in a movie.”

https://instagram.com/p/4lHqYkRWtA/

(thanks to Bruce Wall at Balletco for finding this)

“I also want to be in a movie.”

I'd love to see this. I think that this stage production would make a great movie highlighting the choreography, the dancing of Robbie Fairchild and the endearing charisma of Leanne Cope. It would be very worthy of its predecessor.

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That's cute, Buddy, thanks. I have a feeling that things haven't changed much and Fairchild wouldn't have to be dragged kicking and screaming into the movies. :)

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I'll venture a guess that Wheeldon's interview was the first time Benesh and Laban had ever been mentioned on late-night TV. :)

The complete program is available on the show site for users in the U.S.

http://www.cbs.com/shows/the-late-show-with-stephen-colbert/video/CTyXZ1dqQmwTUcGmoRRbFk2R4V0umBiP/the-late-show-9-18-2015-lupita-nyong-o-bernie-sanders-christopher-wheeldon-robert-fairchild-leanne-cope-/

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I finally saw this show at the Sept 20 matinee. Wow! A perfect old-fashioned extravaganza with gorgeous, luxurious production values, toe-tapping tunes (thanks, Gershwin!), and crisp, sassy performances, especially from the two ballet-dancer stars, Fairchild and Cope...who so favors Leslie Caron, it's eerie. The dancing ensemble is extraordinary in this dance-filled work.

I'm glad to have chosen this &, on Saturday, THE KING & I w/ amazing Kelli O'Hara at Lincoln Center over FUN HOUSE...from what I've read about the latter.

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I finally saw this show at the Sept 20 matinee. Wow! A perfect old-fashioned extravaganza with gorgeous, luxurious production values, toe-tapping tunes (thanks, Gershwin!), and crisp, sassy performances, especially from the two ballet-dancer stars, Fairchild and Cope...who so favors Leslie Caron, it's eerie. The dancing ensemble is extraordinary in this dance-filled work.

I'm glad to have chosen this &, on Saturday, THE KING & I w/ amazing Kelli O'Hara at Lincoln Center over FUN HOUSE...from what I've read about the latter.

Natalia, great choices for NYC theater! I've seen both and agree that they were magnificent. But I urge you to see Fun Home too, and to do so while Sydney Lucas (sister of jake, who was Louis in King and I) is performing. Her performance as Young Allison is astonishing and the whole show is an unforgettable theater experience.

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Natalia, I saw the King and I earlier in the summer and loved it! I was slightly disappointed that Ken Watanabe had left the cast and didn't know anything about his replacement, Jose Llana. Turns our Mr. Llana was magnificent! I believe this is his final weekend in the role so you have something special to look forward to. Please let us know your impressions!

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Thanks to both Rhonda & Barbara. Barbara, I already saw KING last Sat matinee (before heading downtown to NYTB at Pace U...an all-dance weekend)! I lucked into best seat possible...smack center, 6 rows back from stage. All I can say: in scene 1, that ship almost landed on my lap! I also confess to having cried my eyes out when the chief wife Lady T sang "Something Wonderful " as I recently lost a crazy-but-sweet love of my life. Everything hit me at once. Art can & does move the soul. I wish that more people could attend such shows.

Rhonda, I'll definitely give Fun Home a try next time I'm in town!

Edited to add: How could I have not previously mentioned the marvelous ballet in A2, "The Small House of Uncle Tom" based on Jerome Robbins' original. Xiaochuan Xie is beautiful as the main dancing character, Eliza!

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Thanks to both Rhonda & Barbara. Barbara, I already saw KING last Sat matinee (before heading downtown to NYTB at Pace U...an all-dance weekend)! I lucked into best seat possible...smack center, 6 rows back from stage. All I can say: in scene 1, that ship almost landed on my lap! I also confess to having cried my eyes out when the chief wife Lady T sang "Something Wonderful " as I recently lost a crazy-but-sweet love of my life. Everything hit me at once. Art can & does move the soul. I wish that more people could attend such shows.

Rhonda, I'll definitely give Fun Home a try next time I'm in town!

Ruthie Ann Miles was truly "something wonderful" as Lady Tiang and well deserving of her best supporting actress Tony. And yet I found Sydney Lucas' s performance so engaging that I could make a strong case for her too. Yes, that good, from an adolescent.

I did see Ken Watanabe, and found him to be the weak link in an otherwise outstanding cast. I wish I had the chance to see Jose Llana.

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