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Adagio Teas
   Features  >  NY Theater Reviews

 
AN AMERICAN IN PARIS
at Palace Theatre

EXTRA FANTASTIC
By SANDY MACDONALD

  Ph: Angela Sterling

How often do you come across a staged musical that’s actually an improvement on the movie version? Given the magical fluidity that film can achieve so readily, just about never – which makes An American in Paris a delightful anomaly.

If you’re harboring any concerns about the hubris of trying to upstage Gene Kelly and Leslie Caron, set those worries aside. True, Robert Fairchild is a bit bland as Gerry Mulligan, WWII ex-GI turned aspiring artist, but the role’s a bit generic to start (Gerry’s just a cockeyed romantic). Once Fairchild starts to dance – director/choreographer Christopher Wheeldon has plumped up the proceedings with great stretches of inspired modern ballet – he’s really something special. As for Leanne Cope as Lise Dassin, Gerry’s coup-de-foudre love interest, she’s utterly delicious – lithe of limb, with just the right soupçon of attitude.

Craig Lucas has majorly overhauled the musty book, adding shading and motivation where it was skimpy. For an added furbelow, the sexual leanings of Henri Baurel (Max von Essen) – here an aspiring cabarettist rather than anointed star – come under scrutiny. And however did we manage without the character of Madame Baurel (Henri’s mother), whom Veanne Cox plays as a humorless yet tremulous martinet? Madame has good reason to behave comme il faut: Lucas has upped the ante on Lise’s indebtedness to the entire Baurel family.

Lucas also succeeds in making Milo Davenport (Jill Paice, superb) less of a harpy and more deserving of sympathy as a woman who genuinely longs to be a muse and patron – anything to experience some sense of power amid a largely superficial life.

So glorious is the Gershwin score (as culled by Encores' Rob Fisher), you could close your eyes and have a swell time. But you won’t want to, not for a second.

 


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