Thursday, April 30, 2015

Review: An American in Paris on Broadway

"There's this really subtle beauty to the show, and I hope others will soon discover it too."

I've been desperately wanting to watch this show ever since I heard about it, especially given that it's very balletic and both Robert Fairchild and Christopher Wheeldon are huge parts of the show. That's me fangirling hard and hoping to see the show. And luckily, my parents bought tickets for a friend and I to see the show for my birthday! Yay!

The show Firstly, it was pretty cool because I actually recognized two of the songs because we use the instrumental versions in ballet class. But speaking of dance, the dancing was really what did it for me. Everyone in the show is so great at dancing and at telling a story through dance. It's so gorgeously together, and for those who appreciate storytelling through dance, An American in Paris does just that, and it does it so well. I was impressed that even when moving sets, the actors and actresses were dancing. Everything was made into a show, everything a part of the setting and the story. As a dancer and as someone who just loves watching ballets and dancing, I'm in love with the show and blown away by all the talent. I didn't realize until the day after that Leanne Cope, who plays Lise, is only in the corps de ballet at the Royal Ballet (Robert Fairchild is a principal dancer with the NYCB). Like wow! She is so talented, as is the rest of the cast.

What was particularly interesting was the mix of ballet and jazz in this production. While I'm not sure how likely such an abstract work as the one they "performed" in the show (there's a show within the show) would have actually happened in that time period, I quite liked the mix of the two, and I think it helps those who don't necessarily like ballet. Even the music is a combination, and it's done very tastefully.

Speaking of the music, it should be noted that that's where things get interesting. The thing is, both Leanne Cope and Robert Fairchild are pretty good singers, but it's also pretty clear they're pretty inexperienced with singing on Broadway. In particular, I noted that every time Robbie Fairchild was singing with other people, they turned his mic way down and turned up the mics of the other singers. This is totally reasonable, and I'm glad he was cast because his dancing is fabulous, but it was just something I noticed almost right away. That being said, the rest of the cast is fabulous. While there aren't many big ensemble numbers, the few that are there are really spot on and SO fun. But the vocal performances I loved most were those of Jill Paice (plays Milo Davenport) and Max von Essen (plays Henri Baurel). The thing is, if you're looking for a classic Broadway show with big flair and lots of really fun ensemble pieces, this is not that kind of show. There's much more dancing than singing, and as I've mentioned, it's more for those that can appreciate storytelling through dance. Very rarely are the leads singing and dancing at the same time, and I would normally want more singing in general, but if you don't mind (like myself), then it's fine.

(On a side note that I'm not sure where to put: I love how well the actors and actresses generally stayed in-accent, even when singing. I remember seeing Kinky Boots and not seeing that really being brought across. Props to this cast!)

The story itself is also fantastic and very well-executed. It's easy to follow, and while I'm not a huge fan of the way they were all going after Lise, it's a lovely story about love, freedom vs responsibility, finding true love, and art. And it's hilarious! Not in a way that kids may necessarily understand, but for those of us who are older, there's so much humor found at all the right portions. In particular, Adam (Brandon Uranowitz) and Madame Baurel (Veanne Cox) stand out in the comedic front. Their performances were stellar, and they made everyone laugh.

Lastly, I really want to mention the sets and costumes. The set design was incredible, and the use of the screen for backdrops was amazing. The images that were projected and the physical sets, which were all very moveable and had various uses, really set the mood and the place, and it wasn't hard to see oneself in Paris. Many of the sets were simple but perfect for what was needed. And I can't not mention the glory that was turning the stage into a stage, with the audience of the show within the show being the back of the stage, so that the cast and dancers were facing the back for large portions of the "American in Paris" number. It's confusing to explain, but it's so cool to see when you watch it on stage. Of course, the costumes were gorgeous as well, particularly those for the ladies. They matched the time, place, and situation, and each really fit the personality of the character.

I really enjoyed An American in Paris, and while it certainly isn't going to be for everyone, it was everything I was hoping for and more. I'm so glad I was able to see the show, and I hope the show will stay on for a long time. It likely caters to an older audience, as I also noted when I went to see the show, but really, I think anyone who can appreciate the amazing dancing will love it. Fans of ballet will especially love it, but it's so easy to fall in love with the show. There's this really subtle beauty to the show, and I hope others will soon discover it too.

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