"An American in Paris," A Ballet on Broadway
On Broadway, music usually trumps dancing. Appropriately, vocal talent takes precedence in musicals. Broadway dancers, though competent, can't often hold a candle to the artistry and technique of classical ballet dancers. But a dance-themed show like George and Ira Gershwins' delightful "An American in Paris" deserves dancing of the highest rate.
That's exactly what Christopher Wheeldon's current production at The Palace Theatre delivers. Rather than stage a recreation of the 1951 movie starring Gene Kelly and Leslie Caron, Wheeldon reinvented the musical for today. His choreography lives up to high expectations. Wheeldon's signature inventiveness thrills while also celebrating the flavor of the post-World-War II Parisian setting that George Gershwin so gorgeously scored. New York City Ballet Principal Dancer Robbie Fairchild's attractiveness as the lead matches his impeccable dancing. English ballerina Leanne Cope is perfection. We don't wonder for a moment how three different characters manage to fall in love with her. Both optimized their vocal skills, even if their dancing was the superior draw. In a show about a rising prima ballerina, it was hugely satisfying to see an actual prima ballerina in the role. No suspension of disbelief required.
One can only hope that "An American in Paris" spurs future balletic endeavors on The Great White Way. Broadway is just one of many vehicles via which broader audiences can experience the magnificence - and versatility - of ballet.