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Christopher Wheeldon of New York City Ballet Helms Paris Premiere of Broadway-Bound 'An American in Paris'

By Jon Sobel j.sobel@classicalite.com on Jul 07, 2014 10:23 AM EDT

The typical Broadway-bound musical tries out in places like Chicago or New Haven, but An American in Paris, with music and lyrics by George and Ira Gershwin, is not the typical musical. Where else could a brand-new show inspired by that particular Academy Award-winning film have its world premiere but in Paris itself?

Directed and choreographed by New York City Ballet's (NYCB) Resident Choreographer Christopher Wheeldon, and with a book by Tony nominee and Pulitzer Prize finalist Craig Lucas (Prelude to a Kiss, Small Tragedy), An American in Paris premieres at Paris's Théâtre du Châtelet in December 2014 prior to a spring 2015 Broadway opening.

The cast features NYCB principal dancer Robert Fairchild as Jerry Mulligan, the Royal Ballet's Leanne Cope as Lise Dassin, Max Von Essen (Evita, Jerry Springer: The Opera) as Henri Baurel, Jill Paice (Matilda) as Milo Davenport, Veanne Cox as Madame Baurel and Brandon Uranowitz as Adam Hochberg.

The score, adapted and arranged by Rob Fisher (Chicago, Anything Goes) and orchestrated by Christopher Austin, boasts Great American Songbook stalwarts by the Gershwins including "I Got Rhythm," "'SWonderful," "Our Love Is Here To Stay," "They Can't Take That Away" and "Stairway to Paradise," plus orchestral music including "Concerto in F" and the original inspiration for the 1951 film, George Gershwin's orchestral composition "An American In Paris."

Gene Kelly and Leslie Caron danced the movie's climactic 16-minute dance to that piece. Kelly choreographed and starred in the film directed by Vincente Minnelli and scripted by Alan Jay Lerner. Co-starring in the love story about an American veteran of World War II trying to make a go of it as a painter in Paris were Oscar Levant, Nina Foch and Georges Guétary.

An American in Paris won the Academy Award for Best Picture and five more Oscars as well as a Best Picture Golden Globe. It was enshrined in the United States National Film Registry in 1993.

An earlier stage adaptation by Ken Ludwig at Houston's Alley Theatre starring Buffy the Vampire Slayer's Harry Groener added other Gershwin tunes and had a successful run but did not transfer to Broadway. Producers of the new adaptation hope to sink their teeth into the Great White Way for the long haul.

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Tagsbroadway, Paris, Ballet, New York City Ballet, Gene Kelly, Leslie Caron, Christopher Wheeldon