Apr 12, 2015
Anyone who doubts that dance can be an expression of pure masculine prowess has never seen Gene Kelly in a movie musical.
It’s unlikely any performer could match the unique combination of robust athleticism and playful wit, of boyish mischief and manly allure that Kelly brought to the screen. But in the new Broadway musical An American in Paris (3 1/2 out of four stars), inspired by the 1951 movie, Robert Fairchild proves well worthy of following in the late legend’s footsteps.
A principal dancer with the New York City Ballet since 2009, Fairchild recalls Kelly somewhat in his sturdy, deceptively wholesome presence. Reprising Kelly’s role as Jerry Mulligan, an aspiring painter who lingers in France after serving the USA in World War II, Fairchild looks and carries himself like a college athlete. He moves so cleanly and with such ease that you may not notice at first how instinctively, and seductively, he responds to the jazz nuances in George Gershwin’s glorious music.
Fairchild also has the benefit of collaborating with a famous alumnus of NYCB, and the Royal Ballet: the star choreographer Christopher Wheeldon, who makes his directing debut with Paris, which opened Sunday at the Palace Theatre. Working with a new book by Craig Lucas and a score newly adapted and arranged by Rob Fisher — and sets and costumes by the endlessly inventive Bob Crowley — Wheeldon has crafted a show that looks and sounds sumptuous throughout.
The show’s tone can be darker and heavier than that of the film’s. We meet Jerry here as the war is ending, and signs of its devastation are emphasized in an opening number set to Gershwin’s Concerto in F. Jerry’s friend Adam, another expat and struggling composer, is given an expanded role that includes narrating; he’s played by an alternately wry and somber Brandon Uranowitz, who’s saddled with some of Lucas’s hokier lines.