64 years since the classic movie musical, the first stage adaptation of An American in Paris is currently wowing them on the Great White Way, trailing 12 Tony Award nominations in its wake alongside a wave of positive reviews.
Re-set to the immediate aftermath of WW2 and the liberation of Paris (unlike the movie which allows a few years to pass): former G.I. Jerry Mulligan (Robert Fairchild) now a struggling artist living on the Left Bank, and beautiful young French girl Lise Dassin (Leanne Cope), meet in the City of Light and fall in love. However, the path to true love is, as always, never smooth.
Just reading the track listing is enough to get fans of the Great American Songbook salivating. “Inspired” by Vincente Minnelli’s 1951 six-time Academy Award-winning movie starring Gene Kelly and Leslie Caron, this new production adapts both the original storyline and score. Adaptor, arranger and musical supervisor Rob Fisher shamelessly adds a few glorious George and Ira Gerschwin tunes that didn’t appear in the movie but more surprisingly standards such as “Embraceable You” and “Our Love is Here to Stay” fail to make the cut from the original.
As the first notes ring out from “Concerto in F” the motifs within give us a tantalising glimpse of the more familiar American in Paris suite to come as well as a clever representation of both the melancholy and optimism in the air in the post war years.
The other orchestral pieces: “Second Prelude”, “Second Rhapsody” and “Cuban Overture” provide welcome depth and atmosphere throughout, but it is when we are treated to familiar hit after hit the piece really soars. “I’ve Got Beginners Luck” showcases the lightness of touch of the orchestra as well as Robert Fairchild’s golden era of Hollywood voice; Royal Ballet alumni Leanne Cope (Lise) is given a chance to demonstrate her singing as well as dancing chops with a sweet, delicate performance of “The Man I Love” and “I’ll Build a Stairway to Paradise” is a jazzy delight.
As we move through the tracks some are less successful than you would wish: you might think we are on familiar territory with the classic “I Got Rhythm” but here we are presented with a trio delivered by the three male leads. As they bang out the tune on the piano we are treated to a series of cod accents and it’s only when the ensemble gives full voice to the song is it given the justice it deserves. However to Robert Fairchild (Jerry), Brandon Uranowitz (Adam) and Max Von Essen’s (Henri) credit their diction is razor sharp throughout. S’Wonderful is also given the trio treatment and though competently sung, it is robbed of some of its joy of a love reciprocated. One real clanger is novelty number “Fidgety Feet” which adds nothing musically.
The big-hitters, and the songs that stay in the memory are the gloriously sung “Who Cares/For You, For Me, For Evermore”, “But Not For Me” and “They Can’t Take That Away From Me” and the near 13 minute “An American In Paris” suite, a ravishing evocation of a jaunty, jangling journey along the Champs Elysees is luscious and full of life.
The quality of the recording throughout is first rate and the orchestra manage to be both sprightly and sumptuous, however, one can’t help mourning the loss of some of the Gershwins’ best-loved tunes. It also begs the question with a Brit at the helm, “when can we expect to see this classic in the West End?”
The CD was released on 1 June 2015.
This article was originally written for and published by http://www.thepublicreviews.com at: http://www.thepublicreviews.com/cd-review-an-american-in-paris-original-broadway-cast-recording/