by Mark Lingenfelter
The most captivating aspect of the current Broadway production of An American in Paris is the sum of its parts—how all elements of musical theater come together to tell the story in the most exquisite of ways. With the June 2nd release of the Original Broadway Cast Recording on the Masterworks Broadway label, only a few of those elements are represented. Though they do a fine job of standing on their own, this album is ultimately an aural souvenir program that reminds you of a night well spent at the theater if you’ve been lucky enough to see the show.
Loosely based on the Academy-Award winning film of the same name and set to the music and lyrics of George and Ira Gershwin, An American in Paris tells the story of an American soldier, struggling composer, and aspirant cabaret performer who all fall in love with the same French girl. The seventeen tracks are not the first to contain many of these Gershwin standards. Shows like My One and Only, Crazy for You, and Nice Work If You Can Get It all took songs from the Gershwin catalog. Though I would not say that any track on this particular album is a definitive version of a Gershwin song (which isn’t really the point anyway), I will concede that the recording captures the essence and fine performances of the talented cast.
Robert Fairchild, who plays the “American” of the title, exudes vocal charm on “I’ve Got Beginner’s Luck” and “Liza.” Max Von Essen come across vocally solid on “I Got Rhythm.” Brandon Uranowitz’s “But Not For Me” is hard to listen to— not because of his singing, but because his performance is so heartbreakingly honest. Sultriness slides out of the speakers on Jill Paice’s confident “Shall We Dance?” and she shows range when joining Uranowitz on “But Not for Me.” Leading lady Leanne Cope solos on only one track, “The Man I Love,” and her vocals are sweet, though not as captivating as when she performs onstage.
There is much use of George Gershwin’s orchestral work in the show, well represented in the opening “Concerto in F,” “Second Prelude,” and Act II’s “An American in Paris” ballet. It’s fun to listen to the recording and hear themes and snippets from other songs in the dance music and accompaniment that you may not hear at first listen in the theater. An American in Paris’s score was adapted, arranged and supervised by Rob Fisher and orchestrated by Christopher Austin. Sam Davis’s dance arrangements will leave you with “Fidgety Feet” for more than a few measures.
Though not all of An American in Paris’s cast album is “‘S Wonderful,” there are enough delightful bits for anyone who is a fan of the American Songbook—and “They Can’t Take That Away From Me.”
Available on Amazon and i-Tunes.