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Review: ‘An American in Paris’ Original Cast Recording

June 30th, 2015 Comments off

by Mark Lingenfelter

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71B7KGcgUHL._SL1500_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.

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There to See: June — Tony Edition

June 4th, 2015 Comments off

At the beginning of each month we take a look at new productions opening on (and off) Broadway, offering our highly opinionated take on where you should spend your hard-earned theater bucks. This month we’re revisiting our three favorite shows of the season and suggesting you quickly scramble to get tickets before they run away with Tony honors.

Alex Sharp (photo: Joan Marcus via The Broadway Blog.)

Alex Sharp (photo: Joan Marcus via The Broadway Blog.)

The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time
Whether you’re a fan of the original book by Mark Haddon or are experiencing Simon Stephens’ adaptation for the first time, Curious Incident is one of those rare evenings of theater that will make your heart skip a beat. Director Marianne Elliott (who helmed the Oliver Award-winning production at the National Theatre) along with choreographers Scott Graham and Steven Hoggett utilize the 10-member ensemble in ingenious and infinite ways—as animate as well as inanimate objects. But it is the design team’s sensory framework that catapults the play from spectacular to pure genius.

The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time
Barrymore Theatre
243 West 47th Street

 

"An American in Paris" (photo: Matthew Murphy via The Broadway Blog.)

“An American in Paris” (photo: Matthew Murphy via The Broadway Blog.)

An American in Paris
For anyone who danced around the bedroom as a child, listening to cast recordings and dreaming of the day he or she might be on Broadway, An American in Paris is that dream come true.

Directed and choreographed by Christopher Wheeldon, there isn’t a show on Broadway that comes close when it comes to storytelling through dance. Carried along by George and Ira Gershwin’s score, the musical is a sweeping celebration of musical theater.

An American in Paris
Palace Theatre
1564 Broadway

Kelli O'Hara ('The King and I' on Broadway/Facebook)

Kelli O’Hara (‘The King and I’ on Broadway/Facebook)

Kelli O’Hara in The King and I
She’s received six Tony Award nominations (including this year’s notch for Best Performance by an Actress in a Leading Role in a Musical), but O’Hara has yet to snag the coveted prize… until now. Her star turn as Anna Leonowens leads a cast of 50 in Barlett Sher’s gorgeous staging of the Rodgers and Hammerstein 1951 classic. O’Hara is magnetic from the moment she appears on a magnificent ship sailing into Siam. And while that famous dress worn during “Shall We Dance?” took 20 yards of satin to create and delivers a circumference of nearly 30 feet, the actress is light as air. Her soaring soprano envelopes the rich score, but make no mistake—O’Hara is a superb actress on all fronts and delivers a performance of a lifetime.

The King and I
Vivian Beaumont Theater
Lincoln Center

Matthew Wexler is the Broadway Blog’s editor. Follow him on Twitter at @roodeloo.

A Musical Memorial Day Tribute

May 25th, 2015 Comments off
"An American in Paris" (photo: Matthew Murphy via The Broadway Blog.)

“An American in Paris” (photo: Matthew Murphy via The Broadway Blog.)

Dating back to the Civil War, Memorial Day has honored those who have died while serving in our country’s armed forces. We salute their service, and pay homage with some of our favorite musicals inspired by their stories.

An American in Paris is one of the season’s biggest hits and follows a soldier’s post-World War II adventures in Paris.

 

Miss Saigon returns with a brand new production in London’s West End. The Daily Mall said, “the greatest musical of all time just got better.” Take a peek…

 

Frank Wildhorn, Gregory Boyd and Jack Murphy’s musical about the Civil War received a makeover (and a new title) this spring: Freedom’s Song: Abraham Lincoln and the Civil War at the Ford’s Theatre. It is part of Ford’s 150, a series of events commemorating the 150th anniversary of Lincoln’s assassination.

Theater Buff: Michael Cusumano of “An American in Paris”

April 15th, 2015 Comments off

Every third Wednesday of the month, a fabulous actor/singer/dancer fills out editor Matthew Wexler’s nosey little questionnaire and offers a glimpse of what he looks like from a bit closer than the mezzanine. This month we visit Michael Cusumano, who appears in the new Broadway musical, An American in Paris. Based on the Academy Award-winning film and directed and choreographed by Christopher Wheeldon, it’s one of the hottest tickets of the season. Tres bien!

Michael Cusumano (photo: Bill Goulding via The Broadway Blog.)

Michael Cusumano (photo: Bill Goulding via The Broadway Blog.)

Name:
Michael Cusumano

Hometown:
Freeport, New York

What would you do on your ultimate Paris dream date?
If I was to imagine my ultimate Paris dream date I would chose the holiday time of year because I fell in love with the outdoor Christmas market. We would hold hands browsing the cute shops, while of course sipping a mulled wine. Get the grand! Then take a ride on the Ferris wheel, and finish the night being cheesy by going to the top of the Eiffel Tower— standing on top of the world and getting lost in each other’s eyes. (I’m a dreamer if you couldn’t tell!)

Favorite French pastry and where to get in NYC?
I’m not a big pastry fan, but I tell ya, I fell in love with ham and cheese crepes. I ate a bit too many while in Paris. There came a time where I had to force myself to walk another route back to the hotel so I wouldn’t pass my favorite crepe stand. If there’s a good crepe place in New York City, please don’t tell me cause I will be in trouble again. 

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Photo provided by Michael Cusumano.

If I weren’t a performer, I would be:
I may have been a roller coaster designer. When I was a kid I was obsessed with two things. Ballet and roller coasters. I asked my parents to pay for a subscription to ACE (American Coaster Enthusiasts) Yes… a roller coaster magazine and club, which I belonged to for a few years. At school I would be in class and draw ballerinas or roller coasters all day. Somehow I got straight A’s—don’t ask me how. 

Places, Intermission or Curtain Call? 
Places! I like to blurt out random, inappropriate, silly things to my boys during our excitement before we hit the stage. We are all a little loony in the dressing room. I like to believe it gets us pumped up for the show. I love my boys. I’m lucky to be around them every night. Read more…

Three to See: April

April 2nd, 2015 Comments off

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It’s a French revolution on Broadway this spring (and not of the Les Miserables variety). Two French-inspired shows make their way to the Great White Way, along with an epic tale set against the final days of Czarist Russia. Hence the inspiration for our internationally themed “three to see” for April. Broadway producers are also hoping to capitalize on name recognition. Cumulatively, these titles have won a total of 20 Academy Awards. Here’s hoping that Oscars translate to Tonys for a lucky few…

 

The cast of "Gigi" (photo: Margot Schulman via The Broadway Blog.)

The cast of “Gigi” (photo: Margot Schulman via The Broadway Blog.)


Gigi
Ooh la la! High School Musical star Vanessa Hudgens leads a cast set in the magical world of La Belle Epoque Paris, where fashion, glamour and passion prevail. Lerner and Loewe’s celebrated musical is a romantic comedy about one young woman’s journey to find her true self… and her true love. The cast also includes Broadway vets Victoria Clark (Tony Award winner for Light in the Piazza) and Tony nominees Dee Hoty (Mamma Mia) and Howard McGillin (Phantom of the Opera).

The show won the 1974 Tony Award for Best Original Score while the 1958 film snagged nine Oscars including Best Picture. With a new book by Heidi Thomas, here’s hoping “The Night They Invented Champagne” has enough bubbles for an extended Broadway run.

Gigi
Neil Simon Theatre
250 West 52nd Street
Opening night: April 8, 2015

  

Robert Fairchild and Leanne Cope in "American in Paris" (photo: Angela Sterling via The Broadway Blog.)

Robert Fairchild and Leanne Cope in “American in Paris” (photo: Angela Sterling via The Broadway Blog.)


An American in Paris
This romantic story of a young American soldier, a beautiful French girl and an indomitable European city, each yearning for a new beginning in the aftermath of war, is the stuff of Broadway dreams.

The original 1952 film starred Gene Kelly and Leslie Caron and won six Academy Awards, including Best Picture. (Vincente Minnelli directed both An American Paris and Gigi). For this stage version, all bets are on acclaimed director/choreographer Christopher Wheeldon, who has danced for the New York City Ballet and Royal Ballet. Tying it all together with a new book is Pulitzer Prize nominee Craig Lucas (Prelude to a Kiss) and the legendary songs of George and Ira Gershwin.

An American in Paris
The Palace Theatre
1564 Broadway
Opening night: April 12, 2015

 

The cast of "Dr. Zhivago" (photo: Jason Bell via The Broadway Blog.)

The cast of “Dr. Zhivago” (photo: Jason Bell via The Broadway Blog.)


Dr. Zhivago

Dr. Zhivago is an epic romance, revolving around the search for love during the final days of Czarist Russia, the First World War and the chaos of the Russian revolution. Raised as an aristocrat, Zhivago is a political idealist, physician and poet whose life is tossed by the tides of history as he is torn between a life with his devoted wife, Tonia Gromeko and the passionate and mysterious Lara Guishar.  Zhivago however, is not alone in his yearnings for Lara, and must compete with both revolutionaries and aristocracy alike to win the heart of the woman he cannot live without.

Based on the Nobel Prize-winning book and Academy Award-winning film, director Des McAnuff has his hands full with this epic tale but will rely on music by Lucy Simon, lyrics by Amy Powers and Michael Korie, and a book by Michael Weller to bring this epic tale to the stage.

Dr. Zhivago
Broadway Theatre
1681 Broadway
Opening night: April 21, 2105

Matthew Wexler is The Broadway Blog’s editor. Follow him on Twitter, Facebook and Instagram at roodeloo