“An American in Paris” Begins Performances

A Gershwin Musical Based on a Film Based on a Symphony

an american in parisIn 1928, George Gershwin wrote a symphonic poem entitled “An American in Paris” based on his travels in Paris in the 1920s. Influenced by both jazz and the blues, the musical piece was intended to show the experience of an American walking around the French capital, taking in its sights and sounds. In 1951, a film adaptation was made of this symphony starring Gene Kelly and Leslie Caron. The film incorporates several Gershwin classics such as “I Got Rhythm,” “’S Wonderful,” and “Our Love is Here to Stay.” Directed by Vincente Minnelli from a script written by Alan Jay Lerner, the film was a major hit, winning the Academy Award for Best Picture among many other honors, and bringing in almost $7 million at the box office. Now, for the first time, An American in Paris has been adapted for the stage. Directed and choreographed by Christopher Wheeldon, the show premiered in Paris on November 22, 2014, and ran there at the Theatre du Chatelet until January 4, 2015. Now, the show has finally come to Broadway, with its first preview having taken place on March 13, 2015 at the Palace Theatre.

An All-Star Creative Teaman american in paris

The director and choreographer Christopher Wheeldon is making his Broadway directorial debut. He has choreographed once before on Broadway, for Sweet Smell of Success in 2002. However, he is widely considered one of the world’s most coveted and respected ballet choreographers. He trained at the Royal Ballet and then the New York City Ballet, and in 2001 he was honored as the City Ballet’s first choreographer in residence. In 2006, he founded his own ballet company, Morphoses. The producer Stuart Oken invited Wheeldon to direct this musical, and it took some convincing, as he had never directed actors before. However, he eventually agreed. In addition to music and lyrics by George and Ira Gershwin, the show has a new book by Craig Lucas (Prelude to a Kiss, The Light in the Piazza, Reckless). In addition, Bartlett Sher (South Pacific, The King and I) is a creative consultant for the show. Wheeldon and Lucas developed a 60 page treatment of the show together before the Gershwin estate agreed to let the producers continue developing the show. Unlike the film, which is set in the 1950s, Lucas and Wheeldon decided to set their An American in Paris in the time just after World War II. Furthermore, they made other changes such as making Lise, the main character, a ballet dancer, and also having her relationship with her composer friend Adam more central to the story.

An American in Paris

The story centers around a young man named Jerry Mulligan (Robert Fairchild), who has just completed his time in the World War II army. He decides to move to Paris, which has been recently liberated, to make his life as a painter. He is helped out by another ex-pat, a wealthy woman named Milo Davenport (Jill Paice) who has a past she does not want to remember. Things become complicated for Jerry when he meets Lise (Leanne Cope), a beautiful Parisian girl who works in a shop. Jerry’s friends Adam (Brandon Uranowitz), a Jewish-American composer, and Henri (Max von Essen), a French aristocrat, also have romantic interests in Lise. Only through the beauty of dance and music can this love triangle be reconciled. An American in Paris is set to open on April 12, 2015, and will continue for an open-ended run.

“The King and I” Begins Previews on Broadway

A Lincoln Center Production of the Rodgers and Hammerstein Hit

the king and iOn March 12, 2015, the 2015 revival of The King and I will play its first performance at the Vivian Beaumont Lincoln Center. Opening night is scheduled for April 16, 2015. This is the fifth time this musical will have played on Broadway, the original having premiered on March 29, 1951. With music by Richard Rodgers, and book and lyrics by Oscar Hammerstein II, the show is based on a novel called Anna and The King of Siam by Margaret Landon. At the time of its premiere, the musical was a huge hit and won the Tony Awards for Best Musical, Best Actress (Gertrude Lawrence in the role of Anna Leonowens) and Best Featured Actor (Yul Brynner as the King of Siam). It was then revived in 1977, 1985, and 1996. The 2015 production therefore marks the fourth Broadway revival. This production is produced by Lincoln Center Theatre at their Vivian Beaumont Broadway venue. It is directed by Bartlett Sher (The Bridges of Madison County, Golden Boy, South Pacific), and the choreography is the original by Jerome Robbins, with the revival’s musical staging by Christopher Gattelli (Newsies, Godspell, South Pacific). The production stars Kelli O’Hara (Nice Work if You Can Get It, South Pacific, The Bridges of Madison County) as Anna, and Ken Watanabe (The Last Samurai, Memoirs of a Geisha) making his Broadway debut as the King of Siam.

A Classic Story for a Modern Audienceken watanabe kelli o'hara

The timeless tale of Anna and the King revolves around a British schoolteacher in 1862, who is hired by the King of Siam (now Thailand) to come to Bangkok and tutor his children. The King has many wives and has other traditional customs, but he has hired Anna to help modernize his country. Still, he is very resistant to this effort, and at first there is great tension between the two. Nevertheless, Anna is persistent, and she not only succeeds in introducing some Western customs to Siam, but she and the King ultimately also fall in love. The show includes many timeless and beautiful songs such as “I Whistle a Happy Tune,” “Hello, Young Lovers,” “A Puzzlement,” “Getting to Know You,” “Something Wonderful,” and “Shall We Dance?”. This Lincoln Center production is sure to let its audiences relive the original magic of this gorgeous show, complete with the original choreography and elaborate traditional costumes.

A Déjà Vu of “South Pacific” at the Vivian Beaumont

In spring 2008, Lincoln Center mounted another Rodgers and Hammerstein classic musical at the Vivian Beaumont Theatre: South Pacific. This production shares much more than the composer and librettist in common with this revival of The King and I. First of all, the director is the same: Bartlett Sher. Secondly, the same leading lady will take center stage: Kelli O’Hara. What’s more, Sher has reunited his entire creative team from that production: set designer Michael Yeargan, musical director Ted Sperling, lighting designer Donald Holder, costume designer Catherine Zuber, and sound designer Scott Lehrer. Fortunately, South Pacific was such an enormous hit that this bodes well for The King and I. In 2008, South Pacific brought home a phenomenal seven Tony Awards, including Best Revival of a Musical, Best Director (Bartlett Sher), Best Actor, and all four design categories: costume, set, sound, and lighting. Therefore, The King and I is sure to be a delightful and magical production, reuniting a team who know each other well. There won’t be too much “Getting to Know You” necessary at the first rehearsal.

“The Bridges of Madison County” to Close on May 18

Based on the 1992 best-selling novel by Robert James Waller, The Bridges of Madison County is a musical with music and lyrics by Jason Robert Brown (Parade, Songs for a New World), a book by Marsha Norman (‘night, Mother), and directed by Bartlett Sher.  Though the show was a highly anticipated transfer from the Williamstown Theatre Festival where it ran in summer 2013, it will unfortunately close on May 18, 2014 after consistently moderate sales.  The musical opened at the Gerald Schoenfeld Theatre on February 20, 2014 after 37 preview performances, and it will have run 100 regular performances by the time it shutters its doors.

The musical was not helped by its schedule, hbridges of madison county musical kelli o'hara steven pasqualeaving opened in the midst of a very cold winter.  Furthermore, it received mixed reviews from critics, despite considerable appreciation for the performances of its two stars.  Kelli O’Hara, who has received Tony Award nominations for her roles in The Light in the Piazza, The Pajama Game, South Pacific, and Nice Work if You Can Get It, starred alongside Steven Pasquale, who is known for his television roles on Rescue Me and Six Feet UnderThe Bridges of Madison County received four Tony Award nominations in 2014, including those for Best Performance by an Actress in a Leading Role in a Musical (Kelli O’Hara), Best Original Score (Jason Robert Brown), Best Orchestrations (Jason Robert Brown), and Best Lighting Design of a Musical (Donald Holder).  Despite this appreciation from the theatre community, it did not manage to attract enough ticket-buyers to keep it afloat.

Financially, the show’s highest weekly gross was $476,374, but it generally grossed around $350,000 per week.  This is hardly enough to sustain a musical, even though its capitalization was a modest $8.5 million.  In general, it only amassed enough sales to reach 30 to 40 percent of its gross potential in a given week.  Since early March, it has been on a steady decline, and this past week it grossed $64,998 less than the week before.

The novel is one of the bestselling books of the 20th century, having sold 50 million copies worldwide.  It is the story of an Italianbridges of madison county kelli o'hara steven pasquale bed scene woman named Francesca who lives in Madison County, Iowa in the 1960s.  The story takes off when she starts an affair with a National Geographic photographer focused on covered bridges in the area, and it follows the couple for several years afterward.  In addition to this musical adaptation, the novel was made into a film in 1995 directed by Clint Eastwood, starring Eastwood and Meryl Streep.

This is a very competitive season for new musicals.  In addition to the four that were nominated for the Tony Award for Best Musical – A Gentleman’s Guide to Love and Murder, Aladdin, After Midnight, and Beautiful: The Carole King Musical – this season also saw the premiere of Bullets over Broadway, If/Then, and Rocky the Musical, as well as the Broadway premiere of Hedwig and the Angry Inch and Violet (though these two shows have had Off-Broadway runs in the past).  In addition to the slew of musical revivals and plays both new and revived, it was particularly difficult for a new musical to find its audience, even one with such name recognition as The Bridges of Madison County.