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Overseas critics laud joint Pittsburgh CLO, Chatelet production ‘American in Paris’ |
Theater & Arts

Overseas critics laud joint Pittsburgh CLO, Chatelet production ‘American in Paris’

| Friday, December 26, 2014 8:57 p.m
Angela Sterling
A scene from 'An American in Paris,' which debuted in Paris.
Angela Sterling
A scene from 'An American in Paris,' now playing in Paris.
Angela Sterling
A scene from 'An American in Paris,' now playing in Paris

European theater critics are singing the praises of “An American in Paris.”

“I would beg, borrow or steal to see it all again,” says Francis Carlin in London’s Financial Times.

The musical, inspired by the Oscar-winning 1951 film that starred East Liberty native Gene Kelly, opened in Paris on Dec. 10 as a joint production between Pittsburgh Civic Light Opera and Theatre du Chatelet under the guidance of Van Kaplan, CLO’s executive producer, and Stuart Oken.

After the sold-out, seven-week run ends on Jan. 4 at the 1,800-seat Theatre du Chatelet, the musical is scheduled to transfer to Broadway, where previews begin March 13 for an April 12 opening.

Here’s what some British and French critics had to say:

Christophe Martet,, Paris: Was it necessary to adapt “An American in Paris” for the stage, Martet asks. “The answers is three times yes,” he says. “If Vincente Minnelli’s film was, above all, memorable for the ballet scene with George Gershwin’s music, the book written by Craig Lucas for (this production) is deeper … Far from copying Minnelli, (choreographer and director Christopher) Wheeldon creates his own Paris of fantasy and glamour, and the show is full of visual ingenuity.”

Francis Carlin, Financial Times, London: “Its savvy, poetic cocktail of French chic and Broadway pizzazz is a perfect Christmas treat for the ballet-mad Parisians. Robert Fairchild and Leanne Cope, the romantic leads, both have classical dance backgrounds and have had to train hard to confront the triple threat of singing, dancing and acting. They pull it off magnificently.”

Sarah Crompton, The Telegraph, London: “In routines such as ‘I’ve Got Rhythm’ — which starts as a funeral dirge and becomes a life-enhancing whirl of movement — and ‘I’ll Build a Stairway to Paradise’ — as grand and splashy as a Busby Berkeley extravaganza — Wheeldon writes a love letter to the great American musical itself. For all the showbiz pizzazz he brings to the dance numbers, they have a balletic grace and emotion that is entirely his.”

The first act has some structural problems, Crompton notes. “But they don’t diminish the night’s send-off triumph. By the time this show lands on Broadway … it should be able to run and run.”

Rosita Boisseau, Le Monde, Paris: “Christopher Wheeldon has finally hit the jackpot for his first professional musical and first-ever Broadway-Paris production. Three hours of whirlwind scene changes fly by, displaying tourist views of the capital that whirl on this Franco-American carousel. The fear of dizziness gives way to euphoria, thanks to a gilt-edged casting and Gershwin’s music which warms (you) all over.”

Judith Mackrell, The Guardian, London: “Lovers of the film’s style will be delighted by Bob Crowley’s ingenious shape-shifting designs which conjure the same Parisian streets, clubs, cafes and romantic river views. But despite the romance, glamour and fizz of this production, Wheeldon has also moved beyond the picture-postcard Paris familiar to fans of the movie. … The shadow of Nazi occupation falls darkly over certain scenes, with wounded soldiers and beggars on the streets and accusations of collaboration hanging in the air.”

Arianne Bavelier, Le Figaro, Paris: “(Wheeldon’s) ‘An American in Paris’ is a true celebration, with twirling and sensibility that makes hearts beat and feet fidgety. This is the first musical adaptation of Vincente Minnelli’s film … meant to conquer Broadway and the entire world.

Tickets are now on sale for the Broadway production of “An American in Paris.” Previews begin March 13 for an April 12 opening at the Palace Theatre on Broadway at 47th Street, Manhattan. Admission is $57-$156.75.

Details: 800-653-8000 or

Alice T. Carter is the theater critic for Trib Total Media. She can be reached at 412-320-7808, or via Twitter @ATCarter_Trib.

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