• France's news in English

'An American in Paris' to debut in French capital

AFP · 17 Nov 2014, 09:04

Published: 17 Nov 2014 09:04 GMT+01:00

Facebook Twitter Google+ reddit

More than 60 years after actor and dancer Gene Kelly dazzled onscreen as an American soldier trying to woo a French girl in the aftermath of war, producers from both countries have united to bring a new version of the romantic tale to theatres.

Both the film and the play were inspired by American composer George Gershwin's symphonic poem of the same name, which he wrote in 1928, meant to convey the sounds and atmosphere of Paris.

Jean-Luc Choplin, the director of Paris's Chatelet Theatre, said he approached the Gershwin estate three years ago to obtain the rights to George and his lyricist brother Ira's music with an eye to a stage production.

"They told me that two American producers wanted to do the same and they matched us up," he told AFP.

Broadway producers Stuart Oken and Van Kaplan raised some €10 million ($13 million) to put on "An American in Paris". If the show seduces audiences on Broadway, it could run for years, earning royalties for the Parisian theatre.

After six weeks of rehearsals in New York, the entire team of 70 people, including 34 singers and dancers, migrated to Paris in early November ahead of the show's opening on the 22nd.

With a series of American-style show previews due this week, the 150-year-old Parisian theatre is a hive of activity.

"Well done... good, good, good!" says English choreographer Christopher Wheeldon, leaping onto stage to adjust some decor as a dancer practices his moves.

"Rehearsals start at 9.30am till 11.30 at night. But I don't mind, I'm like a child at Christmas!"

A 'new musical'    

The 41-year-old, directing his first musical, told AFP that while growing up, Gene Kelly was a big inspiration to him.

"My favourite movie was "Singin' in the Rain", but I loved "An American in Paris" because of the ballet."

However none of those involved in the musical wanted to directly transfer the 1951 film to stage.

"We wanted to take the movie as inspiration for a new musical. Even though the music is not new, the way that we've written our story and make the music fit within the structure of our story is what makes it new," said Wheeldon.

With the movie as a "launching point", the original Gershwin score, a big dose of Gene Kelly inspiration and brand new choregraphy and scenography, "An American in Paris" hopes to get a whole new generation of audiences tapping along.

Story continues below…

"Gene Kelly embodied that kind of style, that jazz style and the tap... and the sort of combination of those with ballet and with my more contemporary vision of ballet kind of blends lots of ingredients in making a new cake."

Wheeldon says the stage musical uses a lot more orchestra music than the film, but that the orchestra would have to be trimmed down for Broadway, where the musicians' pit is much smaller.

Robert Fairchild, principal dancer with the New York City Ballet will take on the role of Jerry, a former soldier trying to make it as a painter in post-war Paris.

His Parisian love interest Lise will be played by Leanne Cope of the London Royal Ballet.Wheeldon said he wanted to evoke a sense of "the city after the war, after the occupation, rebuilding. I wanted it to feel like Paris... we spent a lot of time in making the neighbourhood."

'An American in Paris' will run from November 22nd to January 4th at the Chatelet Theatre and then at New York's Palace Theatre from March 13th, 2015.

Facebook Twitter Google+ reddit

Your comments about this article

Today's headlines
France to clear 'Jungle' migrant camp Monday
Migrants will be bussed from the camp to some 300 temporary accommodation centres around France. Photo: Denis Charlet/ AFP

The "Jungle" migrant camp on France's northern coast will be cleared of its residents on Monday before being demolished, authorities said Friday.

How life for expats in France has changed over the years
A market in Eymet, southwestern France. Photo: AFP

Foreigners in France explain how life has changed over the years.

London calling for Calais youths, but only a chosen few
Photo: AFP

Dozens of Calais minors are still hanging their hopes on help from the UK, but not all will be so lucky.

17 different ways to talk about sex in French
Photo: Helga Weber/Flickr

Fancy a quick run with the one-legged man?

Yikes! This is what a rat-infested French jail looks like
Photo: YouTube/France Bleu TV.

This video is not for sufferers of ratophobia (or musophobia as the condition is officially called).

France to allow Baby Jesus in Town Halls this Christmas
Photo: AFP

Mary, Joseph, and baby Jesus are safe to go on display again this year, it seems.

National Front posts locations of migrants in French town
The National Front courts controversy. Photo: AFP

"Local tax payers have a right to know," says local far-right party chief.

Paris thieves use tear gas to steal €500,000 of watches
Photo: AFP

The thieves pretended to be couriers then threatened staff with tear gas to get the watches.

Bataclan survivor recounts attack in chilling drawings
Photo: BFMTV screengrab

One survivor has recounted the horrific night through illustrations.

Anger among French police grows as Hollande vows talks
French police demonstrate on the Champs Elysées. Photo: AFP

A fourth night of protests shows government efforts to ease anger among French police have been fruitless.

Sponsored Article
How to vote absentee from abroad in the US elections
Why Toulouse is THE place to be in France right now
Sponsored Article
Last chance to vote absentee in the US elections
Video: New homage to Paris shows the 'real side' of city
The 'most dangerous' animals you can find in France
Sponsored Article
How to vote absentee from abroad in the US elections
Swap London fogs for Paris frogs: France woos the Brits
Anger after presenter kisses woman's breasts on live TV
Is France finally set for a cold winter this year?
IN PICS: The story of the 'ghost Metro stations' of Paris
How to make France's 'most-loved' dish: Magret de Canard
Welcome to the flipside: 'I'm not living the dream in France'
Do the French really still eat frogs' legs?
French 'delicacies' foreigners really find hard to stomach
French are the 'world's most pessimistic' about the future
Why the French should not be gloomy about the future
This is the most useful French lesson you will ever have. How to get angry
Why is there a giant clitoris in a field in southern France?
French pastry wars: Pain au chocolat versus chocolatine
Countdown: The ten dishes the French love the most
Expats or immigrants in France: Is there a difference?
How the French reinvented dozens of English words
The ups and downs of being both French and English
How Brexit vote has changed life for expats in France
Twelve French insults we'd love to have in English
What's on in France: Ten of the best events in October
jobs available