There can be no doubt about it: "An American in Paris" thrilled critics on its opening night at Broadway's Palace Theater on Sunday, with a special emphasis on the power of the show's dancing.
Directed and choreographed by ballet star Christopher Wheeldon, the 21st century Broadway reimagining of the 1951 MGM film starring Gene Kelly and Leslie Caron with music by George and Ira Gershwin, was lauded for the caliber of its dancing, an excellence that many critics lament has been rare on Broadway lately.
The show, about an American WWII veteran trying to make it as an artist in a newly liberated Paris, stars Robert Fairchild, in the role originally played by Kelly, and Leanne Cope. Both are primarily ballet dancers, but the critics agree that they can sing and act just as well.
The New York Times' Charles Isherwood wrote: "Just about everything in this happily dance-drunk show moves with a spring in its step, as if the newly liberated Paris after World War II were an enchanted place in which the laws of gravity no longer applied. Even the elegant buildings on the grand boulevards appear to take flight."
Newsday's Linda Winer wrote: "The ballet world's choreographer Christopher Wheeldon, in his theater-directing debut, has made something special. ... Just how extraordinary is unspooled all evening with exuberant, sweeping innovation, dark historical understanding and a big, smart heart. This is the most thrilling dance-driven musical since Twyla Tharp's wordless "Movin' Out" in 2002."
The Hollywood Reporter's David Rooney wrote: "Not only is Wheeldon's nuanced command of storytelling through dance front and center, the production also foregrounds a triple-threat revelation in NYC Ballet principal Robert Fairchild, who proves himself more than capable of following in the suave footsteps of Gene Kelly."
Variety's Marilyn Stasio wrote: "It's hard to breathe during the dreamy, 14-minute ballet that brings the show to a close with the lovers locked at last in each other's arms -- not only because the love story is so romantic, but because we rarely see this kind of dancing on Broadway and it's hard to let it go."