AN AMERICAN IN PARIS!
This brief vignette of Paris was expanded to become a jazz influenced symphonic poem, inspired by Gershwin’s time in Paris and evoking the sights, sounds and energy of the city in the 1920s. It was commissioned by the conductor Walter Damrosch, who directed the New York Philharmonic in the Carnegie Hall premiere of the work in 1928. Gershwin had imported genuine Parisian taxi horns to perform their part in the score!
The work next made an appearance as the music for a ballet in the Ziegfeld Broadway production “Show Girl” in 1929. The show, overburdened with 27 musical numbers, amongst which the storyline struggled to make itself heard, was not a success. Ziegfeld actually tried to blame the Gershwins (George and his lyricist brother Ira) for the lack of success, and when they sued him for their money, threatened to sue them for not writing a hit show.
The reason the work is so well known today is its appearance in and inspiration of the 1951 MGM musical of the same name, starring Gene Kelly and Leslie Caron. The film included a clutch of other existing well-loved Gershwin songs. It had a script by Alan Jay Lerner, another great lyricist. Directed by Vincente Minelli and choreographed by Gene Kelly, it tells the story of a World War II veteran trying to make it as a painter in Paris. The climax of the film is a remarkable 17 minute dance by Kelly and Caron to ‘An American in Paris’, which according to legend cost almost $500,000 to film. The film won six Oscars including Best Picture.
The new stage production of “An American in Paris”, inspired by the 1951 film, had its first performance at the Théâtre du Châtelet in Paris in December 2014 before opening on Broadway, where it became the most awarded show of the year for 2015 including 4 Tony Awards, 3 Outer Critics Circle Awards and 4 Drama Desk Awards, amongst many others. We are delighted to be associated with the London debut of this exhilarating show, featuring its original Broadway stars, Robert Fairchild and Leanne Cope, in the roles originally enacted by Gene Kelly and Leslie Caron. If you are lucky enough to see it, you will see that the set design invoking the Paris of the 1920s has a street featuring a boulangerie/pâtisserie very like PAUL would have been at the time when George Gershwin first visited the city.
The stage production retains five musical numbers from the 1951 film: “I Got Rhythm”, “I’ll Build a Stairway to Paradise”, “Concerto in F”, “’S Wonderful” and, of course, “An American in Paris’. It sets aside other songs from the film in favour of several other marvelous Gershwin classics including “The Man I Love”, “Liza”, “But Not For Me” and “They Can’t Take That Away From Me”.
The earliest of these songs is “I’ll Build a Stairway to Paradise”, which first appeared in George White’s Scandals of 1922. The latest is “They Can’t Take That Away From Me” which was introduced by Fred Astaire in the 1937 film “Shall We Dance”. The song was nominated for Best Song at the Academy Awards that year. Who knows what this ‘first rate Gershwin’ might have gone on to achieve? Tragically he died of a malignant brain tumour on 11th July 1937 at the age of just 38, two months after “Shall We Dance” was released.
His all too brief career was an extraordinary achievement for the song of a Russian Jewish immigrant from St. Petersburg, Morris Gershovitz, a man whose tenuous grasp of English never really improved during all the years he lived with his family in New York. Stopped one day by a traffic cop, he said proudly “You can’t arrest me officer, I’m the father of Judge Gershwin”. At least, that’s what the cop thought he said when he let him off. Really he just couldn’t pronounce ‘George’. His verdict on George’s “Rhapsody in Blue” was “Of course it’s a good piece. Doesn’t it take fifteen minutes to play?”
George’s songs sound as fresh today as ever, so get along to see the show at the Dominion Theatre if you possibly can. Perhaps you will be lucky enough to win a prize in our very special competition for PAUL customers. We have one VIP prize of a pair of tickets to see the show, afternoon tea at PAUL Covent Garden beforehand and a night in a Central London Radisson Blu Edwardian hotel. 5 runners up will win a pair of tickets to see the show.
Just visit www.anamericaninparisthemusical.co.uk/competition to enter. Closing date for entries is Monday 10th July 2017 and the prize can be redeemed between 17th July and 28th September 2017. Terms and Conditions apply.