At one point in the revival of Gigi at the Neil Simon Theatre, the title character sings, "I don't understand the Parisians" due to their romantic attitudes, but at the Palace Theatre, the cast of An American in Paris is bringing European romance to Broadway.
The production received its world premiere in Paris at the Theatre Du Chatelet, where the cast lived and performed for three months, while enjoying the sites and sounds — and pastries — of the City of Lights.
A First Look at Robert Fairchild, Leanne Cope, Jill Paice and Max von Essen in the Broadway-Bound An American in Paris
Currently in previews, An American in Paris officially opens on Broadway April 12. Directed and choreographed by Christopher Wheeldon, the musical tells the story of Jerry Mulligan (Robert Fairchild), a World War II army veteran who finds himself romantically involved with Lise (Leanne Cope), a Parisian shop girl. But two other men, Adam (Brandon Uranowitz) and Henri (Max von Essen), are also pursuing Lise.
A story of old-fashioned romance, An American in Paris is inspired by the 1951 film of the same name that starred Gene Kelly and Leslie Caron. Renowned for its lengthy musical production numbers, the film featured the Gershwin songs "I Got Rhythm" and "Our Love Is Here To Stay." The cast and creative team weighed in on performing a story of 1940s love to an audience of Tinder users and their favorite romantic spots in New York.
"One of the girls in our company was on Tinder in Paris and met a fellow there!" Jill Paice, who plays Milo Davenport, said. Commenting on the old-fashioned idea of romance, she added, "[The musical] is old-fashioned. It is boy meets girl. It's not boy swipes until he finds the right girl. The sort of slow unravellings is old school, so romantic. It's not instant gratification, and everyone has to work to find their way there. The art of conversation and banter and wit — those things that are so often passed over by a text."
"I don't think we'd all be online if we didn't think we were going to meet someone that we were going to fall in love with or spend our lives with," book writer Craig Lucas said. "I don't think that changes. Because there's love doesn't mean that things go smoothly in the story. They all have hopes; some of them are dashed. Nobody winds up with the person you think they're going to wind up. Dance is probably the most inspiring way to express love. I hope that... beneath that veneer of cynicism there is a real beating heart there."
The beating hearts in the musical's cast shared their own favorite romantic spots in New York, where they would take a loved one to sing and dance to Gershwin love songs.
"I love Central Park," Fairchild said. "It's so beautiful. But there's the promenade in Brooklyn, looking at the city. I think that's one of the most beautiful spots. The High Line... there's so many magical spots. While it's not Paris and it doesn't have as much history and that flavor in the air, [New York] is so romantic. You can't compete with Paris, but..."
Fairchild's co-star Cope mentioned Central Park as well, specifically, "underneath one of those lovely bridges that go over and it's a bit shaded away from people." Wheeldon also shared the idea, saying, "My favorite romantic spot in the city are the rocks that jut out to the lake in Central Park where you get the beautiful panorama of nature and then rising above it, the city. But I think it would be dangerous to dance on the rocks."
Von Essen evoked 1950's Hollywood in his response, choosing, "The Plaza, at the lobby where they have the little restaurant at the piano. [You could] surprise somebody while you're having dinner and just get up to the piano to sing. I feel like just because of the era, I imagine it when Gershwin might have written it. In another time, the Plaza was probably at its height and its glory, and it feels like that's a very New York/Gershwin moment."
"I've lived here my whole life, so there are many places that are romantic here for me," Lucas shared. "I like downtown, below Houston, after everything closes. It's still a very quiet part of town. Now I like to walk in Brooklyn after all the businesses shut down. It still feels like a city where working people are there. A lot of Manhattan feels like a place where only billionaires are buying condos to hide their money. It's not the most romantic place any more. But I know where they are. New Yorkers know where they are. But we wouldn't tell anyone, because we don't want them to go there!" Paice and Uranowitz both thought of Paris when asked about romance. "I picture it at the top of the — I want to say the Eiffel Tower! — the Empire State Building," Paice said. "Especially from the old Hollywood movies, when you think of a Broadway opening when they're all gathered around the piano. It's very sentimental."
"First of all, it would be in Paris," Uranowitz said. "[But] I think it would be in Brooklyn Heights at the Promenade. That's one of my favorite spots in this world, probably — I think particularly when it comes to romance and love."
(Carey Purcell is the Features Editor of Playbill.com. Her work appears in the news, feature and video sections of Playbill.com as well as in the pages of Playbill magazine. Follow her on Twitter @PlaybillCarey.)