After Broadway-Bound American In Paris, Théâtre du Châtelet Flirts With Sondheim's Passion

By Mervyn Rothstein
22 Oct 2013

The story will be set in 1944-45, at the liberation of Paris by American and Allied troops, Choplin said. "We have to remember that in 2014 we are celebrating the 70th anniversary of the liberation," he said. "There will be big events in Paris. And this theatre is financed by the city of Paris. Independent, but really it's the music theatre of the city of Paris."

The characters, he said, "will have been through, for different reasons, difficult situations. The stories between the characters can be more developed than the story that we see in the film. The book part is going to be much stronger." But given that, he said, "romance is the key — the fun, the dance, all kinds of dance, jazz, tap, the classical ballet, for sure, are going to be the key elements of this project."

The film, which won six Academy Awards, including best picture, was set in post-World War II Paris and starred Gene Kelly as a former GI seeking success as a painter, and Leslie Caron as the French girl with whom he falls in love. Development of the musical starts later this month in New York; Dancers Robert Fairchild and Leanne Cope have the workshop's lead roles, though Choplin emphasized that the parts for the Paris and New York runs have not been cast.

Choplin said that he had been thinking for more than a year about creating a new musical at Châtelet, after presenting revivals of classics since he was named director in 2006. He was attracted to "An American in Paris," he said, "because of the title," the iconic nature of the film "and because of the fantastic quality of the music, the universal sound of the music."

He contacted the estates of George and Ira Gershwin. "They have been absolutely fantastic. They said, 'There are a couple of American producers who are also seeking the rights. Why don't you guys meet and see if you can do it together?'"