What happened this year is that two great musical movies from the 1950s were brought to Broadway.
By John A. Schwarz
What happened this year is that two great musical movies from the 1950s were brought to Broadway. One was “Gigi,” the fabulous film made in 1958 with music by Lerner and Loewe. In my opinion it was the best musical ever produced in Hollywood. While watching it you felt that you were living in Paris during the Belle Epoque. The scenery was glorious, the songs were magnificent, the fantastic cast included Leslie Caron, Louis Jourdan, Maurice Chevalier, Hermione Gingold, and Eva Gabor. At one point you are in Maxim’s having dinner with Gabor, then you are transported to the Folies Bergère watching showgirls dancing the can-can, and next you find yourself hobnobbing with famous Impressionist artists.
“Gigi” opened on Broadway in March and sadly closed in June. I had no intention of seeing it since I felt it would never match what I saw, heard, and felt while watching the movie. When Anita and I were married we danced to the song “Gigi” at our reception. You can probably gather that I have strong feelings about that movie and that song.
The other musical movie made into a show this year was “An American in Paris,” which we saw in late June. The 1951 movie had music by George and Ira Gershwin and starred Leslie Caron and Gene Kelly. The dancing in the Broadway show is the best that I have ever seen. The songs are magnificent and, like any successful musical, this one has its funny moments.
The male lead is Robert Fairchild, a principal dancer with the New York City Ballet, and among the best in the world. The female lead, Leanne Cope, is a star of the Royal Ballet. Both are also wonderful singers.
At the end of any successful show, the audience gives the cast and crew a special hand and many people stand and applaud. What happens at the end of “An American in Paris”, is that everyone in the Palace Theater, a big theater which seats 1,700, rises from their seats, applauds madly, and shouts their approval. The only other time I can remember people acting like that was in Times Square on August 14, 1945, the day World War II ended.
My mother’s family was in show business, going back to their days in Ireland. My mother was a dancer, my uncle a singer and bandleader, and my grandfather an actor, whom I used to go to see in plays on Broadway. As a result, I’ve been a theatergoer since childhood. On the way home from “An American in Paris,” I tried to recall the last time I saw a Broadway musical I really loved. I came up with it: “Crazy For You” in 1992. Guess who wrote the music and lyrics? George and Ira Gershwin, that’s who.
If you don’t go to the theater very often you might consider, between now and the 2020 Summer Olympics, getting tickets to “An American in Paris,” which will still be setting box office records. You too will find yourself at the end of the show standing, applauding, and shouting with joy.