Dance Duo Leanne Cope and Robert Fairchild Wax Poetic About An American In Paris Movie
When one ponders the beauty of the Geroge and Ira Gershwin musical An American In Paris the immediate thought is a timeless treasure of dance, romance, and music.
Now, the Tony Award-winning show that dazzled audiences on Broadway and the stages of London and Paris is now a movie from Trafalgar Releasing, showing at movie theaters around the nation on Thursday, Sept. 20 and Sunday, Sept. 23.
The unforgettable music and lyrics of George and Ira Gershwin the show features quintessential hits, including, ‘S Wonderful, The Man I Love, But Not For Me, I’ll Build A Stairway to Paradise, An American In Paris They Can’t Take Away From Me and I Got Rhythm.
With the book by Craig Lucas, this breathtakingly beautiful new musical draws upon the essence of Gene Kelly’s nimble footwork from the original classic. It was inspired by the Oscar-winning MGM classic film and tells the impassioned story of discovering love in the ‘City of Light’ in 1945.
The breathtakingly beautiful An American in Paris, directed and choreographed by the internationally renowned Christopher Wheeldon (Winner of the Tony Award 2015 for best choreographer for this production) and starring Tony Award nominees, former New York City Ballet Principal dancer Robert Fairchild as Jerry Mulligan and British Royal Ballet dancer Leanne Cope as Lise Dassin.
An American in Paris tells the impassioned story of discovering true love in the “City of Lights” inspired by the 1951 Oscar-winning MGM film of the same name.
This new rendition of An American in Paris premiered in 2014 at the Théâtre du Châtelet in Paris to ecstatic reviews before transferring to the Palace Theatre on Broadway, where it became the most awarded musical of the 2015/16 season, including four Tony Awards.
While the U.S touring production continues to see great success, theater enthusiasts across North America can now experience the magic of the hit Broadway Musical performance from London’s West End in their local movie theater this fall.
The following is an exclusive interview with Robert Fairchild and Leanne Cope, the brilliant stars of this stage love story that transfers well to the big screen.
What do you love about this show?
LEANNE COPE: It is the perfect musical that I love so much. I feel like I’ve seen it grow from a small tree to a major cinematic release. If I had seen it as an audience member it would have made my self as a 10-year-old yearn to become a performer – especially when it comes to the dancing. I watched the musical Cats and that is what made me want to become a dancer. So perhaps there is a young girl watching this production of An American In Paris who decides ‘I want to grow up performing the part of Lise.’
Please talk about your excitement about this movie and the ability to share this work of art with broader audiences.
LC: I think it is very important that people who can’t make it to the theater for one reason or another, who cannot afford to pay the theater ticket price, can perhaps spend $10 to see this in the cinema. A few years this was done with King and I and Funny Girl, and so this part of bringing more theater, ballet and opera to the cinema. I wholeheartedly embrace this.
Tell me about working with your leading man Robert Fairchild?
LC: We first met during the audition process. I flew to New York, walked into the casting agency and seeing three other guys who looked like me and Robert and three other guys – auditioning for the parts of Jerry and Lise. I remember watching Robbie and saying to myself, ‘if that guy doesn’t the part I don’t know what’s going on.’ He is today’s Gene Kelly – the complete package of singing, dancing and acting. We both came from similar ballet backgrounds, so that made it easier. We almost had our own private language; a shorthand of sorts.
Robert is clearly smitten with you and loved working with you.
LC: Back at him. We are getting together very soon in London, who are close, close friends, and enjoy one another’s company.
What was your first introduction to An American In Paris – was it the movie or the theatrical version?
LC: The show. I didn’t see the movie before my audition. The first audition was very information and I didn’t know what I was auditioning for Christopher [Wheeldon] messaged me on Facebook and asked me to sing The Man I Love and so I watched various versions from Aretha Franklin, Judy Garland, and Barbra Streisand, It was at the Royal Opera House and the best acoustics are in the shower there so that’s where I sang The Man I Love for him; fully clothed at the time.
Then what happened?
LC: I received word that Christopher wanted to see me again for the Broadway production of An American In Paris, so I watched the musical with Gene Kelly and Leslie Caron and I loved it. And everything kept popping up in my life to show that it was kismet for me to play this part.
I am intrigued – what happened?
LC: I was watching the ballet, in which my husband was dancing, and I accidentally bumped into Leslie Caron who was also in the audience. I figured this was my chance to introduce myself. We had just finished the run of the show in Paris and I couldn’t believe she knew who I was. Her daughter took my phone number, and two days later she called and soon after that, we went for tea. She told me how Gene Kelly discovered her, she spoke about her movie Daddy Long Legs and so many other wonderful stories of her work and her life. It was the most magical three hours and we have kept in contact. I was thrilled that she saw An American In Paris on Broadway and in London. We now have a great friendship.
What is the attraction to An American In Paris – both the movie and stage version?
LC: This is a timeless show. We can’t get away from the fact that it is set just after the Liberation of Paris. It is timeless because it is a love story, and I believe that people want to see the beauty, the romance, and the escapism. The show is about the struggles we endure and that despite life’s struggles it turns out good in the end, which is what we all want.
The story still rings true today.
LC: Unfortunately, yes. In the world, today people are still being treated badly because of their religion, race or gender. There are still wars going on. People can relate to so much of the story; it is about friendship, love, and romance. And I never tire of hearing Gershwin music. I have performed this show more than 1,000 times and I still hum along and sing along to the songs. It is so infectious. So genius. That is another reason it will always be timeless.
Why did you become a ballerina?
LC: I started dancing at five years old. My mom did ballroom and Latin dancing, and my grandmother never wanted her to go to ballet school, so of course, she sent me for ballet. I always wanted to try ballroom and Latin because I loved all aspects of dance – tap, jazz, and ballet. I had a natural ability and I loved performing, and I still do. I got into the prestigious Royal Ballet School in London at 11 years old, and to be honest when I first went I didn’t quite realize what I was signing up for. I was just loving the fact I was dancing every day. One day I figured out that if I worked really hard I could make a career of this. I have a great love for musicals and I would come home for school holidays my parents would take me to musicals.
What are the challenges of being a ballerina?
LC: Actually, my body finds ballet very hard. My Feet and hip are not naturally prone for this, my anatomy is not naturally gifted for this, yet I have always had a great love for ballet. Now, still have a great love for ballet. Now, after discovering different ways to express myself – such as singing and acting — I know that I can perform in other ways.
What do you have planned for your future?
LC: I am not able to talk about it yet, but it involved something next year with dancing, singing and acting. I am extremely excited to get back on stage next year.
What is your reaction to the movie coming out and sharing it with friends and family who may have not seen your show on the stage?
LC: The movie was released in England this summer and there were lots of people who finally got to the see it in the cinema. I received scores of messages from school friends who I haven’t seen since I was 11 years old. There were family members who had never seen me dance before who finally had the chance to see it. In the US it will be a joyous reunion since most of my friends were also in the show with me. I look forward to some of the members of the American cast will get to go to the cinema and see it; that would be splendid.
Do you have advice for future ballerinas who want to follow in your footsteps?
LC: Obviously work hard. But also don’t pigeonhole yourself. Don’t put yourself in a box. I feel that I concentrated so much on my ballet, and thinking back I wish I had done more jazz and tap, in order to have a well-rounded career. So, now re-introducing myself to my mind and body is a little more difficult. So be an all-around performer. Try different styles – hip-hop, the Lindy hop, and gymnastics. The more you do the more employable you will find yourself. I am currently going to tap classes and carrying on with singing and acting lessons. If you can keep that going and have as many strings to your bow and work really, really hard, that is all you can ask of yourself.
What is it like to be in the throes of this performance?
Robert Fairchild: There is nothing like feeding off of an audience. Each show is different because no one audience is the same. There is a communication back and forth, so it’s like our own kind of dialogue, which is so much fun. I did two months in Paris, a year on Broadway and four months in London – so it added up to 500 shows and I never tired of it. It was always exhilarating.
Also, a great deal of hard work. So, what are the challenges?
RF: I have been on stage for 12 years as a ballet dancer. For this show, there was a lot of preparation, a lot of learning. I was stepping into the theater world and I had to be respectful and acknowledge that this doesn’t evolve overnight. In the beginning, we had a workshop every night.
Talk about this movie version of An American In Paris.
RF: Growing up in Utah I was lucky enough that my parents had a subscription to the Broadway tours, which I loved. I was also inspired by watching Gene Kelly in his movies, so it is particularly special for me to bring this show o a wider audience. I know there are people who don’t have the chance to go to Broadway, London or Paris. So, if a young person sees me dancing and remembers that he or she was inspired to become a dancer because of seeing An American In Paris in the movie theater, that would be wonderful, and it does happen. With impressionable young people in the audience, you never know when that is going to happen, and I love being thought of as a role model.
This musical has so many lovely songs. Do you have a favorite one or two?
RF: My favorites are orchestral pieces. The Concerta in F at the very beginning of the show, and Who Cares, which is this romantic, gorgeous and lush melody, the heart of the show at that moment.
This is such a powerful love story – why do you feel it has endured?
RF: The love and romance which lays on the bed of Gershwin music; which is so iconic, so timeless, and yet period at the same time. This is a classic. It was an incredible time in Paris. The arts were thriving after the whole mess of the war happened and it was time to redefine yourself in another country, which is what Jerry does. You can be the most authentic version of yourself. The idea of falling in love with someone from another country, amid the backdrop of the romantic city of Paris. The whole idea has a great deal of allure.
How do you feel about the finished film when you saw it for the first time?
RF: I knew it was going to be gorgeous but I didn’t know it would be this stunning. Our director is a master at what he’s done, and he has made something so stunning and memorable. It just breathes and has its own life to it.
Do you remember meeting Leanne, your leading lady, and close friend, for the first time?
RF: Yes, Leanne walked into the audition waiting room and I said ‘that’s the girl. That is Lise.’ There was no doubt in my mind. Her presence is out of this world. She radiates warmth. Her face tells so much. She is a gorgeous dancer, and singer, so you can’t help but fall in love with her. So reminiscent of Lesley Caron’s portrayal in the show.
How familiar were you with this show before you were cast as Jerry.
RF; My mom and I would share movies, and it was always one popular movie and one big Hollywood musical, so I had an influx of all those musicals, and this was one of my favorites for as long as I can remember I remember hearing about the audition and thinking that could be a reality for me. Audition process was a year or more. I worked my butt off for it.
Why did you pursue a career in dance/ballet?
RF: I did it because I had to — there was no other option. If you have the bug, you make it happen because otherwise, it’s too hard.
Is a dance career what you expected?
RF: It is…and much more. I had no idea it would take me to where I am right now. I still keep in touch with my first ballet teacher, Kayelynne Oliphant in Utah, an incredible person, who still reaches out to all of us and gets teary-eyed about our accomplishments. It is really special when you contribute so much of yourself to someone to help achieve their dreams.
What would you say is the take away for the movie?
RF: There is so much. I think it is the most stunning set, gorgeous music, and spectacular dancing – all telling the story of love. It is the perfect date night for everyone.
What are you doing next?
RF: I am doing a dance film that I starred in and co-created. I also have a feature film about I am about to shoot that I can’t talk about yet. And Mixtape a romantic musical drama TV series on Netflix that will start filming in February.
What is it like to share this movie with your family?
RF: My grandparents are 95 years old and they have been so supportive of my career. Their neighbors are going to drive them to their movie theater and I am so fortunate to be able to share this experience with them.
Why should people head to the movies to see this?
RF: I am so excited to share something we worked so hard on for the past five years with so many people – it is a true pleasure!
Ticketing & Screening information: Click Here
To view the trailer: Click Here