Does promotion for the Broadway adaptation of An American in Paris discount Kelly's contributions to its existence?
In October 2013, press announcements for a Broadway version of the film musical An American In Paris (1951) began to circulate. Readers learned the show would commence in Paris in December 2014, and then move to Broadway in March of the following year. Six months later, word followed about its home base, director, choreographer, primary cast, and production team.
Fast-forward to this week: pre-sale tickets for the Broadway show went on sale, a behind-the-scenes video was released, and Huffington Post published “An American in Paris without Gene Kelly?" It’s the third event I’d like to explore further.
Gene and An American in Paris
In her Huffington Post article, the author writes that the Théâtre du Châtelet, the Parisian playhouse premiering the stage version of An American in Paris, fails to reference Gene Kelly in its promotion. In her words, "I was surprised not to see him even mentioned on the page.” Moreover, that Kelly is “omitted entirely—is both sad and careless.”
A bit of context for those unfamiliar with the original MGM motion picture: while Vincente Minnelli directed An American In Paris, the film is, most critics would agree, Gene Kelly’s. As the Huffington Post article rightly points out, Kelly choreographs the entire film, most crucially the “An American in Paris Ballet" — aka. that staggering 17-minute feat for which the picture is most celebrated.
In this, we must also remember that Kelly, as he does with most of his onscreen works, choreographs not only the dancing, but also the camera movements that accompany the dance. He explains this in The Magic Factory: How MGM Made An American in Paris (1973):
People have often asked me about the choreography on certain pictures, and I find that they do not understand that a really good film choreographer, as opposed to a stage choreographer, will compose for the camera. Each series of steps has to be shot from a certain angel to be seen best. There is always a "best” angle.
The man knows filmmaking. To this end, it would indeed be “both sad and careless” (to repeat the Huffington Post article) if not only the Théâtre du Châtelet, but also Broadway and other promoters of the stage show failed to cite Gene Kelly’s contributions. But from what I’ve seen, this is not the case.
Broadway's An American in Paris in the Media
First, the Théâtre du Châtelet does mention Gene Kelly (and Minnelli) on its webpage, in both its French and English versions:
Directed by Vincente Minnelli (who would become one of the specialists of the genre) including The Band Wagon, Brigadoon or Gigi), the film was rewarded six Oscars. And Gene Kelly recieved [sic] an Honorary Academy Award for his brilliant achievements in the art of choreography on film.
Granted, the Théâtre could’ve chosen a better and/or lengthier description of Kelly’s association with the original film. But as I point out for JSTOR Daily, his Honorary Oscar for An American in Paris is a big deal, and noting his choreography on the film is worthwhile.
Second, Broadway’s website also mentions Kelly, his honorary Oscar, and the film (see screenshot above). Likewise, on social media, Broadway markets the original alongside the stage production.
Let’s look at the overall picture. With the exception of Variety and Broadway World, almost every media text that has announced this film-to-stage adaptation prominently features Gene Kelly’s name—and the original MGM musical, for that matter. See, for example,
“Gene Kelly film An American in Paris is being adapted for the stage and will premiere in Paris late next year.”
I’m skeptical about this screen-to-stage transference of An American in Paris. Specifically, to stage that iconic ballet for the theatrical stage does a huge disservice to the combined filmic and dance choreography that Kelly envisioned and then created onscreen. In other words, the camerawork here is AS important as the dance choreography. But onstage, of course, that element would be removed from the equation.
That said, I’m not as skeptical about the promotion of Broadway's An American in Paris. Again, based on virtually everything published thus far (in both ink and pixels), Kelly is still heavily aligned with the Broadway production. It is clearly his (and Minnelli's) film first, Broadway’s second. Only time will tell if Broadway gets it right.
Featured image: "An American in Paris on new double-sided LED screen of the Dominion Theatre." Wikimedia Commons, August 2017.