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Christopher Wheeldon - An American in Paris - Paris & Broadway


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From a Ballet Alert posting re: the British Born American resident choreographer who is an RB associate, one of the RB's dancers and a star principal from NYCB:

 

It looks like the American In Paris revival is taking shape, with Wheeldon at the helm as choreographer and director.  The show will premiere in Paris, with hopes of a Broadway transfer in 2015.  Robbie Fairchild is in the workshop in the lead male role.  Leanne Cope of Royal Ballet will workshop the Caron role.  I'm not familiar with Cope, but Robbie Fairchild seems like the PERFECT choice for this project as far as the dancing goes.  My only other candidate for the role would be Woetzel, but I suspect that he is now too old for this role.  Robbie can certainly dance the role, but I have no idea whether he can act.  It seems like for a big budget musical on Broadway, they would need someone who is a "triple threat".

 

http://artsbeat.blog...adway/?ref=arts

 

 

Now have a feeling that more than a few Balletcoforum members may be doing a spot of shopping next Xmas in Paris .... for, one suspects, (well, fingers crossed if project plans and castings remain steady) good reason. :)   (Just by the bye, I have been told that Mr. Fairchild is well known amongst the NYCB dancers for 'singing all over the place' .... and from his stunning performances in FANCY FREE there is, I think little question that he can, in fact, fit this particular GI's bill, stepping up for Wheeldon much as another NYCB Robbie - (La Fosse that is) did for Robbins on Broadway!)   Cope - certainly from a dancing perspective - seems inspired casting for the Caron  role.   (Who knows, perhaps she'll take the 'Cooper route' in her future career!)

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I have heard from a very reliable source that Leanne Cope has an excellent singing voice, so with that together with her undoubted dancing talent she should be all set to make her mark in a musical. In addition, I remember from an interview she had with the Ballet Association that she saw herself more as an all round performer and that her ambitions lay beyond the world of classical ballet towards that of of musicals.

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Thanks very much for this information, Josephine. We've been following this topic enthusiastically at another forum mentioned here, but it's been ages waiting for the actual casting. One of our main curiosities has been whether the production will be more ballet or musical. It should be very interesting to see. Gene Kelly and Leslie Caron are icons as is this work. Trying to stay at the same level with a new production is a formidable task. Also Gene Kelly's (and Fred Astaire's) 'fusing' of ballet and musical influences had a great impact, which may now take on new significance. It could be a new chapter for Christopher Wheeldon as well. All in all, the implications are fascinating.

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If anyone has seen any of George Balanchine's "Who Cares" (music George Gershwin) or similar works by Jerome Robbins (both significant influences on Christopher Wheeldon) you might get an added insight into the challenges and excitement that this new production has to offer.

 

By the way I just bought a ticket to the opening night and will try to tell you something about it then. Orchestra seats for that night are sold out except for possibly a few folding seats.

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Here is but a taster for the wonderful NYCB dancer ROBERT FAIRCHILD in a Gene Kelly celebration at Damian Woetzel's annual Vail Festival prior to appearing in American in Paris at the Theatre du Chatalet in the Winter opposite the RB's Ms. Cope (that production itself being but a preview for Broadway).    

 

 

On a side note, I do so hope that the glorious Robert Fairchild (as much as his equally magnificent wife, Tiler Peck) doesn't suffer the same fate in London as the brilliant dancer Damian Woetzel (who could always easily 'out Steven' the RB's vivid Mr.McRae and who Baryishnikov called 'the best turner in ballet history') did, e.g., where his decades long career is summed up in front of London audiences by but one movement of one work just before he retires.  

 

You can see a sampling of the opening night of Vail International Festival here, replete with a (smaller) excerpt from the above. 

 

Edited by Bruce Wall
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While going slightly (but not entirely) off topic, I have just listened to an interview with the extraordinary mind that is DAMIAN WOETZEL.  I realise that many here will have little idea of who this actually is so I wanted to include this item here for your greater enjoyment/edification.  He is an extraordinary artist (no matter which way you may wish to cut it) and was - in this specific context - the first lead in Chris Wheeldon's first stab at AN AMERICAN IN PARIS which he oversaw/created during his time as the house choreographer for NYCB.

 

In that performance of AN AMERICAN IN PARIS Woetzel danced with a very young artist (who he refers to in the interview) Tiler Peck.  She will be, I think, hailed as one of the great early 21st Century female ballet dancers alongside - unquestionably - the current RB principal, Natalia Osipova.  I'm confident both are well aware of this fact given their drive to want to (i) put their own stamp on roles and (ii) most crucially have new works created for them by the world's leading choreographers.  Certainly Tiler Peck has become a focus - as Suzanne Farrell and Wendy Whelan were before her - for so many key dance makers including thus far originating leading roles in key works by Wheeldon, Ratmansky, Scarlett and the extraordinary potential that is  (no relation) Justin Peck.  You can see a very brief sampling from this year's Vail Festival on her here.  In that brief item you can see her doing a solo segment from Le Corsaire (very much outside of her NYCB regime) with - in the background - former RB prinicipal Sergei Polunin and Apollo with her husband, Robert Fairchild, who is every inch an Apollo that could stand with pride opposite the memories of (Peter) Martins, Hubbe, Boal, Baryishnikov or Carreno.  You can also see them both - in again a very different ethic, say, from that of NYCB - in Paul Taylor's Airs here (where Fairchild shows off his own prowess at a Bolshoi one handed lift) and - more appropriately perhaps - in a rehearsal of Robbins' Faun here such as will be performed next year by the RB company.  You can see Damian Woetzel himself overseeing that rehearsal in the background.  This is wonderfully apt as Woetzel originated many roles in the later Robbins' ballets (much as his wife, Heather Watts,originated many roles in the later works of Balanchine) which sadly have not yet been seen on any UK stage.  

 

You can see a brief definition of Woetzel's DEMO incentive for the autumn as part of the Guggenheim Works and Process project here.  Would that highlights from this same creative sampling might one day find themselves on the schedule of, say, London's Sadler's Wells.  

Edited by Bruce Wall
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Correction to the above:  The correct link to the Faun segment is here.  (I would correct it above but sadly I can no longer do so.)  

 

I found another Vail video clip, an interview with Tiler Peck from a few years ago, in which you can see two segments where she is being partnered by RB principal Edward Watson.  Though you might enjoy that here.  

 

Couldn't resist adding two interviews with Peck/Fairchild just after they got engaged:  here and here.  Think it shows both have good timing.  A good omen for AN AMERICAN IN PARIS methinks.  

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Just can't resist - have to include this link - not only does it feature the (post relevant and) wonderful Robbie Fairchild in a variety of pieces (including Robbins and Balanchine) but also ROYAL BALLET DANCERS Stix-Brunnell (white swan pas), Lauren Cuthbertson (Manon pas with RBS grad Corey Stearns - and boy does he look happy) and former RB principal Alessandra Ferri (Le Parc pas) who will guest in the upcoming RB season in McGregor's new full-length.  To top it all off - you get the divine Ms. Tiler Peck in a Jose Limon solo and Don Q Act III coda seg in which she puts some of these current Mariinsky Russians into perspective in terms of variety and placement of fouette turns - replete with a perfect finish in 2nd.  So viscerally exciting to witness these dancers taking up the risks that Woetzel so wisely invites ... Would that we might get a peek at some of the same here.  Certainly can't beat the setting there though - No way!  And this was all on one night - 1st August 2014.  Talk about an event!

 

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Fascinating interview with Wheeldon in FT today.  Interesting that he talks about the impact the New York musical workshop for AiP (with both Cope and Fairchild) had on his narrative choreographic/directing skills/literacy (i.e., turning text into dance).  You could very much see his advance in THE WINTER'S TALE which I, for just one, felt saw Wheeldon come into his narrative own/maturity at last and which creatively occurred immediately after the previously referenced Manhattan outing.  Interesting to note that Polyphonia is to be on the POB slate next year as well as an already announced 'new' work and that he has already committed to a new 'narrative work' for POB in the following season.  I heard a rumour - and I stress it is ONLY a rumour - that the RB revamp of SL a couple years hence is to be given to Scarlett.  IF - and I wish to stress IF, indeed, this IS true, then I could understand - given Wheeldon's past history with SL stagings and his new found dramatic prowess - that he might well be a tad perturbed.  He would have (to my thinking ... and MY thinking ONLY) been the fairly obvious choice - given his current skills set and seniority - the prime choice within the existing resident RB creative triumvirate for such an assignment.  Also I would have thought the established combination of CW and Crowley would have been especially potent when taking a gamble with a long term - and vital - cash cow .... (sorry, 'heritage work') ... in what must be regarded as fiscally uncertain period in Europe.

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Another opening of another show .... replete with a small video clip here.  L. Cope reputedly tweeted that she 'was having the time of her life'.  So looking forward to seeing this (sandwiched between the POB school presentation and a performance of POB's La Source both at the Palais Garnier.).  That's my idea of an ideal Sunday in Paris.  Rain certainly won't make any difference to my parade on 7th December. 

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I just noticed that awhile back I promised to try to say something about the opening night, which I was fortunate enough to attend. I've pretty  much committed my energy to discussing this over the last year and a half at another forum, but I would like to briefly comment here.

 

I think that the performance is very fine and has the potential to become a masterpiece. As fine as it is now, even some of the lead artists still refer to their roles as works in progress. This is not a bad thing at all in my mind. Perhaps this entire work should always be seen in that light.

 

The scenery is magnificent. The 'Broadway' backup actors/actresses are great support. Christopher Wheeldon's choreography (and apparent overall direction) is very impressive.

 

Of huge pleasure to me is the performance of Leanne Cope, who may well be Leslie Caron revisited in every respect. Robert Fairchild also performs admirably. 

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On musical choices ... a video here.  


 


Endearing to see Robbie Fairchild take a 'selfie' of himself and Leanne Cope.  Their excitement is, indeed, infectious.  So looking forward to seeing this during the weekend.  


 


Here the company reflects after their first preview.  It seems they felt it went well.


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Thanks Buddy.  Only been able to access the second clip ... but it is just so refreshing to see that Fairchild/Wheeldon are clearly being 'their own men' and not trying to imitate Kelly .... Quite right too.  That would, I think, be seemingly impossible.  Robbie Fairchild appears to be a totally relaxed Broadway hoofer .... an astute comedic force and he sounds oh, so much like Matthew Broderick did in The Producers and How to Succeed.  Even better it appears from the clip in the latter category.  I SO look forward to this.  I pray when it goes to Broadway ... to the Palace ... in March ... that they will let Robbie Fairchild have some nights off to dazzle as he has for so many NYCB seasons now in everything from Wheeldon's Carousel Suite to Balanchine's blazing Brahms Schoenberg and ... yes ... another Gershwin thrill, Who Cares.  That he is a star has been undoubted by all who have had the privilege to follow his extraordinary career.  Would that there might have been more opportunity to do so in London.

 

Of course I can't wait to see Ms. Cope as well .... It's only she wasn't heavily featured on in that particular - and fairly lengthy ... extract.

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Nice interviews with Wheeldon and Cope in this months Dancing Times. I particularly like Wheeldon's words on Leanne.

 

"Leanne Cope has always caught the eye of the ballet-going public at the Royal Ballet. A phrase often used when referring to Leanne is: There's just something magical about her."

 

Could not agree more.

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Thanks, Bruce. Tony, here’s some more praise for Leanne Cope from Liam Scarlett (Point Magazine, December 2012)

 

"Thanks to Liam Scarlett, The Royal’s Leanne Cope alternates nights in the corps with leading roles.

 

"Her rank hasn’t stopped Scarlett from casting Cope in nearly every work he has created on the company. “Leanne is the type of dancer who makes choreographers do what they do,” he explains. “What draws me to her is the one thing I can never explain. She has a presence like no other on stage. Her face and eyes are just captivating.”

 

"In the studio, Scarlett constantly pushes her to do more, explaining: “There are many roles waiting to be created for her, in my eyes; she will always be the first considered for any part."

 

http://www.pointemagazine.com/issues/december-2012january-2013/dancer-spotlight-part-time-muse

 

Also Leanne Cope says in another issue:

 

But even if your run this year doesn’t include a proposal, don’t forget: Somewhere out there in the audience, someone’s falling in love with you and what you get to do up there on that stage.

 

[ I wonder who that could be?   ;) ]

 

http://www.pointemagazine.com/blogs/nutcracker/nutcracker-magic

Edited by Buddy
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Bruce, you wrote, "Robbie Fairchild appears to be a totally relaxed Broadway hoofer." I think that both he and Leanne Cope are showing themselves to be fine Broadway style performers, but there's something else that's obviously special and that's their ballet excellence. Ballet enchantment and fineness is diffused throughout this production, often subtly, sometimes very center stage. It shows in both these artists' remarkably fine dance ability and in Christopher Wheeldon's touches of ballet ethereality and large doses highly crafted, inventive choreography and staging. I do keep works such as George Balanchine's charming "Who Cares" as important references and points of comparison. Christopher Wheeldon has taken a perhaps more modern, abstract approach, which is just fine. There's also a very good playoff of one major part of this production to the other, ballet artistry contrasted to Broadway aliveness. It's the element of enchanting refinement (ballet) that maybe makes this work different from the usual Broadway musical. The more that I see of this, the more I really appreciate it.

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