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By Elyse Sommer
Mission accomplished! Paramour does indeed include all the above in abundance. Thanks to investors with very deep pockets, Director Decouflé's fascination with Busby Berkley as well shadow acts and other innovations have been vividly realized. He and a larger than usual number of behind the scenes associates and designers, have created an eye popping extravaganza with non-stop razzle dazzle.
But . . . and here's the big but: While there's a story as well as the acrobatics for which Cirque du Soleil is known and show enhancing video and film elements, that story falls way short of being captivating. And the dazzling visuals not only upstage that story but often seem more wedged in than smoothly interwoven. Granted you don't expect an entertainment like this to leave you thinking and discussing its deeper meanings (not that there aren't musicals that do just that, even much more modest productions). But given the money spent to bring Paramour to Broadway (three times what it cost to mount the seasons killer hit, Hamilton), and the talent behind the scenes and on stage, one can't help wishing they'd come up with something less derivative and, alas, dull.
The good news about the scripted aspects of the show is that the actors playing the key roles are all excellent, often better than excellent. Musical theater veteran Jeremy Kushnier captures grandiosity and egotism of of the autocratic film director around whom the story pivots smoothly enough but predictably.
AJ's quest for his next big film's star leads him to a beautiful redhead named Indigo (Ruby Lewis, a fine singer who at one point even delivers a trill) singing in a bar. She's accompanied on the piano by her composer boy friend Joey (a very likeable Ryan Vona). AJ hires both, Joey to write songs for the film, and Indigo. The songs written by the actual composer-lyricists (Bob & Bill and Andreas Carlsson — are melodic enough and in the second act's opening "Dream Scene" is intriguingly eerie. And as long as I'm stopping to talk about the music, a quick bravo to costumer Philippe Guillotel's colorful duds, Patrice Besombes and Howell Binkley's lighting and Olivier Simola and Christophe Waksmann's projections.
To get back to the plot. Naturally Indigo lives up to AJ's wildest hopes and he falls in love with her. . .and so our plot complication: a triangular push-pull between love and a real life with Joe or stardom and marriage to the possessive AJ. While there little surprise as to what her choice will be, it does all pave the way for some of the show's ultra spectacular numbers.
AJ's demand for an elaborate screen test in which Indigo will show off all the different looks he wants for his Paramour, results in a funny medley backed by a fun "Poster Montage" of golden oldie movies like Gone With the Wind, Cleopatra, Mata Hari and Calamity Jane. Indigo's second act decision making scene is one of the most effective uses of Cirque's acrobatic wizards to illustrate a plot. With Indigo on one side of the stage and AJ and Joey on the other, we see a woman traveling between a male partner on the ground and one on a trapeze representing the love triangle. Indigo's decision leads to a truly amazing runaway scene, "New York City Rooftops.
There's no shortage of other typically jaw-dropping Cirque feats, though often they just pop up, not so much interwoven with the plot than to enliven it. The most memorable of these comes near the end of act one, when identical twins Andrew and Kevin Atherton soar and spin up high above the stage and several times over the audience for about five minutes — shades of a previous highly ambitious but imperfect tenant, Spider-Man - Turn Off the Dark.
Apparently the troubles of aerial effects in Spider-Man have tightened safety rules so no worries about trampoline or other high jump injuries, especially during that fourth wall breaking hand-over hand act by the Athertons. But whether the weak story will injure Paramour's chances to fly high as a Broadway ticket seller, remains to be seen. Since it's opening after the closing date for Tony award eligibility, it won't be at risk for the sort of no-win damage that's just closed Tuck Everlasting. Paramour's timing is much more fortuitous, coming as it does just as the summer tourist season is about to go into full swing. It's the tourists on whom all Broadway musicals rely who will determine the fate of this literally high flying entertainment.
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Produced by Cirque du Soleil Theatrical
Creative Director/Creative Guide: Jean-François Bouchard Composers: Bob & Bill
Co-Composer and Lyricist: Andreas Carlsson
Directed by Philippe Decouflé
Choreographed by Daphné Mauger
Acrobatic Choreographer: Shana Carroll
Scene Director/ Story West Hyler
Cast:Jeremy Kushnier (A.J), Ruby Lewis (Indigo), Ryan Vona (Joey), Brett Shuford (Robbie), Sarah Meahl (Gina)Kat Cunning (Lila).
Ensemble:Tom Ammirati, Chelsey Arce, Andrew Atherton, Kevin Atherton, Lee Brearley, Yanelis Brooks, Samuel William Charlton, Martin Charrat, Nate Cooper, Katrina Cunningham, Myriam Deraiche, Kyle Driggs, Jeremias Faganel, Amber Fulljames, Steven Trumon Gray, Tomasz Jadach, Rafal Kaszubowski, Reed Kelly, Denis Kibenko, Joe McAdam, Raven McRae, Sarah Meahl, Amber J. Merrick, Sheridan Mouawad, Amber Pickens, Justin Prescott, Fletcher Blair Sanchez, Mathieu Sennacherib, Bret Shuford, Blakely Slaybaugh, Sam Softich, Amiel Soicher, Amber van Wijk, Bruce Weber, Tomasz Wilkosz, Zhengqi Xi.
Scenic Design by Jean Rabasse
Costume Design by Philippe Guillotel
Lighting Design by Patrice Besombes & and Howell Binkley
Sound Design by John Shivers
Projection Design by Olivier Simola and Christophe Waksmann
Make-Up Design by Nathalie Gagné
Hair Design by Josh Marquette
Lyric Theatre 213 West 42nd Street
From 4/16/16; opening 5/25/16; closing 2/14/17.
Reviewed by Elyse Sommer at 5/23/16 press prformance
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