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Paramour

Reviewed by Elizabeth Ahlfors

Paramour, Photo by Richard Termine

Paramour (Photo by Richard Termine)

 Reviewed by Elizabeth Ahlfors


Paramour - a three-ring mélange of Las Vegas, Cirque du Soleil Ziegfeld Follies and the Golden Age of movie musicals on one Broadway stage has settled in for a long run at the Lyric Theater. For $25-million, it blends the fantasia of the French Canadian circus extravaganza with musical theater, adding jaw-dropping aerialists and trapeze artists all frenetically competing against each other.

Directed by Philippe Decouflé, there is a simple story struggling for a corner amid this color and spectacle. It's a tale you know well. Crazed Svengali movie director, AJ (Jeremy Kushier), meets a sweet wannabe singing star, Verna (Ruby Lewis), whom he quickly renames Indigo, determined to mold her into a leading lady. Indigo wants the career, sure, but she only has eyes for Joey, a humble pianist/composer played by Ryan Vona.

In a screen test, AJ positions Indigo against the classic movie posters with glamorous stars like Ingrid Bergman (Casablanca), Vivian Leigh (Gone With the Wind), Marlene Dietrich (The Blue Angel).  It is a mindless move, theatrical but proving nothing.

In stale romance versus awe-inspiring razzle-dazzle, spectacle scores. In her films, Indigo fights for the spotlight on every turn, and loses. Portraying the Elizabeth Taylor's glammed-up Cleopatra in designer Jean Rabasse's sunburst set glazing with gold posts and feathery fans, she hasn't a chance against acrobatic identical twins, Andrew and Kevin Atherton. Twisting around on aerial-straps with heart-stopping timing, soaring high above the stage and the beguiled audience, they are extraordinary aerialists delivering a show-stopping moment and earning a standing ovation.

Closing the first act, Indigo's Calamity Jane is eclipsed by athletic Seven Brides for Seven Brothers competing against each other in high-flying seesaw leaps, heading into the rafters to somersault down amid jugglers, tumblers and a mime on roller skates who turns up everywhere. Daphné Mauger choreographed some athletic Michael Kidd-type dances for the cowboys. Lewis's Indigo is a belter (if over-amplified) and a plucky dancer, but she has a hard time prying herself into position between all the other action.

There is no regard for era, and the plot time of the early film industry suddenly becomes another decade. The score by Bob & Bill, with arbitrary reminiscences of 42nd Street, jive, a spot of Eastern European and Andrew Lloyd Webber, comes out as dizzying. One scene, evoking the 1920's early film industry, calls for Frank Sinatra to record one of Joey's songs at a time when Sinatra was probably in fifth grade. Another scene looks like the 1940's with Philippe Guillotel's pinstriped zoot suits and snappy jazz-type rhythms.

Even Indigo's first song, "I Want" ("Something More") with lines like "Can anyone have too much love/Surrounded from below above," has her vying for attention from dancers and acrobats contorting on light fixtures. When a decision must be made to choose between AJ (career) and Joey (love), three breathtaking aerialists enter (Samuel William Charlton, Martin Charrat, and Myriam Deraiche), to convey the lyrics on the trapeze as she belts, “Love Triangle.” ("Choose which heart you want to mangle/As you break out of this love triangle"). Choreographed by Shana Carroll, the three trapeze artists envision the tale far more ably than the belt of Ruby Lewis, a singer who also adds a coloratura trill.

A chase scene through Manhattan brings the show to a close as Indigo and Joey try to escape AJ who sends his henchmen to capture them. Hidden trampolines keep everyone bouncing over buildings and rooftops and put a punch of bounce into the show. Unfortunately, this action-packed finale, comes too late for the bounces to help either the story or romance.

Paramour
213 West 42th Street, NYC
Previewed: Apr. 16, 2016. Opening: May 25, 2016 Closing: Apr. 16, 2017
Music by: Bob and Bill (Guy Dubuc/Marc Lessard with Andreas Carlsson)
Creative Director: Jean-François Bouchard
Written by: West Hyler
Directed by: Philippe Decouflé
Running time: Two hours, 15 minutes. One intermission
Review by Elizabeth Ahlfors

Due to upcoming renovations at the Lyric Theatre, the high-flying Paramour will play its final performance in the massive Ambassador Theatre Group venue on April 16, 2017. The Cirque du Soleil production is looking to relocate to another theater after that time; details will be announced at a later date.