SALT LAKE CITY — As a boy at Sandy's Eastmont Middle School in the 1990s, Tony Award-nominee Robert Fairchild didn't tell a lot of his peers that he was a dancer. Dancing just wasn’t the cool thing to do in Utah at the time, Fairchild said.
Not anymore. These days, it seems just about every dancing show on television features someone from the Beehive State.
Now Fairchild, 30, is ecstatic to tell his old classmates at Eastmont Middle and Jordan High School to head to the movies to watch him dance on the big screen. Fairchild is co-starring in “American in Paris,” a recording of the West End production of the Tony Award-winning musical playing one night only on Sept. 20 at select movie theaters in Utah.
“Now I’m in movie theaters dancing, and I’m proud of it,” Fairchild said. “We live in a different time when dancing is a little cooler for guys to do.”
Despite his reluctance to talk about it as a youth, dancing has always been Fairchild’s dream. As a kid, he worshipped Gene Kelly and dreamed of being a song and dance man just like him. In the fourth grade, he even wrote an essay saying he wanted to be like Kelly and dance on Broadway someday.
It took a few detours to get there — like working as a principal dancer for the New York City Ballet. The company prepared Fairchild for his ideal Broadway role, in renowned ballet choreographer Christopher Wheeldon revamp of the classic film “An American in Paris” for the stage. The production won four Tony Awards in 2015, including best choreographer, and then transferred to London’s West End, where it closed in January 2018.
Fairchild stars as Jerry Mulligan, an American GI striving to make it as a painter in a city suddenly bursting with hope and possibility in the post-World War II years — the same character that Fairchild’s hero, Gene Kelly, played in the 1951 film. Following a chance encounter with a beautiful young dancer named Lise, played by Leanne Cope, the streets of Paris become the backdrop to a sensuous, modern romance of art, friendship and love in the aftermath of war.
“The first time I watched Gene Kelly in ‘American in Paris,’ I was in awe by his elegance and charm on screen and tried to mimic every dance move,” Fairchild said. “He’s a big part of my love for dancing and I was honored and privileged to play one of my beloved icons in the new ‘An American in Paris.’”
“An American in Paris” features a classic George and Ira Gershwin score, including such hits as "'S Wonderful" and "I Got Rhythm."
“I could never get tired of hearing this music,” said Cope, who, like Fairchild, came to Broadway via ballet, for her through the Royal Ballet in London. “There was not one evening where I got fed up with hearing that music.”
With Wheeldon at the helm, dance takes front and center in this gorgeous production.
“I think that what Chris Wheeldon wanted to do was make dancing equal parts storytelling as scene work and songs,” Fairchild said. “Dance has the ability to communicate things you can’t put into words.”
Cope said the recording of the West End production brings out surprises even for the most die-hard "An American in Paris" fans.
"Even me, who’s been in the show a very long time, (I) saw things I’ve never seen before," Cope said. "I would encourage anyone who has a love for musicals or ballet or Gershwin to take a trip to the movies (to see it)."Comment on this story
The production "has literally change my life, and I am so grateful," Fairchild said. "It’s been the last five years of my career involved in this show in one way or another, and the fact that it was documented and gets to be shared to the rest of the nation is just so exciting to me. I can’t believe it’s going to be in movie theaters on big screens."
For more information, and to find out where the production is playing at a local movie theater, visit anamericaninpariscinema.com.