“An American in Paris” and “On the Town” take Fred and Adele Astaire Awards

By Lucy Komisar

Leanne Cope and Robert Fairchild in An American in Paris, photo Angela Sterling.

Sometimes theater awards shows are a chore to sit through. Lots of “thank you, thank you…..” to boredom. But the Fred and Adele Astaire awards June 1 for best dancers and choreographers was a delight. Minimum “thank you‘s” and maximum dance.

The Awards were established in 1982 by the Douglas Watt Family Fund for the Performing Arts  to recognize outstanding achievement in dance on Broadway and in film.

Tony Yazbeck in the center with Clyde Alves and Jay Armstrong in On The Town, photo Joan Marcus.

The top dancer awards went to Leanne Cope, “An American in Paris,” and in a tie vote to Robert Fairchild, her dance partner in that show, and to Tony Yazbeck for his role as the major dancer in  “On the Town.”

The prize for best choreographer was also a tie, and, logically, it was split by Christopher Wheeldon for “An American in Paris” and Joshua Bergasse for “On the Town.”

Christopher Wheeldon and Joshua Bergasse.

There was a terrific dance number  by the three sailors from “On The Town.” Bergasse told us he had his first pair of tap shoes at 3 when his mother
ran a dance school.

Joel Gray.

There was lot of warmth for the Douglas Watt Lifetime Achievement Award to dancer/performer Joel Gray whose dance life began in the fifties. At one point, he told the audience, he thought he should pack it in because he wasn‘t doing well. He started at the Marine Theater at Jones Beach as a dumb pirate in “Mardi Gras,” then the 1950s Colgate Comedy Hour (is that when  the naming game started?). In the 1980s, he did “George M” for the Statue of Liberty centennial.

Things got better. “Cabaret” with Lisa Minelli, “Wicked,” “Anything Goes.” The award was presented by his daughter. He was charming in his acceptance, citing alphabetically everyone who had helped him through the years.

Harvey Weinstein.

Good vibes also went to a producer, Harvey Weinstein, one of those money guys who make shows happen, this season‘s producer of “Finding Neverland,” the prequal to “Peter Pan.” He won for Outstanding Contribution to Musical Theatre & Film.

Dancers sing and tap Life is Like a Train in On the 20th Century.

An ensemble award was given to Phillip Attmore, Rick Faugno, Drew King, and Richard Riaz Yoder who as four bellcaps in “On the 20th Century” do a charming, clever song and tap dance, “Life is Like a Train,” to  the sound and rhythm of the train clacking. Choreographer Warren Carlyle. They reprised it for the awards show.

For film, the prize went to choreographer Akram Khan for “Desert Dancer,” about a man in  India who wants to be a dancer in a town where dance is banned.

Christina Bianco.

There should have been an award for the MC, Christina Bianco, mimicking Kristin Chenowith, Bernadette Peters, Streisand, Julie Andrews, Lisa Minnelli, Patti Lupone – Bianco is perfect.

There were other dance presentations, including a smashing one by kids from a dance school. Of the awards events I have seen, this is among the best, an entertainment in itself.

Fred and Adele Astaire Awards. Written by Jenny Lyn Bader; directed by Joe Lanteri. Skirball Center for the Performing Arts, 566 LaGuardia Place, New York University, New York City.  June 1, 2015. 6/3/15.



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One Response to "“An American in Paris” and “On the Town” take Fred and Adele Astaire Awards"

  1. PJ wilcoix   Jun 3, 2015 at 10:02 pm

    I took my daughter to American In Paris for her sweet 16. It was for her. I however at 64 enjoyed it so much I want to see it again, Lucy, I so enjoy your site. It’s refreshing to leave the stress of the ho hum news and be brought back to the lightness of Broadway. Thank you so much. I am so happy that our friend G in London introduced us years ago.


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