A Star Still Seeks the Footlights

Actress-dancer Leslie Caron will headline a Playhouse production in December.

Actress-dancer Leslie Caron will headline a Playhouse production in December.

Actress-dancer Leslie Caron, who has appeared in 45 films and partnered with dance greats Gene Kelly, Fred Astaire, Mikhail Baryshnikov and Rudolf Nureyev, will perform at the Laguna Playhouse in December in a comedy about the human condition.

The show, “Six Dance Lessons in Six Weeks,” will run Dec. 7-29. It was written by Richard Alfieri, an award-winning feature film writer and novelist, and will be directed by Michael Arabian, who just mounted “Waiting for Godot” at Los Angeles’ Mark Taper Forum.

“How honored I am to be working with one of the greatest actor-dancers of all time,” Arabian said in a statement. “We may even see some of the magic she created with Fred Astaire, but this time live on stage!”

Playhouse executives promised an unprecedented holiday surprise when describing their upcoming season in April.

The plot involves a formidable retired woman, Lily Harrison, who hires an acerbic dance instructor, Michael Minetti, to give her private dance lessons. A mercurial relationship blossoms into an intimate friendship as these two swing, tango, waltz, foxtrot, cha-cha, and strut contemporary dance moves across the stage.

Caron, 81, will appear in six of the eight performances per week, a Playhouse statement says. An alternate will perform the other shows.

Caron started her career as a ballerina.  Gene Kelly discovered her in Roland Petit Company “Ballet des Champs Elysées”, and cast her to appear opposite him in the musical “An American in Paris” (1951), a role in which a pregnant Cyd Charisse was originally cast. This led to a long-term MGM contract and a sequence of films, which included the musical “The Glass Slipper” (1955) and the drama “Man With A Cloak” (1956), with Joseph Cotten and Barbara Stanwyck.

Caron received two Academy Award nominations for best actress; for her starring role in “Lili”in 1953 and in the British drama “The L-Shaped Room” in 1962.  In 2006, her performance in “Law and Order: Special Victims Unit ” won her an Emmy for guest actress in a drama series.

Caron speaks French, English, and Italian. Her autobiography “Thank Heaven,” was published in 2010 in the UK and US, and in 2011 in a French version.

Still, she has said of herself: “Unfortunately, Hollywood considers musical dancers as hoofers. Regrettable expression.”

She is one of the few actors from the classic era of MGM musicals who is still active in film—a group that includes Mickey Rooney and Debbie Reynolds.

Her other recent credits include “The Last of the Blonde Bombshells” (2000) with Judi Dench and Cleo Laine, and “Le Divorce” (2003), directed by James Ivory, with Kate Hudson and Naomi Watts. In 2003, Caron appeared as the special guest star in in Alan Jay Lerner retrospective concert staged by San Francisco’s 42nd Street Moon Company.

For more information, visit wwwlagunaplayhouse.com. 

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