American in Paris
The first thing you notice
is the exquisite movement, because this musical isn’t just about the
music, but the dancing. Yes,
it’s the touring show of the 2015 Tony-Award winning Broadway play.
But these are ballet artists, not only the principals, but also
the backup dancers, whose movements are graceful, even moving props or
the portable screens that suggest a set change.
Speaking of set design,
there’s a projection screen in the back which is also utilized
cleverly, both to provide backdrop for the lean, spare stage props, but
also to help the viewer envisage the stage turned around, with the
actors playing to an imaginary audience on the other side, while we’re
suddenly positioned backstage without having to leave our seats.
It’s a clever construct, but all of this only supplements the
real story, which is a love quadrangle.
Lise (Sara Esty) is a young
French woman just emerging from the horror of World War II, and the Nazi
occupation of her beloved Paris. Her
parents were arrested and not heard from again.
She was in hiding, and is so grateful to the wealthy family that
she’s engaged to their grown son, Henri (Nick Spangler).
But their relationship is somehow tenuous, as Henri is really
more focused on his goal of being an entertainer in America.
Plus, it appears that he might actually be more interested in
someone of his own gender, but since this story was originally filmed in
1951 (starring Gene Kelly), that part is more implied than stated.
Enter two American
soldiers, who somehow get to just drop out of the service and not have
to go home with their units (or even be billeted as part of the
occupation force). The
caustic Etai (Adam Hochberg) gets to introduce the show, as the piano
player at the bar, and aspiring lyricist.
He’s inspired by Lise, and writes music with her in mind,
considering her his Muse, and though she’s grateful for the attention,
the flower she presents to him with kisses on both cheeks really is more
platonic than Etai wants. He
keeps hoping she’ll be as enthralled by him as he is by her.
But even we can see that’s not happening.
Enter the other American
soldier, an aspiring artist named Jerry Mulligan (Garen Scribner), who
also quickly becomes enamored by the lovely Lise, and manages to get her
to pose for a sketch, ever so briefly, and then, when she is impressed
by his artistic talent, he manages to get her to meet him in a nearby
park regularly, just for a few more moments of sketching.
He’s smitten by her, and hopes for their relationship to
blossom, but she’s conflicted because of her kind-of-engagement, and
further conflicted by realizing that she doesn’t feel any passion for
Henri. But she does care for
him, and is that what love is?
All these cross-currents of
emotion then get interpreted in the dancing, which is always expressive,
but sometimes graceful, sometimes playful, and on occasion, vigorous and
Yes, there’s also some
singing, but this one is really more about the dancing, to that
distinctive Gershwin music, a score both as homage and interpretive
expression. Oh, and the
orchestra is fantastic, as well.
It’s a feast for the eyes
and the ears. And suitable
for the whole family. Make
an attempt to see this one, it’s well worth the effort.