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to Section One | to Arts & Entertainment
posted Friday, May 12, 2017 - Volume 45 Issue 19
An American in Paris - sacre bleu
Arts & Entertainment
ALL STORIES
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An American in Paris - sacre bleu

by Eric Andrews-Katz - SGN A&E Writer

AN AMERICAN IN PARIS
PARAMOUNT THEATRE
Through May 14


The movie classic An American in Paris dates from the days of the Great Hollywood Musical. As is the trend with today's Broadway theatre, the formulated movie musical has been transformed to the stage. The show provides sweeping balletic sequences, a jukebox of Gershwin tunes and some very good voices, but leaves the audience in a lull with the rest.

The story starts with the returning of the soldiers from the battles of World War II. Through an opening balletic number the audience sees the soldiers returning, and in particular one American soldier, Jerry Mulligan. Jerry decides to pursue art as a career, making Paris his home and his thoughts are confirmed when his heart is captured by a young woman. He loses her in a crowd but ends up meeting Adam Hochberg, another former veteran, who is trying to reinvent himself as a pianist composer. Adam helps a young dancer get an audition at the ballet, and falls under her spell. Jerry's good looks and talent soon attracts the wealthy American socialite Milo Davenport, and she commissions Jerry and Adam to design/write an opera for the new balletic protégé, Lise Dassin. Adam introduces Jerry to his friend Henri Baurel, a wealthy man longing to be a cabaret performer, and discusses being love-torn about his potential fianceé. The three men quickly bond over the subject of love, and the 'beautiful woman' in each of their lives. What they haven't discovered is that Lise is the same object of romance for all three of them.

The two supporting male roles are different types and complement each other very well. Etai Benson plays the Piano Man Adam Hochberg. His sidekick character brings out the comedy and conflict well, and his voice is well suited for the songs he sings. He brings a charming naiveté to his character that easily becomes endearing for the audience. Nick Spangler plays Henri, the Aristocrat wanting to be a performer. His voice is very strong and easily reaches the far back of the theatre. His character waffles in love only to be outdone by his singing capabilities. Emily Ferranti plays the female supporting role, Milo Davenport. While her movements are graceful, the character is portrayed as the stereotypical socialite; granted, that's how the role is written, but it lacked any originality aside from Ms. Ferranti's strong voice.

The leading two roles are Jerry Mulligan (McGee Maddox) and Lise Dassin (Sara Esty). Mr. Maddox has a strong background in ballet, and it shows. His voice is classical for the role of the wholesome American soldier, and easily lends itself to the crooning tunes of the Gershwin brothers. Ms. Esty is perfectly cast as the shy girl, torn between presumed responsibility and following her heart. The aloofness of the character easily comes across but when she starts to dance, Ms. Esty's work projects to the forefront, and she becomes graceful and beautiful to watch.

The songs are all familiar; it's basically the highlights of George and Ira Gershwin's vast composing career. From 'I Got Rhythm' and 'S'Wonderful,' to 'But Not for Me' and 'The Man I Love,' this Gershwin jukebox is stocked with the best. The classic songs, although easily recognized by the audience, are sung with the full sweeping gusto and brilliant music for which the Gershwin brothers are recognized.

The dancing of the show is the primary draw for this musical; it is also one of the biggest drawbacks. While the sweeping, long light-balletic movements of yesteryear's Hollywood Musical are extraordinary, they can be a bit too drawn out for the average American's 'A.D.D.' of today's audience. The dance sequences are beautiful to watch, but the remaining storyline isn't compelling enough to keep the audience fully engaged around them. Add in the traditional, familiar Gershwin songs and, no matter how good they are, they have more of a lullaby effect than to stimulate the energy of the audience. While there are many good components to this family-friendly musical adaptation, there's something that is maybe too familiar (the predictable plot, the classic ballads&) and therefore it falls a bit short.

Despite being based on the 1951 musical film (starring Gene Kelly, directed by Vincent Minnelli), the stage production didn't open on Broadway until March 2015. It ran for over 600 performances the musical was nominated for 12 Tony Awards during the 2015 Season. It was awarded with six Tony Awards including Best Choreography and Best Orchestrations.

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An addendum

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An American in Paris - sacre bleu
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