Thursday October 19th 2017

“An American in Paris ” A new musical

Musical theater is for many, the greatest form of entertainment! For others, it is the movies that they find exciting. Isn’t it wonderful when the two are married to re-create something special for both types of audiences? This process often does not live up to what we expect or hope for, but the newest entry of the Broadway In Chicago season, now on the stage at The Oriental Theatre, “An American in Paris” hits the spot and is a play that should be on your “must see” list (even if you prefer movies over live stage performances).

This musical was the most awarded of 2015 just as the film version won all types of awards back in 1952  (yes, 65 years ago- wow!) The film was written by Alan Jay Lerner ( “My Fair Lady” fame) and of course has the music written by The Gershwin brothers, George and Ira. The script/book for this new version is written by Craig Lucas, and follows the story-line of romance filled France after World War Two, when an American Soldier, Jerry Mulligan (McGee Maddox is a powerhouse- a true triple threat. He can act, sing and can he dance!), bumps into a mysterious French girl Lise Dassin (an amazing performance by Sara Esty, an adorable performer who proves the old adage, “good things come in small packages” and in her case, make the “good”, GREAT!).

It turns out, that while he falls for her, and her for him, there is another love story (or two) involving this beautiful ballerina. There are a few moments when you could find yourself confused about who goes with who. There are two other men involved.  American, Adam Hochberg, a wounded veteran, who is our narrator and piano player (played to perfection by Etai Benson) and Henri Baurel, a foppish Frenchman( deftly handled by Nick Spangler) who wants to be a song and dance man despite his parents wanting him to run their textile factory in the U.S..

Through a series of misunderstood gestures, there are several false thoughts about love and romance, but as most old-fashioned musicals were, all turns out just the way it should. That was the way it was, and I for one, appreciate a “happy ending”! The cast of players is divine and the story is audience-friendly (even the young lady next to me, truly enjoyed the concept of love and sacrifice). I will say that bringing a six- year -old might not be a great idea. Gershwin music is amazing, but several rows behind us, a cutie pie little one slept through almost 90% of this amazing show filled with music that is as lovable as music can be:

“I Got Rhythm”, “The Man I Love”, “S’ Wonderful”, “Fidgety Feet” (the dance number is adorable), “Who Cares”, “But Not For Me”, ” They Can’t Take That Away From Me”, “I’ll Build A Stairway To Paradise”, the opening dance number “Concerto in F” and the ending number of the first act, “Second Rhapsody/Cuban Overture”, but the most amazing number, and worth the price of admission on just its own merit is “An American In Paris” a dynamic ballet number that will captivate you for 26 minutes! The direction and choreography by Christopher Wheeldon will have you talking about what you saw (probably for days). It is a shame the show is only here for a short time. Do try and get to it.

The technical part of the production is amazing as well.  This is a touring company, so all is scaled down from the original, but be assured, nothing has been taken away . The impact will be as strong as the original. The lighting (Natasha Katz), the sound (Jon Weston) and the projection designs ( by 59 productions) as well as  the musicians led by David Andrews Rogers, are wonderful. In the film version,  they can cut and paste before the audience sees the final results, but, in a live production like this, they needed to find a way to bring the same impact to the story. The projections worked! That and the screens that actors and stage hands moved along with mirrors was a tremendous way to keep the movement of the story on track. Watch carefully during the ballet number, as there are some very special costume changes and a dancer is added to the mix that one might not expect. One more thing about the sub-plot. Remember,the time period and the events of that period. Turns out that one of the characters is Jewish and was hidden from the Nazis. Once that part of he story unfolds, the puzzle pieces will start to come together.

Last but never least, I want to thank the wonderful ensemble for the masterful work they do. Often they are the “window-dressing” and the character actors who only are there to move the story along. Guess what? Without them, this play doesn’t work, so hats off to:

Emily Ferranti (who is a beautiful Milo Davenport), Gayton Scott and Don Noble (as Henri’s parents), Kevin A. Cosculluela, Caitlin Meighan, Laurie Wells, Polly Baird, Karolina Blonski, Brittany Bohn, Stephanie Brower, Randy Castillo, Alexa De Barr, Leigh-Ann Esty, Alexandra Pernice, David Prottas, Danielle Santos, Lucas Segovia, Ryan Steele, Kyle Vaughn, Dana Winkle, Erica Wong and Blake Zelesnikar.  BRAVO!

“An American In Paris” will continue at the Oriental Theatre, located at 24 West Randolph Street thru August 13th with performances as follows:

Tuesdays  7:30 p.m.

Wednesdays  2 and 7:30 p.m.

Thursdays  7:30 p.m.

Fridays  7:30 p.m.

Saturdays  2 p.m. and  8 p.m.

Sundays  2 p.m. and 7:30 p.m. (except 8/6 and 8/13)

Tickets range from $27- $103 and can be purchased at ANY of the Broadway In Chicago box-offices, by calling 800-775-2000 or online at www.BroadwayInChicago.com

to get some discounted parking, you can visit the website as well and to know more about the tour (for your friends and family) visit http://www.AnAmericanInParis.com

to see what others are saying, visit www.theatreinchicago.com, go to Review Round-Up and click at “An American In Paris”

 

NOTE: I loved the movie and as a teen, played the music of the title song on a recording Levant Plays Gershwin (Oscar Levant was in the movie version) and danced in my room- Watching the ballet brought back memories of my youth that made my love of the theater)

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