Entertainment » Theatre

An American in Paris

by Kevin Taft
EDGE Media Network Contributor
Friday Mar 24, 2017
An American in Paris

Inspired by the classic 1951 film, the award-winning Broadway hit "An American in Paris" arrives in Los Angeles with the stars of the original production in tow.

Originally starring Gene Kelly and Leslie Caron, this lovingly adapted show with a new book by Craig Lucas ("Prelude to a Kiss") revolves around an American G.I. who stays on in Paris after the war to become a painter.

Jerry Mulligan (Garen Scribner) is a jovial young guy thrilled to be in the city of lights. He meets another American G.I. Adam Hochberg (Etai Benson) at a local bar and the two become fast friends. Adam is a piano player and composer and the two end up at a ballet studio where an heiress, Milo Davenport (Emily Ferrante), is considering investing in the company.

She takes a liking to Jerry and his sketches, as well as a young ingénue named Lise Dassin (Sara Etsy) who blows everyone away with her technique. She also catches the eyes of both Adam and Jerry. Milo tasks the ballet company to create a new work that will star Lise using Adam's music and Jerry's set designs, much to the thrill of all three.

Meanwhile, Madame Baruel (Gayton Scott) is encouraged that Lise has shown promise as she has a special connection to her, not the least of which is that her son Henri (Nick Spangler) is in love with the dancer and is trying to find a way to ask her to marry him. He's also trying to find his way as a consummate cabaret singer. And while it's not given too much script-play, he might also be trying to figure out his sexuality.

So what we have are three men vying for the affections of one girl who gets something different from each of them. Whom she'll pick is anyone's guess, but until then there's some singing and a lot of plies and pirouettes.

A dance-heavy musical, "Paris" is known for its athletic and graceful choreography which mixes ballet and the modern dance of the time period. The sets are gorgeous and while projections are utilized more often than not, there are a lot of inspired set changes and backdrops that enhance every colorful, musical, magical sequence.

As I'm not a professional dancer, I can't speak to the lead's skills in this department, but as a casual observer it all looked splendid. Scribner channels a taller Gene Kelly giving the character a graceful yet masculine edge. Etsy is exquisite whether performing in the show within a show's ballet numbers or prancing through a pre-"La La Land" dance duet next to a street lamp. All of the leads are engaging and charming, so added into the expertise of the set design, orchestrations, and choreography, it really is a perfect show.

Audience's enjoyment might depend on their preference for either classic big vocal musical numbers or drawn-out dance sequences. The story itself is fairly light and the characters don't have a lot of complexity, so book-wise it's a bit sparse and might not hold interest for some.

But visually and aurally it's a wonder and will please fans of musical theatre young and old nostalgic for a time when there was hope in the air, love blooming all around, and the urge to get up and dance was infectious.

"An American in Paris" runs through April 9 at the Pantages Theatre, 6233 Hollywood Blvd., Los Angeles. For information and tickets, visit www.hollywoodpantages.com.

Kevin Taft is a screenwriter/critic living in Los Angeles with an unnatural attachment to 'Star Wars' and the desire to be adopted by Steven Spielberg.

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