MUST SEEREVIEWSTheatre ReviewsTom Williams

An American in Paris – 2017 National Tour

A New Musical.

Book by Craig Lucas.

Music & Lyrics by George and Ira Gershwin.

Directed & Choreographed by Christopher Wheeldon.

Produced by Broadway In Chicago.

At the Oriental Theatre, Chicago.

Artful, spectacular, danced-through musical a joyous Gershwin concert.

Many creative  artists came together to create a plush, visually stunning and throughly entertaining new musical in the spirit of the 1952 film, An American in Paris. In the spirit of Gene Kelly and Leslie Caron, director/choreographer Christopher Wheeldon (who last year crafted the Joffrey Ballet’s Nutcracker from the point of view of the Columbian World’s Fair) decided to make dance dominant in this glorious musical. This ‘danced-through’ musical, contains varied dances in every scene and all the transitions that worked well with the vivid, even spectacular lighting and video-enhaced set designs to give the show a special look and feel. An American in Paris won four 2015 Tony Awards including for set design, lighting, orchestrations and choreography but, amazingly not for best director nor  best musical. Amazing!

This show would be terrific if it was only a 2 hour, 30 minute Gershwin concert as the Gershwin song book including “I Got Rhythm,” “Liza,” “S Wonderful,” “But Not For Me,” “I’ll Build a Stairway to Paradise,”   “I’ve Got Beginner’s Luck” and “For You, For Me, For Evermore.” This Gershwin sonfest also includes orchestral music “Concert0 in F,” “Second Prelude,” “SeconfRhaposody/Cuban Overture” and “An American in Paris.”

But to make this fine music come to life director Wheeldon has cast two fabulous “triple-threat” prformers to tackle the Kelly-Caron roles from the film.  Jerry Mulligan is played by McGee Maddox (a principal dancer with the National Ballet of Canada) and  Sara Esty (a former soloist with the Miami City Ballet) plays ballerina Lise Dassin. The love sparks flow between Mulligan and Dassin throughout. But there is more to this fine book. These two are fantastic dancers, fine singers and fine actors. They fuel many show stopping scenes including the terrific ballet scene.

We meet Jewish war vet Adam Hochberg (Etai Benson) who is both a composer and the show’s narrator reminding me of  Oscar Levant from the film. He teams with Frenchman Henri Baurel (Nick Spangler) as Henri desires to be a song-and-dance comic despite his family’s desire thathe run the family’s business. He is committed to marry Lise Dassin after his family sheltered her during the Nazi occupation of Paris.  The interactions of these three and the desire to promote a new ballet gives the show interesting plot twists.

I can’t be more impressed with the choreography than the manic  mix of ballet, modern, jazz, tap and classic Broadway styles that is both pleasant scene changing underscoring and spectacular featured numbers. This “danced-through” motif is sure to be used again providing the music suppoerts dance. Kudos to the brilliant emsemble dancers whoes exuberance lights the way.

An American in Parisis a new and instant ‘classic’ musical. It has all the elements: Great score (Gershwin); terrific book; fabulous lead actors/singers/dancers, and the varied and dominant element—those dances! All on the unique lighting and set design –“Who could ask for anything more?” If you only see one show this summer, let it be An American in Paris , Trust me on this. It is one of the best shows of 2017.

Highly Recommended.

Tom Williams.

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