The Broadway Philadelphia season was jump-started last night, with the opening of the four-time 2015 Tony Award winner AN AMERICAN IN PARIS. Inspired by the 1951 Gene Kelly led film, the musical follows four people in a story of dreams and love pursued during the aftermath of WWII in Paris.
While it varies in the hidden love triangle of the film, now a love “squared” that worked well in driving the plot of the musical, the audience watches the four main characters (Adam, Jerry, Lise, and Henri) in triple-threat actions of acting, singing, dancing through scenes of love longed, love found, loved promised, and love released.
The musical is a grand display, filled with exquisite dance performances – including the climatic 17 minute ballet that was a hallmark of the original movie – set to the timeless score of George and Ira Gershwin, with such ageless classics as “I’ve Got Rhythm,” “‘S Wonderful,” and “They Can’t That Away From Me.”
I was very impressed with the set design, which appeared minimal but beautifully intricate, and even more impressed with actors/dancers physicality – as they moved the set along, while they danced and sang throughout the musical. And the costumes were extraordinary in their ode to one of the most stylish fashion periods to ever exist.
Lead actors Garen Scribner (Jerry Mulligan) and Sara Etsy (Lise Dassin) seemed born to play their respective parts with displays of euphoric, and at times melancholic, dancing. It was beautiful to witness such emotion relayed through movement.
I also greatly enjoyed the witty and spot-on performances of both Nick Spangler (Henri Baurel) and Etai Benson, who played the lovelorn, pianist/war veteran Adam Hochberg – and added much-needed comic relief to a story that sometimes was somber in its discussion of effects of the Nazi invasion.
In terms of standard running time, the musical is a bit long at almost three hours. However, the story is enjoyable and visual a feast. I will give a disclaimer for those who may not be fans of, or are new to, the theater. My companion for the night, not sure which of the two aforementioned categories they would fall, literally fell a sleep (who does that at the theater?) and seemed to not be as impressed with the performance.
In all honesty, if you are not a fan of ballet, musicals, or at least open to varying forms of performance art, this might not be the musical to start. But if you enjoy a good love story, and are a fan of theater (and ballet, which is definitely the bonus in this one), you will find this musical to be more than a pleasant experience.
AM AMERICAN IN PARIS will run at the Academy of Music through November 23. You can get additional ticket and showtime information at the official website here.
Until next thought, Thomasena