AN AMERICAN IN PARIS
This is the absolute best musical I’ve ever seen in my life! And, believe me, I’ve seen them all! This is truly the most superior show ever. Angelenos–you have only this week-end to see if before it moves on to another fortunate city, so pirouette over to the Pantages Theatre this very minute, before you miss An American In Paris!
I wasn’t able to make it to the opening night, but everyone I know raved about this musical so much that I knew I had to find time to see it in it’s brief run in Hollywood. And I cannot even begin to sing its praises well enough. The night I saw the show, it received the quickest standing ovation I’ve ever been a part of.
An American In Paris is, of course, basically the story from the 1951 film of the same name, starring Gene Kelly and the lovely Leslie Caron, (which is where she got her start in movies, by the way.) For the musical, the lead female character is now a ballerina, to give us even more exquisite dancing, and all three main guys have crushes on her, rather than just the two in the film. And they added some “gaiety” because, well, because we’re seeing it in the 2000s, so why not? And that actually made it a bit more fun.
But the story itself is nothing compared to the superb dancing and stunning visuals. I doubt that there’s ever been another musical with so much ballet!!! I would have been just as happy if no one talked or sang the whole time, and I could have just watched these supreme ballet dancers ply their trade. I found my mouth hanging open with every single number. And the fourteen-minute ballet near the end is mind-blowing. What an achievement this whole show is!
I admire each and every dancer, but the two leads, Garen Scribner and Sara Esty, are not to be believed. Sara’s dancing is so ethereal that her toe shoes don’t even make a sound during the entire show! (And I was sitting close to hear if they did.) And Garen is the perfect male dancer; I actually found myself watching him even more than her!
Growing up dancing ballet, (until my knee gave out as a dance major at UCLA,) I’m always very critical of both sexes of ballet dancers. I even hate when one of them doesn’t have the perfect posture. I can always find any number of little bothers about them. But I have not even one tiny complaint about any of this ensemble! And I loved that one of the males is a tad older and paunchier than the norm; I was fascinated with him, perhaps even more than I was with any of the others, outside of the lead couple.
The most amazing thing about this whole production, (and yes, I did just use my most dreaded word “amazing” because this is one of the very few times that it’s called for,) is that the stars can dance so brilliantly and also sing! That’s rare. I don’t know how anyone even found them to begin with! Usually in musicals, the cast can sing and dance well enough, but the dancing is jazz or tap, which are both way easier than ballet. (Trust me on this—ballet is by far the hardest dance discipline. That’s why you so rarely see it on So You Think You Dance. Actually, they never give the contestants a ballet number to perform because…none of them can do it! And they rarely even cast a competitor whose main style is ballet. I was in heaven that one season that the only two ballet dancers, Chehon Wespi-Tschopp and Eliana Girard, won the show!) [Note: I noticed in the program for An American In Paris that several of the dancers have performed with the Miami City Ballet, as have one or two of the top dancers on the above-mentioned SYTYCD; that must be one heck of a company! They make me actually want to risk visiting that frizzy city again, despite it making me look like Monica in the Bahamas!!!]
Combine all that beautiful balletic ability with spectacular choreography by Christopher Wheeldon, and you have the winner of all winners. I was impressed that the members of the ensemble even danced while they moved the sets on and off and around! That was all done very subtly, but it added so much to the show.
And the visuals were breathtaking. Between the clever set design by Bob Crowley and projections by 59 Productions, I was dazzled the entire time. There was not one down moment. I honestly didn’t take even one note all night, because my eyes were glued to the stage; I was mesmerized! This is one of the few shows I’d be happy to see again. And again! And again!
I really hope that every one of you gets to see An American In Paris, especially with this cast. (So, if you’re not located in SoCal, check to see if this national tour is coming to your city soon.) And just so you don’t have to be distracted for even one moment as you’re watching it, I have to tell you that the script does vary quite a bit from the movie. So, don’t try to figure that out as you’re watching. Just go with this flow. I have a feeling the Gershwin Brothers’ classic score and tunes will help you with that.
An American In Paris running through April 9, 2017
Pantages Theatre 6233 Hollywood Blvd. 800-982-2727 www.hollywoodpantages.com