A rhapsodic display of glorious Gershwin songs and exquisite dance, “An American in Paris” buoyantly expresses art, love and joy.
The classic MGM musical that won the Oscar for Best Picture in 1951 has been revised to add more heft to its book, and playwright Craig Lucas (“Prelude to a Kiss”) fleshed out some characters better and set the time right after World War II ends.
The turmoil in Paris, after Nazi occupation, affects the characters. But first and foremost it is a love story, as well as a love letter to the City of Light.
You won’t forget Gene Kelly – I mean, who can? – but the performers are very capable in sophisticated dance interludes. The ballet dancers have such grace and athleticism, they take your breath away.
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Jerry Mulligan, an American soldier, decides to stay in Paris and try to make a living as an artist. Garen Scribner, who played the role on Broadway, is quite good, as is the other two-thirds of the main trio: Etai Benson as fellow soldier Adam Hochberg, now a piano player, and Nick Spangler as Henri, a Frenchman preparing to sing on tour. They all fall in love with the same mysterious woman, Lise, a ballerina. Sara Esty also performed the role on Broadway.
Both Scribner and Esty were ballet soloists with major dance companies, so you know you are getting top-notch dancers, but they also can act and sing well, too. Together, they are magical.
The buddies have a strong bond, no matter the romantic entanglement. Benson is a real charmer, was part of the Broadway cast, and became an early crowd favorite.
Bob Crowley’s sets are lavish and the costumes beautiful in this dazzling production, now on its first national tour after winning four Tony Awards, the most awarded show of 2015.
The LED screen is an integral part of the show, taking us to various sites in Paris, and the projection work by 59 Productions enhances the show tremendously.
As soon as you hear the Gershwin score, it’ll take your breath away. The lush orchestral music includes "Concerto in F," "Second Prelude," "Second Rhapsody/Cuban Overture" and "An American In Paris."
The Ira and George Gershwin classics “But Not for Me,” “They Can’t Take That Away from Me,” “The Man I Love” and “S Wonderful” are vibrantly performed in this enchanting show.
The orchestrations transport us back in time but are fresh and touching for a modern audience. Music Director/Conductor David Andrews Rogers’ work is superb, and so is the 14-piece orchestra.
Highlights include the peppy “I Got Rhythm” that kicks off the show in fine fashion, fun “Fidgety Feet” number in Act 2 and the swoon-worthy romantic ballet finale. The direction and choreography by Christopher Weeldon, a big deal in the ballet world, is seamless and precise.
Whether I get to France in my lifetime is debatable, but I felt like I was there in “An American in Paris.”
“An American in Paris”
Now through Jan. 29
Friday and Saturday at 7:30 p.m., Saturday at 2 p.m. too, and Sunday at 1 p.m.
Fox Theatre, 527 N. Grand Blvd., St. Louis
Box Office: Metrotix 314-534-1111