An American in Paris plays the Buell Theater through March 19.
BY CLAUDIA CARBONE
If you liked the 1951 movie An American in Paris, you will love this all-new adaptation with a fresh book by Craig Lucas set to the familiar tunes of the Gershwin brothers.
On Broadway, it won more Tony awards than any musical of the 2014-15 season. Wow factors are vibrant choreography by Christopher Wheeldon (who also directs) and Bob Crowley’s dazzling sets and costumes.
There’s a lot of dancing, and it’s absolutely sensational. Every style is represented—classical Broadway, beautiful ballet, jazzy modern and tap, though not as many tap numbers as those made famous by the indomitable Gene Kelly. But his role of Jerry Mulligan, American GI turned painter, is in great hands with Garen Scriber, an enormously talented singer, dancer and actor who electrifies the stage with his energetic performance.
The story, loosely based on the movie, is a love triangle between three pals who fall in love with a reticent French shop girl in post-war Paris. Besides Jerry, there’s Adam, a fledgling New York composer comically played by Etai Benson. Henri (charming Nick Spangler), a Parisian heir who secretly wants to entertain, is already promised to the girl Lise. Each of the men try to win her, but only Henri knows why she remains loyal to him, which isn’t revealed until the end.
A demure Sara Esty plays Lise, a promising ballerina who beguiles the men with her innocent charms. Her dancing is as graceful and breezy as a willow bough in the wind. Together she and Scriber create magic, especially in the haunting and sexy pas de deux to the An American in Paris theme song that brings the love story to an impassioned climax.
While the men try to win Lise’s heart, they collaborate on staging a ballet with the patronage of Milo Davenport (Emily Ferranti), a wealthy heiress who “discovers” Jerry and falls in love with him (I know, it’s complicated!). Meanwhile, Henri’s haughty mother, comically played by Gayton Scott, tries hard to close the deal on Lise’s “obligation” to her son.
This is a story told through dance. It takes place on a magnificent set of ever-changing scenery. Using intricate background projections and movable pieces, Crowley shifts seamlessly from 1945 Paris to an art-deco extravaganza in the blink of an eye.
An American in Paris plays the Buell Theatre through March 19. For tickets, call 303-893-4000 or visit denvercenter.org.
Claudia Carbone is an award-winning journalist covering performing arts, travel and dining. Follow her at Sleepin’ Around, A Hotel and Travel Blog.
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