“An American in Paris” is being staged at Popejoy Hall at 7:30 p.m. Thursday, Oct. 19. It repeats at 8 p.m. Friday, Oct. 20, at 2 p.m. and 8 p.m. Saturday, oct. 21 and at 1 p.m. Sunday, Oct. 22. Popejoy is in the UNM Center for the Arts.
Tickets are $40, $60 and $90 and are available at www.unmtickets.com, by calling 925-5858, at ticket offices in the UNM Bookstore and at The Pit and the Center for the Arts box office. For tickets for groups of 10 or more call 344-1779 or email firstname.lastname@example.org.
By David Steinberg
With apologies to Elizabeth Barrett Browning, I ask this rhetorical question: How do I love the musical “An American in Paris”? Let me count the ways.
It is splashy. It is bubbly. It is a brilliant conceived and brilliantly executed production. It dovetails music, dialogue, multiple extraordinary design elements and modern dance. Yes, especially the exuberance of the dance, whether in short scenes, longer numbers or transitions. Even those who are changing set pieces are dancing.
The production is, quite simply, spectacular. It is a marvel of musical theater.
The show is also a fitting tribute to the music of composer George Gershwin and his brother, lyricist Ira Gershwin.
The title piece, as well as Second Rhapsody and Cuban Overture, are all George because they’re instrumentals. But the songs belong to the brothers, songs that are part of the Great American Songbook – “I’ve Got Rhythm,’” “The Man I Love,” “Liza,” ”But Not for Me” and “They Can’t Take That Away From Me.”
This musical’s story is built on a book by Craig Lucas and inspired by the 1951 movie of the same name that starred Gene Kelly.
The story is a romance set in post-World War II Paris, which still is shadowed by the Nazi occupation. Whereas some romances are love triangles, this is more like a love rectangle. Three young men think they’re in love with the beautiful, lithe Lise (Allison Walsh), a French ballerina. The story thread follows Lise through her dilemma: Which fellow in her heart of hearts is she really in love with?
One of the swains is Henri (Ben Michael), the heir to a French textile fortune who secretly aspires to be a song-and-dance-man in New York. He makes his point in the scene in Act II in which he’s at the center of the big, boisterous Busby Berkeley-style number “I’ll Build A Stairway to Paradise.”
A second suitor is Adam (Matthew Scott), an ex-GI/pianist who really wants to compose music. He eventually gets his wish and eventually finds fame.
The third is Jerry (McGee Maddox), another ex-soldier who dreams of being a painter even if it means living the life of a starving artist. Jerry appreciates the help of the wealthy arts patron Milo (Kirsten Scott) but that’s as far he he will go with her.
So many scenes were enhanced by the excitement of the scenic design, the lighting design and the costume design. These elements converge in a full company dance scene that uses Jerry’s post-Modern art as the basis for the patterns of the costumes and the changing background graphics.
“An American in Paris” was a Broadway musical that earned four Tonys, including Best Choreography plus eight other Tony nominations in 2015.
The national touring company is now at Popejoy Hall. This musical is the hot-ticket show in Albuquerque this weekend. Don’t miss it.