Thursday, August 3, 2017

Review of An American in Paris: A New Musical (Broadway in Chicago)

Once upon a time I went to a show and it was called An American in Paris: A New Musical. The book was by Craig Lucas inspired by the motion picture. The music and lyrics were by George Gershwin and Ira Gershwin. It was directed and choreographed by Christopher Wheeldon. The musical score was adapted, arranged, and supervised by Rob Fisher. It was about a man named Jerry Mulligan (McGee Maddox) who was an artist who has left the army after World War II ends and decides that he is going to stay in Paris to pursue his career and a lady. The lady is Lise (Sara Esty) who is a dancer who he keeps running into and eventually they develop a friendship that isn't really just a friendship but she keeps trying to convince herself that it is. Jerry becomes friends with two other men, Adam (Etai Benson) and Henri (Nick Spangler), who just happen to also be in love with and/or engaged to Lise. It is about true love, rejection, and art. I think this is a really beautiful show to watch. I loved the changes they made to the story from the movie to make it less sexist and a more realistic look at post-war life. In the movie it seems like you show up in Paris and everything is calm. The problem in the movie is just that he can't get the girl, but in the musical it is also that resources are scarce and everyone is worried that something terrible will happen again. I liked that because they are doing more justice to history.

I think this play got rid of a lot of things that make the movie uncomfortable. But some of the things that were changed made some of the moments they kept in a bit stranger. For example, the song "I've Got Beginner's Luck," takes place during the scene where Jerry goes to a store to see Lise to tell her she got the part in the ballet. In the movie, he shows her that he is nice to old ladies and has good taste in perfume, and she is won over by his charms and GeneKellyness. In the musical, the scene in the store seems a little like he's trying to get her fired by ransacking the store, which is a little bit strange because he doesn't tell her that she got the part until after he starts doing this mischievous stuff. She can't really be super in love with him in the musical right away because she feels indebted to Henri and his family (Gayton Scott and Don Noble) for hiding her during the war, and because she is so resistant to him it seems like Jerry is being slightly forceful and creepy. There are a lot of good classic stories that feel slightly creepy now because of how we think about consent now. You do get distracted by the more theatrical elements like the dancing, singing, and visual elements, all of which I thought were gorgeous and amazing. There is also a song called "Liza," which was basically Jerry talking to Lise about how she doesn't seem like a Lise, because it seems like such a sad name. She seems more like a Liza to him. Generally, I don't think it is great that he is calling her by something that is not her name, but eventually she is won over by it, and you can see she wants to be Liza, and that might be why she wants to be with Jerry. She wants to be a happier person and he helps her become that.

I found the three rejected lovers had just as interesting plot lines as the lead characters, which I thought was really good writing. They didn't just seem like add-ons to further the plot for the main characters. You really get to know them on a personal level. I really liked the relationship between Henri and Milo (Emily Ferranti), Jerry's rebound girlfriend. They seemed to be genuinely good friends and they bonded over the people they had been with being together now. It is also nice that they are not romantically interested in each other. He seems kind of like her gay best friend. They sing a duet together called "Who Cares," where they are in different places but they are both telling their partners the same thing: that they don't really care what their partner does anymore. They know they deserve someone better for themselves and their partner deserves to happy. I think this is a really bittersweet song because you can see how sad they are to leave these people that they wanted to be with. They wanted their relationships to work out, and you see they still love them, but it is for the best to end their relationship. Milo also has a duet with Adam, "But Not for Me," which is about how everybody seems to be having a great time and I'm just over here in a corner, being single. I thought it was a really pretty song, but it was also slightly angry. It was basically like someone singing a lonesome song and then halfway through becoming very angry, which is the best idea for a song ever because it really captures what it feels like to be alone. You don't just pity yourself and be sad about it, you are also kind of angry at the world.

I think that the choreography in this show is absolutely magnificent. It is a perfect mix of the dance style from the movie with the choreographer's own style. I also really liked the "An American in Paris" ballet and how it was based on Jerry's art. I think it was really cool how geometrical the stage picture was and how the costumes (designed by Bob Crowley) were all so colorful. The women had these skirts that were like separate triangles, and when they would spin, all the triangles would shoot out and make a star around them. The whole ballet was hypnotizing because you were so intrigued by every movement. "Fidgety Feet" was a really catchy song and I still have it stuck in my head right now. The dancing was super upbeat and happy and perfectly contrasted with the rest of how that scene goes. Everybody seems happy for a bit, but the rest of that party doesn't go very well in the end. Everyone is sitting down for a lot of the dance, so just their feet are moving and then they'd switch seats by doing a fan kick, and I thought it was really awesome looking. It was very Broadway. The whole song was everyone was breaking out in dance in a very proper setting. In some musicals, they have like a rebellion where they win over all the people who were against what they were doing--like dancing or playing rock music. I think this was a really good version of that because there wasn't a huge fight or anything, just everyone having a good time even if it wasn't the most proper fun time.

People who would like this show are people who like songs that capture loneliness, colorful ballet, and fidgety feet. I think that people should definitely go see this show. It has beautiful choreography, good singing, and a really great revised story!

Photos: Matthew Murphy

No comments: