Arts & Culture

‘An American in Paris’ at DPAC is a blast from Broadway’s past

Sara Esty and Garen Scribner bring their experience as Broadway alternates to the lead roles of Jerry and Lise in “An American in Paris.”
Sara Esty and Garen Scribner bring their experience as Broadway alternates to the lead roles of Jerry and Lise in “An American in Paris.”

Fans of classic Broadway musicals have welcomed the 2015 stage version of the movie “An American in Paris,” while admirers of the 1951 film have had little trouble accepting the show’s tweaking of its plot and musical numbers. The current national tour of the recently closed New York production dazzles with its charming cast, stage-filling choreography and clever scenic effects.

The plot still revolves around former American soldier Jerry, who stays in Paris after World War II to work on his painting skills and falls in love with pretty young Lise. But here, she’s a budding ballet star, pursued not only by fellow countryman Henri (now a rich businessman’s son secretly trying to become a cabaret singer) but also by Adam, Jerry’s composer friend (now a wounded veteran).

The three men don’t know they are in love with the same woman, allowing further humorous complications in Craig Lucas’ revamped script. He also adds more back story about the war’s effects on the people of Paris, supplying deeper characterizations and a more realistic context.

The show’s dream-like quality and artistic beauty begins with the amazing projections and animations by 59 Productions, from chalk drawings that turn into full-fledged streets and Parisian vistas filled with rolling clouds and sparkling lights. Bob Crowley’s multifunctional set pieces glide on effortlessly and reconfigure to make cafés, parks and hotel rooms. His couturier fashions and glittering dance costumes enhance choreographer/director Christopher Wheeldon’s stylish steps and complex dialogue scenes.

Garen Scribner and Sara Esty bring their experience as Broadway alternates for Jerry and Lise to the tour’s leads, their confident singing and lyrical dancing warming up numbers such as “Liza” and “The Man I Love.” Etai Benson’s Adam gives some bite to the proceedings, his constant zingers hiding the character’s lonely soul. Nick Spangler’s bubbly vocals and natty demeanor neatly characterize Henri, his “I’ll Build a Stairway to Paradise” arguably the show’s highlight. Emily Ferranti portrays Milo Davenport, the rich American out to snare Jerry, with more warmth and sympathy than the film’s equivalent.

If the show relies a little too much on sophisticated elegance, to the detriment of variety and brio, and loses some steam from several lengthy dramatic scenes, it still provides a most pleasant throwback to Broadway’s “golden era.”

Dicks: music_theater@lycos.com

Details

What: “An American in Paris”

Where: Durham Performing Arts Center, 123 Vivian St.

When: 7:30 p.m. Thursday; 8 p.m. Friday-Saturday; 2 p.m. Saturday; 1 p.m. and 6:30 p.m. Sunday. The DPAC website says all of the upcoming shows will continue as planned. Check DPAC’s inclement weather FAQ for more information.

Tickets: $40-$165

Info: 919-680-2787 or dpacnc.com

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