Hi everyone! As promised I will be reviewing the musical An American in Paris. I saw this musical last month at the end of July, as part of my Broadway in Chicago subscription at the Oriental Theatre in downtown Chicago.
This is not sponsored at all, I paid a good bit of money for my subscription. (Sponsor me Broadway in Chicago.) But not too much because I’m responsible. This was the third musical out of the five I have for this season. If you’d like to read my reviews for The King and I or Something Rotten please feel free to do so! I’m not too sad about the upcoming end of the season because I have one other musical I have tickets for, the last performance is in November, and then I renewed my subscription for next season so I have four more musicals from that. Plus the November one is actually after the first performance of the next season (weird, right) so the new one starts before the current one ends.
Having a subscription means I’m guaranteed the same seat each time, and get to attend in the first two weeks of when the musical opens. Typically I get to attend the first Saturday matinee performance.
I won’t give any major spoilers, but I will say a bit about the story and reference the movie from the 1950’s a bit as well.
So let’s get to the review!
A little bit about my experience before the musical, my mom and I went downtown together. She wanted to see the musical but only if we found a cheap ticket. My section was priced at $80+ (front balcony) but the upper balcony was cheaper. We headed to the box office once we arrived and found her a ticket for under $40. Unfortunately they didn’t have any last minute discounted ones but it was okay. After we bought the ticket we walked around the shops on State Street and had lunch down the street.
Once we arrived we asked an usher where my mom should enter. Since I know where my seat is I didn’t worry about it. She had to go up one more floor than I did so I said bye to her and headed off to where my entrance is. After a quick bathroom break I think I checked my blog comments or something until they opened the house.
Once they did I got caught behind two confused parties that blocked the walk way asking the usher where to go. It’s not labelled very well and the usher clearly didn’t know which sections were which. Eventually the first party moved but the next one continued to block the walkway. I understand that they may not be familiar with the theatre, I got confused my first time there too and had to be helped to my seat, but slow walkers or people who block passageways are two of my pet peeves!
Eventually they moved on two and Confused Usher demanded to see my ticket (yup, she gets a nickname). I showed it to her just to see what happened. She stared at it for a few seconds (we were about two feet from my seat and SHE was blocking my way now) and then looked around confused. After a few more seconds I pointed and said “that’s my seat right there” and she shoved my ticket back to me and finally let me through.
I was finally at my seat! Here’s the customary playbill and stage photo.
The house started to fill up. I spotted my mom a little up the way and we waved to each other. I was momentarily surprised as a couple sat next to me. Since I’m a subscriber and I get the same seats, so do The Champagne Ladies. They’re the two older women that sit next to me every show. I figured maybe they gave their grandkids tickets or something if they couldn’t make it but it turns out they were confused and the couple eventually left.
The Champagne Ladies arrived and were quite annoying actually. They talked too low for me to overhear so I can’t give you any funny conversational tidbits but one of them kept kicking my bag with her heel on purpose. If she had just asked I would have moved it but she didn’t so I put my foot on the other side so when she tried to push it over it didn’t go anywhere. It was not in her space either, but she had her legs crossed and has really long legs so they were actually in my space. Eventually she gave up and after intermission she switched seats with the other lady. At Intermission they left and I talked with my mom a bit. I went back and the Champagne Ladies came back and proceeded to have great difficulty taking a selfie. Since the heels lady was so rude earlier I didn’t offer to help.
Other than that no major annoyances occurred. Now onto the actual musical!
So the musical was so much better than I thought it would be! I’ve wanted to see this since the cast performed at the Tony’s in 2015. I had actually tweeted at the time that the performance made me want to see it and the musical’s Twitter replied to me. How fun! This musical and Something Rotten were the two main reasons why I got the subscription and they did not disappoint.
I actually had low expectations for this one going into it despite the stellar Tony performance. I had seen the 1950’s movie a few months ago and hadn’t really enjoyed it as much. I thought the story was a little strange. But the musical was so much better!
Summarizing the start a bit, in the musical Jerry Mulligan (Ryan Steele, scheduled to replace McGee Maddox on that date) is a World War II vet who chooses to miss his train home and remain in Paris to pursue his art rather than returning home to the USA after the war ends. He bumps into Lise Dassin (Sara Esty, Original Broadway Lise Alternate) on his first day in Paris but she runs away despite an obvious attraction between them. Jerry continues until he comes across a restaurant and finds another American, Adam Hochberg (Etai Benson) who then introduces him to Henri Baurel (Nick Spangler). The three become fast friends as they sing Adam’s “I Got Rhythm”, which Henri has speed up significantly.
Jerry learns that Henri dreams of being a performer but his wealthy parents wish for him to enter the family business and plan to send him to America to lead the branch there. Henri also has a serious relationship although he won’t say with who it is with. While the musical drops hints and lines that indicate Henri is gay, it is revealed his is dating Lise.
This scene was too much fun, as just at the height of the song the lights go out and they continue in candle light for a bit until they can power it back up.
The next day Adam takes Jerry with him to a ballet audition so he can practice his sketches. There Jerry meets Milo Davenport (Emily Ferranti), an American woman who has arrived with her enormous fortune in a war-torn, cash-strapped France. She invites Jerry to attend a party she’s hosting. As she does so Lise runs in late. The dance instructor tells her to leave as she does not tolerate lateness but Adam encourages Lise to stay and take advantage of the distraction of another dancer leaving in tears. She does so and Milo insists on commissioning a new ballet starring Lise, with Adam as the composer, and Jerry as the designer. All but Jerry are accepted outright although Milo vows to him that she will try her best to get him in. At this point it’s clear that Adam has taken a liking to Lise as well.
Jerry finds Lise at her workplace in another amazing number “I’ve Got Beginner’s Luck” and convinces her to meet with him as friends in the number “Liza”, which hints that they won’t remain just friends for long although she’s in a relationship with Henri and Jerry soon enters one with Milo. Other great numbers include “Fidgety Feet”, “I’ll Build a Stairway to Paradise” and “An American in Paris”, the famed ballet sequence at the end of the musical.
The dancing was magnificent as were the vocals and sound. I found myself admiring the costumes and set design as well throughout the performance. The story is intricate with references to the war and the characters are all affected by the exit of the German forces, notably through art and heritage. Every character has a rich story and every actor on stage portrayed their role beautifully.
Some of my favorite changes from the movie involved Henri’s character, which is given a much larger personality and role, as well as Lise’s and Adam’s careers, and Milo’s involvement with Jerry.
In the movie Henri’s is a very minor character, so we only really get to know Lise and Jerry and can’t support her with Henri. In the musical we understand Lise’s feelings for Henri and get much more complex emotions with her. He also gains career aspirations of his own.
Lise does not have a job beyond that of a shop girl that I can recall in the movie but in the musical she has great promise as a ballerina, complicating her possible move to America with Henri.
Adam’s role in the film is just to introduce Jerry to Paris and Henri, but not much more than that. He is also the one to realize that both Jerry and Henri love the same woman, while he does not meet Lise at all. While he is a musician in the movie he gets a greater role and career in the musical.
Milo is made to be much younger than in the film and she also becomes a love interest for Jerry. While I liked her character, I felt that it took away from the support she gave Jerry and she didn’t seem as good of a person as she did in the movie because of it. It seemed like she was doing it all because of the relationship rather than because she’s a lover of art and wanted to support a new artist. Overall her character was much more interesting because of the greater role she played though.
Overall the musical was amazing and it was much, much better than the film version. I am extremely happy I was able to see it and would highly recommend it.
So that’s my review of An American in Paris! Let me know if you’ve seen either the musical or film version of this story and if so, what did you think? If you haven’t let me know if you plan to see it now that you know a bit more.
Thanks for reading!
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