The Tony Award-winning stage adaptation of “An American In Paris” pretty much writes its own review -- at the end of the night after bows, as the cast reprises the “I Got Rhythm” tagline “Who could ask for anything more?”
It is indeed hard to figure out what more you could want from the show, at the Detroit Opera House through Dec. 10. It’s the rare kind of musical that hits on every level, from the dazzling, balletic choreography to the equally stunning stage sets, from exceptional acting to, of course, the music itself, songs and score by George and Ira Gershwin at their best -- including bona fide Great American Songbook classics such as “S’Wonderful,” “Shall We Dance?” and “I Got Rhythm.”
Fans of the 1951 film won’t necessarily recognize the story. It’s still about an American -- actually a few of them -- in Paris immediately after the end of the World War II. In writer Craig Lucas’ hands the tale cuts broader and deeper, exploring the darker side of the liberation and tackling big issues and hard questions about societal recovery, love vs. duty, the responsibility of art and artists, and the how even good deeds have to be kept secret from others who might not view them as such.
“How do you bring the light back after a city has been crushed?” Matthew Scott’s Adam Hochberg asks at the outset, sitting at a piano in the shadow of the Arc de Triomphe. Anything but light-hearted, “An American In Paris” doesn’t entirely answer the question, but it does offer beacons of hope for that recovery.
And, of course, it’s enormously entertaining. The precision but minimalist staging employs projections to create size and landscapes and convey Paris’ grandeur even after the occupation. And the dancing is nothing less than sublime, particularly on full-company numbers such as the opening “Concerto In F,” the joyous “I Got Rhythm,” the chair dance of “Fidgety Feet” and the lengthy but jaw-droppingly executed title ballet.
The cast stands up to the demands of the material, too -- especially McGee Maddox as American military veteran turned aspiring artist Jerry Mulligan, skilled and expressive as both a dancer and singer. Allison Walsh is his equal, at least on feet, as dancer Lise Dassin, the focus of a love quadrangle between Mulligan, Hochberg and their French pal Henri Baurel (Ben Michael). All the actors, including Kristen Scott as Milo Davenport and Birmingham native Teri Hansen as Madame Baurel, ably deliver the production’s careful balance of pathos and comedy, giving it plenty of thought-provoking heart.
It’s no spoiler to say that all ends well, or with the potential for well, for Americans and Parisians alike. Sturdy and clever, “An American In Paris” truly s’wonderful -- and, yes, who COULD ask for much more than that?
If You Go:
“An American In Paris”
Through Dec. 10.
Fisher Theatre, 3011 W. Grand Blvd., Detroit.
Tickets are $29-$89.
Call 313-872-1000 or visit broadwayindetroit.com.
Note: Members of the “An American In Paris” cast will perform at a benefit for Broadway Cares/Equity Fights AIDs at 7 p.m. Dec. 4 at the Loving Touch, 22634 Woodward Ave., Ferndale. Tickets are $25 at the door. Call 248-820-5596 or visit thelovingtouchferndale.com.
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