Theatre Review: ‘An American in Paris’

Lovely and wonderful are two words that best describe An American in Paris, the Tony Award winning musical that just arrived at the San Diego Civic Theater.

Adapted by Craig Lucas from the 1951 MGM movie and filled with songs by George and Ira Gershwin (“I Got Rhythm”, ”S Wonderful”, “They Can’t Take That Away From Me” are among the most notable), director and choreographer Christopher Wheeldon breathes so much life, color and newness into the musical that it’s a joy to watch.

The opening alone is something to witness. As the story opens, the Nazi empire has been defeated and the cast enters to perform the first dance number. It’s almost completely silent on stage (and in the audience) except for the soft taps of their feet. Yet, it’s so full of energy and emotion and life. It’s a beautiful thing to be a part of.

The story centers around Jerry Mulligan (McGee Maddox), an American ex-GI hoping to start a new life as a painter in Paris. He befriends Adam (Stephen Brower), a composer and fellow ex-pat, and Henri (Nick Spangler), a Frenchman and aspiring singer, who all are hoping for a better life now that the war is over. Soon though, Jerry falls for Lise (Sara Etsy), a shopgirl and ballerina, only to discover that Henri has eyes for her too.

Maddox and Etsy are perfect dance partners but it’s Brower and Spangler who are the standouts of this excellent cast. Brower has that instantly relatable, everyman quality about him. While Spangler brings layer after layer to Henri. So much so, that you might actually want him to end up with Lise.

An American in Paris is playing at the San Diego Civic Theatre through Sunday. For more info: Broadway San Diego