BWW Review: AN AMERICAN IN PARIS at Shea's Buffalo Theatre

BWW Review: AN AMERICAN IN PARIS at Shea's Buffalo Theatre
Glorious Dancing Propels AN AMERICAN IN PARIS
Not since Jerome Robbins staged WEST SIDE STORY and Agnes DeMille's historic dream ballet sequences have theatre goers been presented the opportunity to experience Broadway musical story telling so expertly through dance. The boldly refreshing new Broadway touring production of AN AMERICAN IN PARIS that is playing at Shea's Buffalo Theatre shows that classical dance and jazz can blend seamlessly.
Director/ Choreographer Christopher Wheeldon is the leader of this elegant production based on the 1951 Warner Bros. film of the same name. An American GI (Jerry Mulligan) chooses to remain in Paris after that city's occupation by the Nazis. He is also a budding artist who meets a ballerina, Lise Dassin, and the two fall in love. Wheeldon won the TONY Award for his choreography, and it was well deserved. He melds ballet as a mode of story telling with contemporary Broadway moves in a way that never seems stilted. Just when you expect someone to break into song, they instead break into dance and the effect can be breath taking.
Garen Scribner as Jerry is an energetic, lithe dancer with a pleasant enough singing voice. His dancing was superb, leaping around the stage with ultimate grace executing incredible lifts, while managing Mr. Wheeldon's often frenetic choreography.
Sara Esty as Lise was perfect as the young petite ballerina who gets her big break. Ms.Esty dances with graceful elegance while employing a true depth of emotions in her pivotal dramatic scenes.
Also vying for Lise's affection are the struggling composer Adam Hochberg, played by Etai Benson and a privileged Parisian, Henri Baurel, who hopes to become a song and dance man. Nick Spangler shines as Henri, with a strong tenor voice, while Mr.Benson is quite effective as the down trodden composer who also gets his big break writing a ballet for Lise.

BWW Review: AN AMERICAN IN PARIS at Shea's Buffalo Theatre

Emily Ferranti is a dynamo as the wealthy visiting American patroness of the ballet. She has a strong Broadway voice and oozes glamour in Bob Crowley's costumes. Mr. Crowley's designs run the gamut from every day wear to glamorous evening gowns to primary colored ballet costumes. Gayton Scott, as Madame Baurel, anchored the drama of a wealthy Parisian coping with life after the German occupation. She brought pathos and dry humor to the role.
Projections by 59 Productions often displayed interesting perspective giving much visual interest to the settings, which ranged from realistic interiors to Cubist inspired ballet sets, all with a nod to the experimental nature of art in the early 20th Century. Mr. Wheeldon also expertly choreographed the scene changes, so even the set pieces and flying scenery took on a dancing elegance.
The incredible score by George and Ira Gershwin further cements that new jazz sound of the 30's and 40's, as evidenced in the highlight of the evening, the American In Paris ballet. Lush strings juxtaposed with syncopated brass and drums help transition from graceful balletic movements to angular strutting stances as the Gershwin score honks with the bustle of street life. We are treated to such standards as "I got rhythm, " The man I love," " 'S wonderful," and "I'll build a stairway to paradise."
This nod to the movie musicals of the past is a breath of fresh air for the Broadway community. It's poignant story still resonates today and it's joyfulness was palpable to the large Shea's audience.

AN AMERICAN IN PARIS plays at Shea's Buffalo Theatre for eight performances from November 8-13, 2016 as part of the M&T Bank 2016-17 Broadway Series.

Performances will be held at 7:30 p.m. Tuesday through Thursday, 8:00 p.m. on Friday, 2:00 p.m. and 8:00 p.m. on Saturday, and 2:00 p.m. and 7:00 p.m. on Sunday.

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