BWW Review: AN AMERICAN IN PARIS at Westchester Broadway Theatre Is the Champagne of Jukebox Musicals
Think of "An American in Paris," on stage at Westchester Broadway Theatre in Elmsford (N.Y.) through Nov. 24, as the champagne of jukebox musicals. It has that kind of pedigree--and that kind of effervescence.
This show's resplendent roots reach back nearly a century to a jazz-infused symphony by George Gershwin that was the basis for a 1951 MGM movie musical that won six Oscars, including Best Picture. The movie, an artistic triumph that was hugely popular at the box office, also earned an honorary Oscar for its multi-talented star and choreographer Gene Kelly. It is ranked in the top 100 movies and top 10 movie musicals of all time by the American Film Institute.
GERSHWINS IN THEIR GLORY
Add to that embarrassment of riches a nostalgic treasure trove of standards by George and lyricist sibling Ira Gershwin that were not in the movie, plus a socially-conscious, pithy script by acclaimed playwright Craig Lucas, and - voila! - you have as classy a jukebox musical as you'll find anywhere.
Supplementing the film's famous numbers -such as "I Got Rhythm," and "Stairway to Paradise" - are Gershwin gems "The Man I Love," "But Not for Me," "They Can't Take that Away from Me," and more.
S'WONDERFUL VOCAL ARRANGEMENTS
The orchestral and vocal arrangements on iconic songs such as "S'Wonderful" truly are wonderful; actors singing in rounds layers the songs with a richer, more dramatic texture.
The story, set at the close of World War II after Paris has been liberated from Nazi occupation, focuses on three artistically-inclined young men with great ambitions, in career and in romance. They all have their eyes on the same young woman, aspiring ballerina Lise Dassin (Deanna Doyle).
He comes across fellow American Adam Hochberg (Tommaso Antico), a budding composer, and Frenchman Henri Baurel (Jonathan Young), heir to a textiles fortune who would rather be a nightclub entertainer.
Henri's mother is pushing him to propose to Lise, whose personal history makes her feel indebted to his family, and to his mother's wishes that they form a lifelong union. Revealing any more of the storyline - which is smart and quite substantive for what at its core is a song-and-dance show - would spoil the fun, so I'll leave you with that amuse-bouche for now.
Gene Kelly VIBE
The roles of Jerry and Lise require considerable dancing skills. Deanna Doyle makes a suitably lithe Lise and Brandon Haagenson, particularly in his physical appearance, actually pulls off a Gene Kelly vibe, though at times it feels a tad cliched.
As wise-cracking Adam Hochberg, Tommaso Antico makes a particularly memorable impression, investing his character with an affable swagger that is believable and relatable. I liked him right away. He's the kind of guy with whom you can have a friendly conversation at the drop of a hat. Mr. Antico has Broadway vocal chops too.
Jonathan Young easily elicits our empathy as the confused, somewhat frustrated Henri. We feel for his plight.
The WBT live orchestra is at full force for the show, with 10 musicians, directed by Ryan Edward Wise.
TRES CHIC PRODUCTION VALUES
The show's scenic design (Steve Loftus) and costumes (Keith Nielsen) effectively exploit a "gay Paree" (i.e., joyous city) color palette, anchored by a stage floor covered in dappled brush strokes, paying homage to the French impressionist school of painting, notably that of Claude Monet.
Swirl it all together, and you've got yourself a champagne jukebox musical, ready to uncork and savor.
The only thing missing is a character named Dom Perignon.
A votre sante!