The musical theater version of “An American in Paris” is somewhat the same as the 1951 Oscar-winning film version. Adam Hochberg (Etai Benson), an American in Paris but not the American of the title, sets the scene and serves as host and sometimes narrator. If, however, you have favorite songs or Parisian backgrounds or styles of dance from the film, you might find they’re not in the stage version’s national tour, currently at the Pantages Theatre.Replacing them, however, are other gorgeous George and Ira Gershwin songs, an astonishing state-of-the-art scenic design, and ballet numbers also updated in style and technique.The musical’s book, by Craig Lucas, starts dark for a moment, but that darkness haunts the story for those who want to still feel it. Frankly, some of us miss him when he’s not onstage.
Sunday through April 9.Where: Hollywood Pantages Theatre, 6233 Hollywood Blvd., Los Angeles.Tickets: $35-$149.Length: 2 hrs. ★★★½When: 8 p.m. Saturday, 1 and 6:30 p.m. and 45 mins., including intermission.Suitability: Ages 6 and up. Children younger than 5 will not be admitted to the theater.Information: 800-982-2787, hollywoodpantages.com. Tuesday–Friday, 2 and 8 p.m.
Unlike the film, in which Adam’s fantasies revolved around his career as a musician, here he likewise falls for Lise. If you adored the Gershwin sound in its original form and George Gershwin’s original piano versions of the pieces included here, you might disagree with the Tony voters. Adding conflict, another female voice to the score, and a reason for even more costumes that prove eye-popping — mostly in a good way — is the wealthy art patron Milo (Emily Ferranti).Christopher Austin and Bill Elliott’s orchestrations won a Tony Award.
One of them is, to Henri’s surprise and ours, is exceedingly proud of Henri. But the tunes are as jazzy and joyous as could be, and the dancing is superlative. Esty, formerly a soloist with Miami City Ballet (as is her alternate, her twin sister Leigh-Ann Esty), and Scribner, formerly a soloist with San Francisco Ballet and Nederlands Dans Theater, look perfect in the modern-dance, jazz-infused ballets, choreographed by the show’s extraordinarily imaginative director, Christopher Wheeldon.The dancing even builds to a spectacular musical-theater number, not for Jerry nor Lise but instead for Henri, who is rather awkward in his local nightclub debut, but who imagines himself the star at Radio City Music Hall, dancing to “I’ll Build a Stairway to Paradise.” His parents (Gayton Scott, Don Noble) happen by and see him performing.
It’s the end of World War II. She’s Lise (Sara Esty), she’s lovely, and of course we later find out that she feels obligated to marry the stiff but secretly heroic Henri (Nick Spangler). The Nazis are vanquished, marshal law is no more. But Parisians don’t know how to behave, whom to trust with their secrets that are not quite ripe for telling.Jerry Mulligan (Garen Scribner) has been a G.I. He’s now ready to head back stateside. Suddenly he spots a girl, and in a coup de foudre decides to stay in Paris.
AN AMERICAN IN PARIS