“An American In Paris” Comes To The Fabulous Fox Theatre January 17-29

It took 64 years for Broadway to recreate Hollywood’s legendary MGM movie, transforming it into a dance-crazy new stage musical in 2015.  But many a lesser film had already undergone the change into a big, live extravaganza—so why wasn’t a landmark film like this considered stage-worthy long ago? Whatever the reason, the touring company is finally at the Fox Theatre in St. Louis, complete with eight tractor trailers bearing 500 pieces of costumes, plus lights and scenery, Jan. 17-29.

Step aside “Beauty And The Beast” and “Mamma Mia!” This new version of “An American In Paris” won a total of four Tony Awards. It’s still the tuneful love story of World War II veteran Jerry Mulligan (Garen Scribner) and French girl Lise (Sara Esty). But gone are many of the candy-colors of the 1951 movie, starring Gene Kelly and directed by Vincente Minnelli.

Their Paris is haunted by the recent Nazi occupation, according to touring Dance Captain Christopher M. Howard. “It’s grittier, in the aftermath. Rather than just being a showy spectacle that glosses over that historic point, we utilize history to its full potential in order to make our story more poignant and accurate,” he says. Touring Stage Manager Ken Davis calls it “lightning in a bottle,” with its powerful mix of story, music and dance. “This isn’t going to be Wicked,” he says. “Nothing against that show, but this is its own special evening in the theater, and it just keeps building.”

During his early experience with the show, Davis remembers the awe and excitement following their rendition of the immortal George and Ira Gershwin song, “I Got Rhythm. “And then there’s another giant Gershwin number. I have not worked on a show where the book scenes [by librettist Craig Lucas] draw such audible audience reactions,” he says.

“It’s incredibly demanding,” Howard notes of the dance performances, which include 25 on-stage performers, plus an extra ten—five extra men and five extra women—waiting to go on every night, to minimize the exhaustion from three hours of dance eight times a week. “The new version is about the War itself, and the aftermath. A liberated Paris, and rediscovering ourselves through relationships and art and love.”

Photo by Matthew Murphy

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