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Playhouse Square dazzles with the Key Bank Broadway Series ‘An American in Paris’

Take the classic film An American in Paris, throw it in a blender and mix thoroughly adding a healthy dash of dazzling sets, costumes, lights, videos, props and most important romance. Heat it up until it sizzles and serve piping hot. This is what you get with the touring Broadway stage version of this Gershwin masterpiece.

While the stage version is very loosely based on the 1951 film starring Gene Kelly, Oscar Levant, Georges Guetary, Nina Foch and Leslie Caron the film was more a vehicle for Gene Kelly’s talents as a choreographer and dancer. The Broadway musical currently playing at the State Theatre at Playhouse Square is directed and choreographed by Christopher Wheeldon and equally distributes the spotlight among the principles.

Shortly following World War II, mustered out Lieutenant Jerry Mulligan (McGee Maddox) has decided to stay in Paris, France in order to pursue his ambition as a painter. He keeps crossing paths with a lovely French girl, Lise Dassin (Sara Esty) who without even trying has won his heart.

Ending up in a small café off Rue Lafayette he encounters fellow soldier Adam Hochberg (Etai Benson) who is recovering from a war induced leg wound and getting by playing piano at said bistro. They are joined by Adam’s friend, Henri Baurel (Nick Spangler) who although he comes from an aristocratic family is more interested in performing a cabaret act than running the family factories. The three talents form a fast friendship but with one problem. Unbeknownst to each is the fact that they are all madly in love with Lise.

Soon, Jerry and Adam fall under the notice of Milo Davenport (Emily Ferranti) who is a well to do American heiress that dreams of returning Paris to its days of culture and fine arts reminiscent of its pre-war days. Adam is sponsored to write the music for a new ballet, Jerry (with whom Milo has fallen for) is to supply the stage design and Henri becomes engaged to Lise for whom the ballet is being written for as the featured dancer.

It is helpful for those who are fans of the movie to temporarily forget any details that they may have about the film. Everything has been changed, rearranged and discombobulated but all for the better. There is more passion, more romance and some truly stunning dance numbers that make the two and a half hours (plus 15 minute intermission) fly by.

The choreography is a collection of Broadway dance numbers fused with ballet giving an entirely unique look to the production. Of special note are the Pas de Duex numbers between Maddox and Esty that simply take your breath away. Another show stopper is the surprisingly new rendition of I’ll Build a Stairway to Paradise that starts slow in a run-down cabaret but builds to a spectacular full Broadway finish with elegant costumes and chorus line (a big improvement over the movie version).

Special note must be made of two important elements in the show. The first is the video projections that along with the sliding props transformed the stage into post war Paris with smooth transitions. The other was the absolutely great orchestra under the direction of David Andrews Rogers.

This is a show that entire family will talk about for years.

Can America’s favorite musical movie be improved upon in a Broadway stage production? The answer is a resounding YES! While some fans of the movie may be confused by the differences, this new storyline packs more romance, sex and sizzle as you are whisked along with the sounds of the beautiful Gershwin tunes providing the musical glue that holds this show together. ‘S Wonderful.

An American in Paris will be on stage at the State Theatre at Playhouse Square through July 9, 2017. Tickets may be purchased by calling (216) 241-6000, online by going to or by stopping by the Playhouse Square Box Office located in the outer lobby of the State Theatre.

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Who is Mark Horning?

Over the course of my life I have worked a variety of jobs including newspapers, retail camera sales and photography. Eight years ago I embarked on yet another career as writer. This included articles concerning sports and cultural events in Cleveland, Ohio as well reviews of the many theatrical productions around town. These days are spent photographing professional dance groups, theater companies and various galas and festivals as well as attending various stage performances and posting reviews about them.  

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