“An American in Paris” – The Phoenix Theatre Company

Theater Review – January 28, 2023


The Phoenix Theatre Company, Mainstage Theatre
Phoenix AZ

By Chris Curcio
Theater Critic

Turning the award-winning 1951 Best Film musical “An American in Paris” into a Broadway musical was a major undertaking for Craig Lucas, the stage book author, but he was blessed with the film’s many positive elements.

There’s the romantic love story set in post-World War II Paris coupled with the brilliantly tuneful but musically complex George and Ira Gershwin score.  The plot requires a huge cast and multiple City of Lights locales, historically accurate and colorful costumes, plus elaborate musical numbers that demand an inventive director and a wildly creative choreographer.  To top off the show’s rigid demands, a talented cast must be adept at singing, dancing, and acting.  The show is too big a reach for most professional theaters so the stage musical is rarely seen.

Not to be detoured by these awesome challenges, The Phoenix Theatre Company mounts a classy, sprightly paced, visually alluring, brilliantly staged, and superbly performed production.  Directed exquisitely by Larry Raben and vibrantly choreographed by DJ Gray, any stage “An American in Paris” must look, sound, and move just like the remarkable Broadway production and TPTC’s “An American in Paris” soars magnificently.

The story is straightforward.  Jerry Mulligan ends his Army career in Paris where he rekindles a partnership with composer Adam Hochberg.  Instead of returning home, Jerry decides to stay in Paris to pursue his dream of becoming a painter.  He meets a shy, self-doubting ballet dancer, Lise Dassin, and he falls madly in love.  Lise is afraid of a relationship with Jerry and turns to a want-to-be cabaret singer, Henri Baurel, while Jerry ends up being wooed by a rich American, Milo Davenport, who ends up sponsoring both the artist and dancer.  The plot unfolds among the exuberant dance numbers and it is no surprise when everyone ends up happily after a sweepingly gorgeous story ballet.

The cast is winning especially the two leads, Brianna Abruzzo as Lise and Michael Starr as Jerry.  The pair dance with flourish and style, sing sweetly, create believable characters, and play off each other with sincere feeling.  Nicholas Barakos handles Adam with staunch determination, Maria Amorocho is endearing as Henri’s doubting Mom and Clay Sanderson is secure as her husband.

Two supporting players disappoint but don’t seriously hurt the production.  Amanda Lea LaVergne lacks the uppity sophistication of Milo and Lucas Coatney-Murrieta’s Henri is not the dashingly suave suitor he must be.  Also, a few male ensemble members sport beards, something the American soldiers they play in early scenes would not wear.  But these are small blemishes in an otherwise superb production.

This captivating “An American in Paris” runs through March 12. To order tickets, call The Phoenix Theatre Company box office at 602-254-2151 or order tickets online at www.phoenixtheatre.com.

Grade: A

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