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AN AMERICAN IN PARIS is S’Wonderful at the San Diego Civic Theatre

If you are yearning for quick trip you need only travel to the San Diego Civic Theater where you can immerse yourself in the romantic city of light with AN AMERICAN IN PARIS now playing through Sunday, September 10th.

Photo Credit: Matthew Murphy

Based on the 1951 movie of the same name, this musical is an elegant and gorgeously danced production. The plot is adapted from the movie and opens after the end of World War 2 in a Paris that has only recently been freed from Nazi control.  Returning from the war aspiring painter Jerry Mulligan, an American ex-GI, sees the city as it starts to reawaken.  As an artist he wants to take everything in and quickly something beautiful catches his eye – a lovely girl navigating the city alone.  Paris literally dances around him as he follows her but she quickly disappears.

Jerry makes friends with another ex-GI Adam, who is a composer, and Henri a Frenchman who dreams of being a singer.  His new found friends have connections to the ballet auditions where Jerry goes to practice sketching and there his mystery girl named Lise. Unbeknownst to Jerry, both Adam and Henri all have feelings for this beautiful ballerina.

Photo Credit: Matthew Murphy

This audition also has Milo, an American heiress who instantly takes to Jerry, and suggests that she’ll commission a new a ballet if Jerry can be the set designer.  Yes, the plot has a bit of a “let’s put on a show” vibe and a love triangle (square, really with three men and one ballerina) that could be cleared up if anyone actually talked to one another.  But none of this really matters as the music by the incomparable George and Ira Gerswhin and some stellar dancing keep everything moving along.

McGee Maddox takes on the part of Jerry (made famous by Gene Kelly) and is an athletic and expressive dancer.  His dizzying optimism is only matched by his beautiful pirouettes and the height in his leaps.  McGee also has a strong singing voice;  though his ardent enthusiasm when speaking to Lise loses some charm as he pursues her through the city.

Sarah Esty makes it easy to see why Lise is so beloved by those who meet her as she is graceful and assured both on pointe and in heels.  With a lovely singing voice, and a charming presence on stage she is the heart of this trip to Paris.

Stephen Brower as the composer Adam is funny and sweet as the injured ex-pat who thinks art should be as depressing as life, is as pragmatic as he is heartbroken, and is the occasional voice of reason to his friends.  Nick Spangler as Henri is charming as the aspiring singer and his jazz number ‘I’ll Build a Stairway to Paradise” wowed the audience in the second act.  Emily Ferranti as the wealthy and lovelorn Milo rounds out the main group with her beautiful voice.

Photo Credit: Matthew Murphy

The Gershwin music is what keeps this show fun and forward moving.  The show is full of favorites like “I’ve Got Rhythm”, “S’Wonderful” (a lovely trio sung by McGee, Brower, and Spangler), and a few lesser known like “The Man I Love” as sung by Esty,  and “Fidgety Feet” (which does seem a bit like the odd duck addition in the show).

The set has a lot of pieces that swirl and dance into place on the stage, but it is the projections by 59 Productions that allow this show to get away with a more minimalist look (all the better for dancing).

The beautiful projections add to the misty, water colored romanticism of the story as boats float along the Seine, chalk drawings create famous landmarks, and backdrops suggest Magritte and Monet.  As the projections flit and float into place with each scene it only reinforces the buoyant and energetic dancing happening beneath them.

Don’t miss your chance to visit this nostalgically romantic Paris, it’s worth the trip.

AN AMERICAN IN PARIS is playing at the San Diego Civic Theatre through September 10th.  For ticket and show time information go to

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