I’m guessing it’s not good form to start off the review of a Broadway musical with a severe case of neck strain. But in my mind, the two are inexorably linked, and if you find that strange and annoying, well, welcome to my blog, people. You get what you get.
So. I woke Wednesday morning in a terrible state — I had somehow strained my neck in my sleep and within a few minutes of getting out of bed, I discovered that even the slightest rotation of my head would result in the kind of pain that could easily lead a person to opioid addiction or murder or both. I spent the day doing little more than trying not to move my head and trying not to cry — I won’t even go into the agony that resulted from driving to pick up my kids from school — and it seemed clear that our plans to see ‘An American in Paris’ at TPAC that night would have to be canceled.
Seriously! No! For one thing, Dennis and I had been looking forward to seeing this play for freaking ever. Also, we had a brand new babysitter coming, a brand new babysitter who had not been at all easy to find. The show. Must. Go. On. And I must be sitting in the audience for that show, holding my head very, very still and drinking copious amounts of wine to dull the pain.
If you’re not all that familiar with ‘An American in Paris’ and the buzz surrounding it, it’s an updated version of the 1951 film by the same name. The storyline revolves around an American G.I. in Paris after World War II who meets and falls in love with a young Parisian ballet dancer. Various romantic mishaps (what my husband referred to as a ‘romantic pentagon’) ensue. The musical features music by George and Ira Gershwin and includes many songs you’ll recognize, like ‘The Man I Love’ and ‘S’wonderful’ and ‘I Got Rhythm’ and ‘They Can’t Take That Away From Me.’ But while the storyline is appropriately frothy and the music is fun, that’s not what makes this show stand out from all the others.
‘An American in Paris’ is all about the dancing. It won the Tony Award for Best Choreography, and when you see the play, you’ll understand why. The cast list is a who’s who of dancers from some of the best ballet companies in the country and they put more heart, soul, and technical skill into their performances than I have ever seen in a touring show. The dancing both propels this play forward and elevates it to greatness — Even the set changes are choreographed, with performers whirling on and offstage grasping mirrors and tables and chairs, and the thoughts and feelings of the characters are exquisitely expressed through their dancing in a way that will make your heart ache with the beauty of it all.
McGee Maddox, a classically trained ballet dancer, showed formidable talent in the role of G.I. Jerry Mulligan, but Allison Walsh as Lise stole the show. Fresh from the Broadway cast, her dancing was almost otherworldly — She physically expressed the emotional range of her character with grace and fluidity and outright joy, and she made it all seem entirely effortless. I’m not sure I’ve ever seen a better dance performance, to be honest.
And this is where my neck comes into the picture. I could (and did) sit here at my computer and use all the adjectives you’d find in a typical theater review, but I think perhaps the best way to describe the sheer brilliance of this play is to tell you that while the actors were on stage, my neck didn’t hurt at all. I was transfixed and breathless and at times, a little teary-eyed. For two shining hours, I didn’t want to kill anyone. Thank you, ‘An American in Paris.’ You were just that good.
‘An American in Paris’: Go for the dancing. Stay for the pain relief.
‘An American in Paris’ will be at Nashville’s TPAC through Sunday night and tickets are still available! And if you live elsewhere and it’s coming to your town, SEE IT, especially if you’re a fan of great dancing. You won’t be disappointed.