an american in paris orlando

C’est la vie: ‘An American In Paris’ Review | Dr. Phillips Center for the Performing Arts, Orlando, FL

by • December 21, 2016

What is true love? Is it an instantaneous spark born out of a chance meeting? Is it protecting someone from harm at any cost? Is it the inspiration to create? Or is it something else? 

At Dr. Phillip Center for the Performing ArtsAn American In Paris dissected what it’s like to love someone. The story itself is a simple construct: Jerry Mulligan, an American fresh from WWII, chooses to stay in Paris to pursue art where he falls for a ballerina named Lise that is engaged to one friend (Henri) and equally desired by another (Adam). For the majority of the musical, none of the men are aware that they are in love with the same woman, and she, being pulled in different directions, struggles to choose between the man that swept her off her feet and the one that saved her life — the third never stood a chance, poor bastard. All of this is drama takes place while the characters are crafting an original ballet with Lise as the star, Jerry as the designer, and Adam as the composer.

The classic story and settings were brought into the present by the eye-catching production. Set pieces illuminated in projected images flew in and out of the background, shaping mid-20th century Paris through buildings and canals. But what really elevated the dancing and singing were how the contemporary art of the day was used in the same projections. Minimalist rectangles and circles flashed around the stage in primary colors. Moods were quickly changed by harsh red or cool blue. Ballerinas moved with the same exact, hard edges as rectangles on stage. Without these additions, An American In Paris would have felt like a forcibly dragged out and archaic love story, but the added pizazz made it a sight you couldn’t bare blinking through.

But quickly, back to the bit about true love. In the end, when (obvious spoiler) Lise and Jerry were together, I was a little disturbed by Lise’s choice. Maybe I was overthinking a story written in 1951, but Jerry truly is the least deserving of her love. Henri is a man who has loved her for years and who during the war, protected Lise from the Nazis. Adam channeled his love into the ballet written for her that ultimately makes her dreams a reality. Jerry is only the most deliberate with his intentions to be with Lise, but to me he seemed earnest … I guess that is true love. You can give someone everything they ever wanted but the person you fully desire wins. (Or maybe, given that the writer of the original screenplay is American, he wanted the pretty WWII hero to beat out the Frenchman and disabled, disillusioned man. C’est la vie.)

An American In Paris Review by Matthew Weller. Edited by Austin Young.

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