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‘American in Paris’ is simply beautiful

Exquisite.

That’s one word to describe “An American in Paris.”

It’s a simple word, yet so complex.

It’s also representative of the world audiences are transported through in the show.

From the set design to the costumes to the dances, it was simply elegant.

The traveling national tour has made Popejoy Hall it’s home for the week. The show has another four shows in Albuquerque before heading out.

“An American in Paris” is the romantic story about an American soldier, Jerry Mulligan,  a mysterious French girl named Lise Dassin and an indomitable European city — each yearning for a new beginning in the aftermath of war. It is set in 1945.

The musical is inspired by the 1951 Oscar-winning film of the same name and was adapted for the stage by Christopher Wheeldon.

“An American in Paris” opened at Théâtre du Châtelet in Paris on Dec. 10, 2014 for a limited run before closing on Jan. 4, 2015.

It then moved to the Palace Theatre on Broadway in April 2015, where it ran until Oct. 9, 2016.

The musical is directed and choreographed by 2015 Tony Award-winner Wheeldon and the show features the music and lyrics of George Gershwin and Ira Gershwin, and a book by Craig Lucas.

The score includes the songs “I Got Rhythm,” “Liza,” “‘S’Wonderful,” “But Not For Me,” “I’ll Build a Stairway to Paradise,” and orchestral music including  “Concerto in F,” “Second Prelude,” “Second Rhapsody/Cuban Overture” and “An American In Paris.”

The musical opens up with Matthew Scott, who plays Adam Hochberg, at his piano. The scene is simple in its vision, but contains so much complexity. It gives the audience a glimpse into what is in store for the rest of the musical.

As Hochberg, Scott commands the stage with such power. Hochberg is a veteran and pianist, whose war injuries have left him with a permanent limp. Within his pain, he tries to find the beauty in the chaos. He accomplishes that brilliantly with his music.

Then you have McGee Maddox, who brings Jerry Mulligan to life.

And not to forget Ben Michael as Henri Baurel.

Together the trio of men call themselves “the three musketeers.” In fact, each one brings a sense of strength to their characters, all while remaining vulnerable.

As the story moves along, the men find themselves in a love triangle of sorts. (But no spoilers here.)

Captivating audiences as Lise Dassin is Allison Walsh.

Walsh reprises her role as Dassin.

On Broadway, she was part of the ensemble and was the alternate for Dassin.

This is her first time with the lead role on a national tour. One couldn’t tell.

There’s a freedom to Walsh’s dancing. While ballet has many intricacies, Walsh’s skills were on point.

In fact the entire ensemble danced up a storm for the nearly two hours of performing modern and ballet numbers.

“An American in Paris” transports the audience into a time that has passed. Though after experiencing the show, I wish there were some things that existed in today’s world.

People should get dressed up. They should dance. They should forget about their worries — even for a moment.

We all should try to find the beauty in the world. Because it does exist — and it is all around.

Most of all, the musical reminds us how exquisite life can be. Truly, S’Wonderful.

‘An American in Paris’
WHEN:  8 p.m. Friday Oct. 20; 2 and 8 p.m. Oct. 21 and 1 p.m. Oct. 22
WHERE: Popejoy Hall, University of New Mexico campus
HOW MUCH: $40-105, plus fees at unmtickets.com, UNM Bookstore ticket office, UNM ticket office at The Pit, by phone at 925-5858 or 877-664-8661

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