SANDY — An American in Paris written by Ira and George Gershwin playing at the Sandy Hale Centre Theatre in the round is a must-see; all the work put into creating this beautiful show is worth every penny. To say this show felt long would be an understatement—that’s how it’s written—but the beauty of the show is how intricate and indulging each dance scene is. I so enjoyed seeing how powerfully the performers leaped through the air and how the men lifted their partners to great heights. Just to see the dancing, I would gladly go again.
The story is about a young American man who was in Paris during World War II and and how he purposely misses his train home after the war is over. As he figures out where to stay, he runs into the same girl multiple times and falls for her, finally getting a chance to tell her how he feels. They agree to meet every day to dance and as they grow closer, they each realize the other is with someone else. They battle their feelings for each other as they try to find happiness in their chosen paths. Finally, a friend intervenes, and they come together for a beautiful dance and reconcile.
Director Dave Tinney brought this show to life with the choices of individual characters and how they interacted with each other. I laughed so hard at the part when Henri (played by Taylor Morris) and Lise (played by Juliet Doherty) act painfully awkward toward each other and then suddenly break the mood by both being goofy. I loved how powerfully done the scene was when Adam (played by Marshall Madsen) hobbles onstage alone without his crutch to the center and the stage suddenly transforms beneath and around him as he begins to direct the unseen orchestra, ending up above everything else around him. It all came together so perfectly.
Choreographer Jennifer Barlow fulfilled my need to see beauty by the dances she created. This show was a mixture of ballet and jazz, mixed just right to fit the music. I particularly loved the movement of the dancers in a wide stance and arms out, rocking from one side to the other and bending down slightly. When Lise and Jerry Mulligan (played by Miles Woolstenhulme) came together at the end, they did the dance movements I remembered them doing as friends at the beginning, which was so heartwarming. I also loved how even the set changes were choreographed as dancers in black would come on dancing to remove an item or, after placing their piece of furniture, would leap gloriously off the stage.
During the song, “I’ve Got Beginner’s Luck,” Woolstenhulme’s energy radiates, and he even clicks his heels at one point. His use of the umbrella while dancing was a wonderful throwback to Gene Kelly. Barlow had them make use of the levels in that scene so well, moving Lise from one shop counter to another. The scene was such a perfect valentine romance paired with dance.
The most fantastic scene was between Doherty and Woolstenhulme at the end; it included so many fantastic, intricate lifts. One lift looked like Doherty had to twist in mid-air while being lifted. The beauty and emotion in that dance was stunning. Doherty was a spectacular dancer and has the history to prove it with her many awards. I haven’t seen such perfect balance so close before, and the way she carried herself while dancing made it seem like she was floating most of the time. I loved how well she performed too. Even her voice, though it didn’t seem as trained as most musical performers, was simple and beautiful and fit her character.
The costumes, designed by Joy Zhu, fit so well with the story. Doherty was dressed smartly and simply for most of it and then came out in this gorgeous, flouncy red dress when she began letting go and being herself for her dance. My absolute favorite costumes were the girls’ dresses during Morris’s imagination song, “Stairway to Paradise,” where he pretends he is singing on Broadway. The girls were dressed in dazzling silver sparkling leotards, with huge headdresses almost as tall as they were, designed like a snowflake with feathers coming out the edges. It was simply awe-inspiring.
The set pieces were also beautiful, done by Kacey Udy. The chaise lounge in Doherty’s dressing room and the platforms that came down from the ceiling for, “Stairway to Paradise,” were amazing. It was fun to see how French everything looked with the simplicity of the walls set up in different formations at the beginning. Because I’ve never been to this specific theatre room, seeing how the stage itself moved around like a puzzle was thrilling. The dance floor that came out from the sides and met in the middle was painted beautifully, and I thought the petals falling at the end of that dance scene set the perfect for the tone for Doherty trying to express herself and needing to be with Woolstenhulme.
This spectacular show tugged at everything in me to dance, and I did a few moves at home before going to bed. To see such a beautiful work of art put together in a show like this brought a smile to my face and a warmth to my heart. I strongly recommend An American in Paris at the Hale Centre Theatre in Sandy. The show is a wonder to the eyes and a inspiration for the soul.