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Review: "An American in Paris," exciting and eclectic performance

Fans of romantic Broadway musicals are sure to fall in love with “An American in Paris” and the time-tested melodies of George and Ira Gershwin, which played at Popejoy Hall Oct. 17 through 22.

This recent retelling of the 1951 film received a 2015 Tony Award and a slew of other critical honors.

“An American in Paris” was adapted to the stage by director Christopher Wheeldon, based off a book by Craig Lucas.

The cheery, song-and-dance-laden performance is centered around a fictional U.S. army lieutenant, Jerry Mulligan, originally played by Robert Fairchild, who decides to stay in Paris after World War II to pursue his artistic ambitions.

Instead, Mulligan finds what is arguably even more important — healing, comradery and true love.

As a period piece, the play manages to capture a taste of the grit and angst that was present in post-occupied France, where so many longed to forget the horrors of war and return to a more peaceful existence.

Gorgeous props and precise choreography helped to convey the tension of Parisians and expatriates alike, who were all struggling in their own ways to see the once-beautiful City of Lights restored to its rightful place, as a world capital of art, music and dance.

Moveable panels shaped like city buildings added depth and bustle to the richly dressed urban sets. Flawless costumes and quick turnarounds allowed the acting troupe to successfully magnify their number and portray vast city crowds as they danced out with props for scene changes.

Whether on the banks of the Seine or at the seedy Café Dutois, the transformations felt authentic.

At its heart, this is a timeless romance story, with all its complexity and human foibles.

The story features classic love triangles, because it is set in Paris, after all.

Mulligan is smitten by a French shop girl and aspiring prima ballerina, Lise Dassin, originally played by Leanne Cope, who has that charming je ne sais quoi that makes her perfect as the leading lady.

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Dassin is also being courted by her shy French boyfriend, Henri Baurel, and a struggling piano composer, Adam Hochberg.

At the same time, wealthy heiress Milo Davenport, originally played by Zoe Rainey, takes more than a merely professional interest in Mulligan.

The actor who played Mulligan’s character, made famous by Gene Kelly, had big shoes to fill, but the dancing was pulled off brilliantly and unflappably, scene after scene.

The song, “I’ve Got Beginner’s Luck,” aptly epitomizes this theatrical adaptation. Sometimes one does not need a star-studded cast to impress — just confidence and natural talent, which this play has an abundance of.

The majority of the dancing was ballet-centric, which may not be everyone’s taste, but it was so well done that it felt natural in its ability to evoke the passion, joy and frivolity of the characters.

With a little swing dancing and even some tap thrown into the mix, the production was eclectic enough to satisfy diverse palates.

One thing is certain — you won’t sleep through this performance.

While this show had a limited engagement, Popejoy Presents has a continuous lineup of performances. The glow-in-the-dark dance performance, “iLuminate” will be their next major show, starting on Oct. 27.

Aaron Cowan is a volunteer reporter for the Daily Lobo. He primarily covers sports including women’s volleyball and men's and women's golf and also writes for the culture desk. He can be contacted at or on Twitter @AaronTCowan.

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