By Iride Aparicio

Photos by: Matthew Murphy

SAN FRANCISCO, CA –  The American’s name is Jerry Mulligan, and he is an artist. But in 1940, when the story of this musical takes place, Mulligan was one of the USA Army soldiers fighting in “THE BATTLE OF PARIS,” (That began in France in August l9, l944 and ended seven days later in August 25th) a military action, during World War II, that culminated in an Allied Victory in which Paris was liberated after the Nazis surrendered the French capital.  After the war, Jerry remained in “The City of Lights” painting its wondrous sights, and imprinted them forever on canvas.

McGEE MADDOX as Jerry Mulligan in An American in Paris

We first heard of Jerry Mulligan in l951, when MGM presented “An American in Paris” a movie scripted by ALAN JAY LERNER and directed by VICENTE MINNELLI, with GENE KELLY in the role of Jerry Mulligan and LESLIE CARON as Lise Bourvier. The movie, with music and lyrics by  GEORGE and IRA GERSHWIN, garnered eight Oscar Nominations and won six Academy Awards® three of them for  Best Picture, Best Screenplay and Best Score.

Directed and choreographed by 2015 Tony Awards winner CHRISTOPHER WHEELDOM, with the music of GEORGE and IRA  GERSHWIN and a new book by CRAIG LUCAS, a live version of “AN AMERICAN IN PARIS” comes to San Francisco, but this time as the 2015 four Tony Awards® musical that was Inspired by the film.  For those who remember the film, about the American soldier who fell in love with a mysterious French girl and ignored his chance to become a rich, and a famous painter for her, they will be able to see the story again, live, on the stage of the SHN Orpheum Theatre. 

With little changes here and there the story of AN MERICAN IN PARIS the musical, is basically the same as the story from the movie version.


The only big differece, from the film and the musical are the dances.  Most of Jerry’s dances in the film were tap dances, because GENE KELLY was a great tap dancer. In the  musical, version, however, because the role of Jerry Mulligan (the American who is living in Paris) is played by ballet dancer MADDOX, (who was trained at Houston Ballet) most of Jerry's dances are ballets.

Jerry’s  friends in the movie,  Henri Baurel, (a Frenchman) and Adam Hochberg, (Another American studying in Paris) changed little in the musical. The character of Henri, the famous cabaret singer (played by SPANGLER) does not change at all, except that in the musical version, the French man has a father and a mother.   Adam Hochberg, (BROWER) who in the movie was a concert pianist studying in Paris, in the musical is a composer who provides original songs for Henri's act. In both the film and the musical, the three friends are so close to each other that they call themselves “The Three Musketeers.” but in the musical the three friends have one more thing in common: two or them are secretly in love with  Lise Dassin, (SARA ESTY) who is engaged to Henri. Another important character in the musical, is Milo Davenport played by EMIlY FERRANTI.

We could describe AN AMERICAN IN PARIS, the musical, as "A Ballet with Voice" (By the voice we mean the lyrics of the songs and the dialogue) This musical is dance, and a good part of the first act (the liberation of Paris,  the Parisians celebrating. and the first meeting of Jerry and Lise) are represented in a number of  marvelous dances which include: Pas de deux, solos and ensemble Ballets.

Jerry Mulligan (MCGEEMADDOX) and Lise Dassin (SARA ESTY)

The musical starts in a dark stage, with Adam (BROWER) sitting on the piano bench in front of a golden grand piano telling the audience: When you think of Paris, what did you think of? And as he begins telling us what he thinks abou the city, the dark curtains open and covering the stage we see a huge swastika’s flag being replaced by a huge French flag.

After that, the stage bursts into colors. Colors are everywhere: In the lights, in the women’s dresses, and in the streets of Paris which are illuminated by lots of golden lights We hear music as we start watching the Paris' streets in 1945 with Everybody around us smiling,  all the Parisian singing, celebrating their liberation by hugging and kissing each other and dancing.   

The realistic sets designed by BOB CROWLEY, (who also designed the costumes) representing the Paris buildings and streets, and the music from the GERSHWIN’s “Concerto in F” playing in the background transports us  (vicariously) to the Paris street where Jerry and Lisse met for the first time after she falls on the street after being pushed by the mob of people. Jerry likes the girl, but when he tries to help her and talk with her, he loses her in the crowd. He spend a good part of the first act trying to find her.

In the meantime we hear  plenty of songs among them  “Liza” “Wonderful” a “Shall we Dance” and “But Not for Me “ and others less known such as “I’ve Got beginner’s Luck” “The Man I Love” “Fidgety feet”. and see more dances, among them the show stopper “I’ll build a Stairway to Paradise” sung by Henri (SPANGLER) as part of his night club show.

NICK SPANGLER, center singing his show stopper song

The show is entertaining, the singing is good and so is the acting. The sets and costumes are beautiful.  Wonderful in the musical are the perfectly-danced ballets, the best one the rendition of  “”An American in Paris” danced by Lise and Jerry and the whole company .

Visually and musically it is a wonderful show. The only thing that this “AN AMERICAN IN PARIS” may need, according to many, is more dialogues between Jerry and Lise to help  the audience  understand  their love for each other, which in  this musical  gets lost, at times,  among the many ballets.

AMERICAN IN PARIS will play at the SHN ORPHEUM THEATRE 1192 Market Street in San Francisco until October 8. For tickets you can go online to www.shnsf.com or call 888-746-1799.