Tuesday, June 6, 2017

Day 219 American in Paris-Friendships and Spreading Joy with Beauty

I remember seeing the 1951 film,“An American in Paris” as a kid and loved to watch Pittsburgh native Gene Kelly dance because he was always so full of joy as he moved.  The musical, “An American in Paris” is inspired by the film. According to Maslow, my blog inspiration psychologist, aesthetic needs or the appreciation and search for beauty in the world  is part of the process of obtaining your personal best or being self-actualized. “An American in Paris” is about beautifying   and spreading joy in a dark world.   

This play takes place after the devastation of World War II. American solder, Jerry Mulligan (McGee Maddox) stays in Paris after the war to pursue painting. He meets veteran solder, Adam Hochberg (Etai Benson) who is a composer, and the son of a wealthy industrialist, Henri Baurel (Nick Spangler) who wants to be a singer. They first meet in a local pub, become the best of friends and sing, “I got rhythm, I got music, I got my girl..who could ask for anything more” (I Got Rhythm). What they don’t realize is that they all have an interest in the same girl, dancer/ballerina, Lise Dassin (Sara Esty).  

I Got Rhythm (Jerry, Adam and Henri)
The play is a work of art. It is a visual explosion of dance with a focus on ballet. As the play opens, Parisians and Jerry dance to the music “Concerto in F” through gray colored Paris scenes.  The play then  explodes with pastel color  a few songs  later during “I Got Beginner's Luck ” and the  color  stays vivid  for the duration of the play. It reminded me of the contrast in the beginning of the “Wizard of Oz”.

Adam has a great line in the play that went something like this, “Life is already so dark so if you have the ability to bring joy why would you hold it in.” This play was about bringing joy and beauty in a dark  world.  Lise inspired these three men (who were all in love with her)  to  create a ballet for her.   Adam composed, Jerry designed the set, and Henri’s family financed the ballet which was the focus of the first Act. In Act II the ballet was a graceful work  of art with a set that resembled  a Picasso painting!
I'll Build a Stariway to Paradise 

The dancing of Sara Esty as Lise and McGee Maddox as Jerry added beauty and grace to the stage throughout the play. There was also various dance styles that kept the show energized like a little jazz in the first half (Second Raspsody/Cuban Overture) and a grand LasVagas style tap number (I'll Build a Stairway to Paradise) in Act II.  Intertwined was the love story and the building of friendships and songs like “The Man I Love”, “S Wonderful” and “They Can't Take That Away From Me”.

Don’t miss this explosion of joy that beautifies our sometimes dark world.

(An American in Paris runs May 30-June 11, 2017 as part of PNC Broadway Pittsburgh and Pittsburgh CLO at the Benedum Center through the Pittsburgh Cultural Trust or catch it on on tour.) 

Spiritual Refection 
In the same way, let your light shine before others, that they may see your good deeds and glorify your Father in heaven ( Matthew 5:16)

Other Sources
Pittsburgh Cultural Trust https://trustarts.org/production/48835