Arts & Culture

Review: ‘An American in Paris’ on Hilton Head is loaded with top performances

“An American in Paris” is on stage through Dec. 30 at the Arts Center of Coastal Carolina on Hilton Head Island.
“An American in Paris” is on stage through Dec. 30 at the Arts Center of Coastal Carolina on Hilton Head Island. Submitted

“An American in Paris” is the perfect answer for all of those theatergoers who have been looking forward to not only a Broadway show right here on Hilton Head but, more specifically, a romantic musical with an engaging storyline. And further, it would be loaded with top performances by the entire cast and would elevate our theater experience.

The happiest news is that “An American in Paris,” now on stage at the Art Center of Coastal Carolina, is positively worth the wait and will run through Dec. 30.

Winner of four Tony Awards, “An American in Paris” was inspired by the popular motion picture of 1951. Many will remember that Academy Award-winning film that starred Gene Kelly.

Our new musical was, after it opened in 2015, the most awarded Broadway show that year, and it offers the music and lyrics of George Gershwin and Ira Gershwin, the story from the book by Craig Lucas and orchestrations of David Lamoureux.

The vaunted production references World War II, the impact on the lives of so many who fought for the liberation of France and the Parisians who endured the occupation of the Nazis in Paris at the same time. In moments, though, it quickly gives way to a kind of scene-setting narrative offered by Adam (David Prottas) as he is seated on the stage at an upright piano.

Shortly, he is joined by Jerry (Christopher Rice), an American newly discharged from the Army who has decided that he wants to remain in Paris and pursue his love of painting. The two, during that chance meeting, become fast friends as they consider their futures in Paris.

Things become thorny — even complicated — when the two meet Lise (Polly Baird), a dancer who is working in a little shop at a perfume counter but secretly dreams of becoming a famous dancer. Now would be the perfect time to mention that her dream of a dancing career is not her only secret.

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“An American in Paris” is on stage through Dec. 30 at the Arts Center of Coastal Carolina on Hilton Head Island. Jordan Sturm Photography Submitted

The storyline becomes more complex but engaging when we meet Henri (Jordan Grubb), the son of wealthy parents Madam Baurel (Barbara McCulloh) and Mr. Baurel (Michael Gorman). Both are perfectly prim and proper Parisians, in every sense of the word, and have high hopes for their son, whom they believe will join their family business. They also hope he will marry the young girl who has been living with them during the war.

Milo (Carlyn Connolly), an heiress and cultural dilettante who weaves in and out of the delightful storyline, touches all of the players in hundreds of wonderful ways.

In the meantime, while the tricky plot unfolds, you will be pleased and elated with the performance of the Gershwin music, overseen by music director Jason Wetzel, as he handles conductor/keyboard responsibilities. Think “Fidgity Feet,“ ‘I Got Rhythm,” “S’Wonderful,” “But Not For Me” and “Stairway to Paradise!’

And by the way, you’ll enjoy the orchestral music, too. “Concerto in F,” “2nd Prelude,” “2nd Rhapsody,”The Cuban Overture” and “An American in Paris.”

The dancing, choreographed by Elise Kinnon, takes us through jazz dances of earlier times, classical ballet, modern, tap and even a kick line! The song and dance number with Henri is jaw-dropping. Start to finish, the dancing, all of the acrobatics, the energy, the more ups than downs are spot-on.

Directed by New Yorker Mark Martino, the seven talented leads, mainly from New York City, along with the supporting cast of 14, sings and dances as they are masterfully set against glimpses of the city of lights. “An American in Paris” truly becomes a collective musical and dance phenomenon right before your eyes.

If you go

What: An American in Paris

Where: Arts Center of Coastal Carolina

When: Showtimes vary through Dec. 30

Tickets: $60 for adults and $47 for children ages 5-15

Info: 843-842-ARTS or artshhi.com

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