Friday, October 7, 2016

An American in Paris (Broadway)

1945, Post-WWII Paris. Jerry Mulligan (Dimitri Kleioris) contemplates on whether to stay in France or go back home to America, deciding for good after tearing up his train ticket and heading to a nearby bar in hopes of finding a way to survive in the recently liberated City of Lights. There he meets Adam (Matthew Scott), a fellow soldier injured in battle who opted for the same path, pursuing his passion for music at a time when the recovering city needs it most. Henri (Max von Essen) is heir to a textile empire, but his inner Jazz performer couldn’t ask for anything more than his very own musical stint at Radio City. Or maybe he wants it as bad as proposing to Lise (Leanne Cope), his gifted ballerina girlfriend whose pirouettes are as mysteriously haunting as her character. The three men share their affection for her, as they do their communal efforts to forget the atrocities of war that have defined their generation. But it takes only two to Tango, and most hearts can just beat for one. In the end, she has to choose whether to stay safe and honor a debt of gratitude, or pursue a new kind of adventure that has made her feel alive again.

Oh, it’s like reverse Miss Saigon, but a way happier version. There really is this certain kind of appeal when it comes to romance set during a regime change, when people are torn between staying and leaving in an effort to move on with their lives. Blame it on the immediacy of the situation? Here, the guy chooses to stay, which is perhaps why a shot at happiness is a luxury they can afford, as opposed to a tale of one being left behind and both ending up defeated and thousands of miles apart. Even then, their love story is not without complications, and it just goes to show that sometimes it’s actually circumstance, not time nor place, that is the culprit. And for all of us, those circumstances can vary a great deal.

It is rare to find men who can do both jazz and ballet really well and still maintain that swagger, that masculinity, which makes you realize even further that the universe can sometimes be so unfair. Kleioris’ performance is reminiscent of George Chakiris’ Oscar-winning turn as Bernardo in West Side Story, minus the gangster angst that the role required. Maybe blame it to the Greek roots that they happen to share? It’s good to switch gender roles once in a while and have the guy persistently chase the girl, given the norm in film and theater nowadays where it is always the other way around. Or perhaps the definition of a romantic comedy back in the 40's is just not that compatible with the one that we currently have?

Cope as the reluctantly standoffish leading lady is also a breath of fresh air, although such demeanor is often frowned upon lately as a vestige of an antiquated sexist era when women were expected to be all prim and proper as dictated by societal norms. Ballet is undeniably her main strength, and that final performance will surely blow you away. Her petite frame suggests vulnerability, yet her pixie cut seems to imply a headstrong personality. Isn’t it fun when the physicality and the personality of a character matches like that? In any case, all of that is deemed negligible when she begins to dance. And it helps that her thick French accent is spot-on too.

Milo Davenport (Jill Paice) is the perfect throwback to the bygone eloquence of 40’s Hollywood. Her elegance should get its own billing: the regal outfits; the posh American enunciation; the blonde locks. Somehow, all these outshone the character itself, in a way that you remember her well not because you were rooting for her at all, but thanks to the very idea of a woman like her even existing. She is a pleasure to watch onstage, but she simply seems as unreachable as a bombshell siren who is way out of your league. It’s no wonder that she ended up as the stereotypical third wheel, because such people are just too good to be real.

As Lise says, Adam is HER American in Paris. They did not end up together, but he did manage to immortalize his unrequited affections for her through his music. This ending is rather depressing, but if you dig deeper, you will find a real message about life and love. Maybe not everyone is fated to get the girl. Maybe not everyone is meant to get that romantic ending. Perhaps some are just bound to answer to a different calling? Shit, why are the words I’m writing all rhyming? Hooray me, I am digressing. Anyway, to art! To science! To humanity! In the end, we all have to contribute something, right? And the spotlight is just too small for each and every one of us to get first billing, nor do we really have to.

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