An American In Paris Light’s Up The Stage – A Traveler’s Perspective

The scene is set. Travelers from near and far pack the Palace Theater, right in the heart of iconic Times Square. As An American In Paris begins, we scan the audience, in search of a single illuminated face, a cell phone user given away by telltale, blue-lit cheeks. Believe it or not, we find none.
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Among three packed tiers of audience members, at a sold out show, everyone abstains from cell phone usage, a rarity in this technology immersed, global culture.

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We shouldn’t be so surprised, after all, this is 2015’s most Tony Award winning musical, with nods for Best Choreography, Best Lighting Design, Best Costumes, Best Scenic Design and Best Orchestrations  The Tony’s are an honor sought by countless shows each year, amongst the eligible shows housed in 40 Broadway theaters in the NYC theater district.

Onto the stage twirl ballerinas turned actors, depicting to the audience the return of lovers from war. A romance of old beckons and a collective yet impossible nostalgia fills the space, for a love unlike those we understand today…commitment through hardship, endurance. The only ghosts? Those of lovers, lost in the heat of battle.

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Above from stage left, we see the nuance of each performer’s facial expressions, and are captivated in particular by one woman, who presumes her lover lost to the ravages of war, only to elatedly discover he was simply last off the ship.

This is our privileged view from the producers box, a courtesy extended thanks to the influence of the one and only, Mr. Scott Eddy. Truthfully, no seat in this theater is a bad one, for the language of dance translates easily from any seat to any viewer in the house.

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It is post Nazi Germany’s occupation of France but the revival of the city of light is slow. The nickname of Paris gives us pause, and we decide to focus on the show’s Tony Award winning lighting, realizing that, in life, as in a play, situations are comprehended through varying lights.

We are introduced to our two leads, Lise Dassin, a beautiful young dancer living in France who has just come out of hiding and Jerry Mulligan, a passionate Jewish soldier from America. As the show begins, he sees her, a beautiful girl with a kind heart. The streets are lit in grey, symbolic of the darkness which still lingers in the land.

From here on out, the plot consists of a love story between the two, with others also vying for Lise’s love, expressed through dance, song, and of course, world class acting for which Broadway is universally known.

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Travelers are certain to be impressed by the set of the production which varies greatly in impressive modern styles. Moving set pieces are reminiscent of graffitied alleyways. Honey colored stone accurately reflects the true coloring of Parisian apartment facades. (Side note: talented artist Andrea Selby‘s sketches are beautiful, filled in with pastel watercolors, if you’d like to have a look!) Then there are digital animations of photographs, sketches and paintings by Ben Pearcy and “59 Productions”. This is particularly unique, and adds a fresh, modern take to storytelling on Broadway.

In addition, the architecture and interior design of the historied theater, such as gold overlay, crown molding of a harp, centered above the stage, add to the ambiance and warmth of the experience. This regal glow grows as a feeling  in the space adding to the progression of the plot.

“The light flooded in and Paris began to breathe freely again” Adam Hochberg.

The set design of a ballet studio is particularly moving; the light within this created space is reflective of the city’s outlook at the time, bleak. Gray mirrors, destroyed, contrast the gentle pink hues of ballerinas on pointe, stretching on bars that have held the test of time, the weight of a city flooded with despair. Art, it seems, has carried many through and this motif continues throughout the story.

It’s not difficult to imagine the costumes and props showcased in the musical as a future display at the Whitney museum. In one scene, a ballet within the ballet focused musical, bold geometric shapes and vibrant hues, from costumes to set pieces would align well with the museum’s abstract art. Jerry’s character, an artist, also creates pieces, which are eventually featured in their own impressionist art show.

In another ballet focused scene, blue glow washes the stage, and ballerinas on point float, fairytale like, reflected in 6 mirrors, glowing, twirling, tip toeing – the romance of the dance. Audience members are sure to be struck by the universality of dance, a language that knows no bounds, welcoming foreigners, who come to this sold out theater to see an iconic staple in NYC. A Broadway show is unlike anything else, arguably the best live entertainment on the planet.

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From our view in the box, the most luxurious experience any traveler could hope for, Scott and I can see behind the scenes. Green and purple low lights backstage illuminate actors, hurriedly changing costumes or grabbing props to emerge from the wings in time for cue

“Love, light, same thing, wouldn’t you say?” (Jerry Mulligan)

And we love the peak behind the curtain, truly. It’s unbelievable to see all of the work which goes into such a large-scale, award winning production. We are also able to see the gentle, yellow glow from the pit, lighting the conductor and musicians’ scores of the show, which they accompany live. Golden trumpets reflect and illuminate.

The Making of An American In Paris – Behind The Scenes

As the instruments pluck and trumpet out a mesmerizing tune, one particular scene in An American In Paris serves as a reminder of the international magic and draw surrounding NYC. At a Parisian jazz club, images of the Empire State and Chrysler buildings sparkle in lights. An American expat urges a French jazz singer to “think Radio City”, as the Frenchman sings “I Built a Stairway to Paradise…”

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Paradise indeed, like Jacob’s ladder, performers from around the world climb the rungs of dedication & perseverance, to achieve the goal of performing in NYC. Travelers also persevere; saving hard-earned resources to travel to enjoy the Broadway musicals that showcase equal parts talent, heart & pizzazz.

As a whole, through the eyes of both myself and Scott from above, and travelers to Broadway, the musical represents the ingenuity of modern theater, to take risks and branch into other forms of art- ballet and graphic animation included. There’s nothing like this show currently on Broadway.

That being said – don’t miss An American In Paris. Book your tickets through a local agent before you travel, because it’s going to be sold out by the time you arrive. Visit www.broadwaycollection.com for additional information.

By: Rachel Peace for Mr. Scott Eddy