Preview: An American in Paris at the Eccles

These days there’s a lot of aggrieved ham-fisted man-boys out there there lumbering around on two left feet, bleating and moaning about how their lives matter too and acting out like 4 year olds (with access to high-powered rifles, sigh). What is they want to threaten us all into? Compliance? Taking our hat off during the national anthem? Sex stuff? I’ve no idea, but I’m sick of it.

Give me Gene Kelly. He was a real man—an artist, a fighter, a singer a dancer, a Fourth Musketeer and Navy veteran, even. If Gene Kelly was here today, he’d jeté in, whup some whiney man-boy ass —“and … stay out!,” he’d say dusting his hands off— and chassé out.

I’d see that movie.

The next best thing (to that weirdly introspective intro), is the debut touring production of the Broadway adaption of An American in Paris opening at the Eccles for a short, five-day run on Oct. 10.

The film An American in Paris is the artsy and darker counterpoint to the legendary Kelly vehicle Singing in the Rain, which you might of seen, if you can get your head around a man dancer who isn’t a Chippendale. An American in Paris won 10 academy awards, including best picture in 1952. The Broadway version was low-hanging “why haven’t we done this?” fruit for its producers who mounted the theater production to critical acclaim, brisk ticket sales and four Tony Awards in 2015.

The book spins a languid fantasy about post-WWII Paris, steeped in ennui and “what does it all mean” romanticism. Gene Kelly portrayed an American solider in Paris trying to make a go as a painter. He lives with a chain-smoking equally unemployed concert pianist in a studio-lot version of the 18th Arrondissement, complete with baguettes, fruit sellers and the outrageous french accents + berets. There is of course, a girl, played in the movie by a leggy Leslie Carron and a love triangle and lots and lots of singing and dancing. Oh yeah and there’s the Gershwin—George and Ira wrote the score.

The movie, for me has been a reliable re-watcher over the years and I’m really looking forward to seeing the Broadway rendition of the escapist fantasy. What I’ve always loved about the movie is its dark undertone. Sure it’s a big, glitzy Oscar-whoring musical movie production—the famed fantasia dance scene cost half a million in 1952 bucks alone—but the plot it is set on a foundation of the uncertainty and shaky legged fear that pervaded post-war Europe. Everyone is broke, everyone is a hustler and no good deed goes unpunished. For example, our American hero’s main conflict revolves around an indecent proposal from a wealthy Parisian socialite who tempts him with patronage for his art in exchange for sex. Disney it ain’t.

This is the first national tour of the production and additional proof of concept for the Eccles Theater, which, as you’ll recall, was pitched for its ability to attract these inaugural tours to Salt Lake City instead of Omaha.   

It’s a short run so get your tickets now and transport yourself back to a time where we were all tired of war and conflict and just wanted to paint, make music and dance. Like a man.

An American in Paris opens Oct. 10 at The George S. and Dolores Doré Eccles Theater and continues thorough Oct 10, 2017. Tickets and info here.

Jeremy Pugh
Jeremy Pugh
Jeremy Pugh is Salt Lake magazine's Editor. He covers culture, history, the outdoors and whatever needs a look. Jeremy is also the author of the book "100 Things to Do in Salt Lake City Before You Die" and the co-author of the history, culture and urban legend guidebook "Secret Salt Lake."

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