One of the stars of the musical "An American in Paris," dancer and actor Allison Walsh, has a few key phrases she uses to describe the touring production: visually captivating, melding the best of ballet and theater, fresh and contemporary. Though the musical does have a vintage feel in its homage to the film of the same name, Walsh assures the story is more than just nostalgia.
"Our show changes the plot in the sense that [it] takes place right after the liberation of Paris, so it's just post-war. It's very fresh, the rawness and the wounds of war -- versus the movie which sort distances itself a bit from that dark period," Walsh says of the Academy Award-winning source material.
‘An American in Paris’
WHEN — 7 p.m. Feb. 6-7; 1:30 & 7 p.m. Feb. 8; 8 p.m. Feb. 9; 2 & 8 p.m. Feb. 10; 2 p.m. Feb. 11
WHERE — Walton Arts Center in Fayetteville
COST — $36-$83
INFO — 443-5600, waltonartscenter.org
The 1951 movie about an American World War II veteran-turned-painter (Gene Kelly), a concert pianist and a singer all pining for the mysterious and charming Lise (Leslie Caron) made the jump to the stage only four short years ago, bringing its romantic Gershwin soundtrack with it. Crossing over to theater herself after years with the Joffrey Ballet, Walsh was involved with the show during those early workshop days and stepped into the lead role of ballet dancer Lise Dassin on Broadway before joining the national tour several months ago.
"Some people call it a love square, which seems crazy for someone who's never experienced that," Walsh says with a laugh. "But it also makes sense -- there's something to [Lise] that is captivating and alluring, and she becomes a muse to all three of these men, these artists. I think it says something about people wanting to find these connections after a dark period, and even if they end up not with the girl, they learn something from her and she's brought love to their life; she's been an inspiration."
The iconic Gershwin score and extended dance sequences recall the romance of the era -- when beautiful choreography was still used as a device to further the plot, and audiences still appreciated what the skill and technique of a well-danced number could unveil about a character. For instance, Walsh reveals, Lise's deep history and complex emotions leave her incredibly guarded, but she is able to express some of that through her dance.
"In musical theater, it's like the words aren't enough so that's why we sing. But in this show, that happens [with choreography] as well," Walsh offers. "It just expresses [the feelings] sometimes when you can't formulate the words. [Choreographer Chris Wheeldon] has made dance a fully formed element of the storytelling because you're able to convey subtleties [where] maybe words wouldn't be enough."
Beyond the love story and the achievement of the dances, Walsh says the ultimate theme of the musical is one of resilience. Though each person will have his own takeaway, she says the show's foundation in realism, value placed on human connection, and belief that love will overcome dark times will leave audiences feeling lighthearted and inspired.
"You just leave feeling like, 'Yes, I can go out into the world tomorrow, and it'll be a good day.' It's a nice feeling to leave a show [with]."
NAN What's Up on 01/28/2018
Print Headline: Love Prevails