"The French have a word for it," or so the original theatrical trailer for An American in Paris claimed. According to the French (by way of MGM's marketing department), the cinema had found "a bright new mood" in this story of a former U.S. soldier, a mysterious Parisian girl, and the City of Light.
"There's a new sort of thrill to be felt," the trailer trumpeted, introducing the romantic comedy's superstar song-and-dance man Gene Kelly, French singer Georges Guetary, and actress/dancer Leslie Caron who's described as "an exciting girl, like a sunbeam." Audiences were promised "new and exciting beauty," in addition to "new enchantment" and "the greatest dance entertainment ever projected on the screen." That's a lot to live up to, and Vincente Minnelli's delivered, picking up a 1951 Academy Award for Best Picture. Sixty-four years later, in 2015, the George Gershwin-inspired classic was reimagined for the stage and Joffrey Ballet alum Allison Walsh (who'll be playing Lise Bouvier when An American in Paris docks at The Orpheum) was part of the challenging adaptation process, from first readings and workshops to opening night in Paris.
- Matthew Murphy
"I know every aspect of this show — maybe too much," says Walsh, a former dance captain, ensemble member, and the original understudy for Lise.
Walsh explains that MGM wanted to distance their technicolor musical from the still-recent trauma of war. The stage adaptation opens in the immediate aftermath of WWII, setting a completely different tone.
"We see the Nazi flag being torn down and turned into the French flag," Walsh says. "This changes the story. Now it's about young people finding themselves in a whole new world after everything they've been through."