Past Reviews

Regional Reviews: Washington, D.C.

An American in Paris
National Tour
Review by Susan Berlin | Season Schedule

Allison Walsh and McGee Maddox
Photo by Matthew Murphy
Everything's coming up Gershwin in the Washington area this winter, and who could ask for anything more? (Sorry.) The national tour of An American in Paris, in the Kennedy Center Opera House, joins Signature Theatre's production of Crazy for You across the Potomac River in Arlington, Virginia, and while some of the same classic songs by George and Ira Gershwin appear in both musicals, the shows couldn't be more different in tone, though equally satisfying.

An American in Paris is rapturous, using dance to plumb deeper emotions than the irresistibly fun Crazy for You. Director-choreographer Christopher Wheeldon has staged the production as if it were an evening-long ballet that shifts from one setting to the next, aided by Bob Crowley's sculptural set and deliciously detailed costumes, Natasha Katz' lighting design, and the scenic projections by 59 Productions.

Unlike the Academy Award-winning 1951 film that inspired it, An American in Paris goes beyond romance to examine the impact of World War II on individuals and the city. In 1945, Paris is emerging from the years of Nazi occupation—beautifully conveyed through projections showing the cityscape as seen by G.I. and painter Jerry Mulligan (McGee Maddox), which begin as line drawings in black, white, and gray shading and gradually gain color—and Craig Lucas' book follows five people trying to find their place.

Mulligan has decided that devoting himself to art will help him stop thinking about the cruelty of war. Adam Hochberg (Matthew Scott), composer and wounded veteran, is drawn to hopelessness and cynicism, including the most lugubrious rendition of "I Got Rhythm" one can imagine. Henri Baurel (Ben Michael), son of a wealthy French industrialist, secretly dreams of life as a cabaret performer (similar to Crazy for You's dancing banker, Bobby Child). Their lives are complicated by the arrivals of Lise Dassin (Allison Walsh), an enigmatic ballet dancer, and Milo Davenport (Kirsten Scott), an American heiress.

Wheeldon demonstrates his way with grand choreographic gestures—in the crowded department store where Lise works, at Milo's ballet benefit that dissolves into slapstick, in Henri's fantasy of theatrical success—leading up to the resplendent title ballet. But they are never thrown in simply to impress an audience (although they do); everything relates to the central theme and these hard-working performers make it look effortless. (The leads have several alternates, since no one could be expected to do this choreography eight performances a week, and the company includes a large number of swings.)

Kennedy Center
An American in Paris
December 12th, 2017 - January 7th, 2018
Music and lyrics by George Gershwin and Ira Gershwin
Book by Craig Lucas
Inspired by the Motion Picture
Jerry Mulligan: McGee Maddox
Lise Dassin: Allison Walsh
Adam Hochberg: Matthew Scott
Henri Baurel: Ben Michael
Milo Davenport: Kirsten Scott
Madame Baurel: Teri Hansen
Monsieur Baurel: Don Noble
Returning Soldier: Kevin A. Cosculluela
Returning Soldier's Wife: Deanna Doyle
Mr. Z: Kyle Vaughn
Olga: Laurie Wells
Store Manager: Don Noble
Lise's Ballet Partner: Kevin A. Cosculluela
Ensemble: Brianna Abruzzo, Polly Baird, Karolina Blonski, Brittany Bohn, Brittany Cioce, Kevin A. Cosculluela, Deanna Doyle, Zak Edwards, Brian Gephart, Melissa Steadman Hart, Ben Lanham, Francis Lawrence, Adrian Lee, Don Noble, Charlotte O'Dowd, David Prottas, Kyle Robinson, Tory Trowbridge, Kyle Vaughn, Laurie Wells
Directed and choreographed by Christopher Wheeldon
Musical score adapted, arranged and supervised by Rob Fisher
Opera House, John F. Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts
2700 F St. NW, Washington, DC
Ticket Information: (800) 444-1324 or (202) 467-4600 or
For more information on the tour, visit